Gamify This: Seattle Web Experts Give Pointers on Using Game Mechanics for Good and Evil

7/14/10Follow @gthuang

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trying to become the go-to software platform to help companies add game mechanics to their websites. As I understand it, the main goal of this sort of gamification is to strengthen customer loyalty, not so much acquire new customers—though that might be a side benefit.

To that point, Neil Patel, the search engine marketing expert and angel investor, posted some interesting advice on his blog today about gamification. Essentially, he says game mechanics, if done properly, can improve a site’s optimization for search engines. In other words, you will rank higher on Google or Bing if you make your site more addictive. You can do that by adding scoreboards, rewarding people who comment and therefore add engaging content to your site, and giving heavy users certain privileges.

Any talk of addiction rings warning bells, of course. It also makes me think more about what Silicon Valley startup guru Dave McClure told us recently about appealing to consumers’ “reptilian psyche.” What he meant was that smart Internet entrepreneurs should engage with consumers by tapping into their primal urges for things like sex, money, and power. So add competition and games to the list of deep drivers of behavior. But with that comes the responsibility not to get carried away to the point where our children, and people in general, can’t do anything without being rewarded. (Sorry, my own editorializing here.)

Dodson, for his part, is well aware of the dangers of gamification. While he proudly says there’s nothing he can’t gamify, he sees efforts by Las Vegas casinos to install video screens as an extra layer on top of slot machines, for example, as falling into the “‘gamification for evil’ category.” When I caught up with him after his talk last week, he admitted that gamification in moderation is a wise philosophy. What’s more, he doesn’t see the game-mechanics trend as taking over the Web indefinitely.

“This is probably a 10-year trend,” he says. “Then it will morph into something else.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • http://www.IActionable.com Jason

    Why only a 10 year trend? I don’t think fun and competitions are things that are going away anytime soon. The internet and ways people interact with sites and applications will definitely change, but it will still be all about making things fun. It will be interesting to see how companies adopt and add ‘game mechanics’ to their existing applications.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/ghuang/ Gregory T. Huang

    Jason, I can’t speak for Scott Dodson on this, but I could see “gamification” (as it is now) as being obsolete in 10 years. It’s pretty hard to predict what the Web will look like then. Maybe most sites will have game mechanics, and we won’t even notice it anymore. Or maybe the trend will die out or change if there’s not enough money in it. But I agree the concept of making things fun and sticky is here to stay.

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