Ten ways to gamify your grid

“Gamification” is the process of adding game-like elements to something without actually turning the whole thing into a game. Social grids can be gamified, for example, but even grids dedicated to education, non-profits, or business meetings can add gamification elements.

The goal of gamification is to increase engagement. For commercial grids, this leads to more time spent in-world, more money spent on virtual goods, and more land sold. But gamification can also increase engagement on other types of grids as well.

(Image courtesy John Burke via Flickr.)

Here are ten suggestions for ways you can gamify your grid.

1. Achievements

In case you’re not a big gamer, achievements are a way of rewarding the player for completing a series of tasks, sometimes very small, sometimes very complicated. Achievements aren’t usually linked to any kind of tangible reward, although they can be. Usually the reward is the unlocking of the achievement itself, and recognition for a task completed.

Achievements also give bored users something to occupy themselves with. If they have nothing else to do, they can always spend time trying to unlock achievements. And, of course, everyone enjoys the satisfaction that comes from completing something.

A few possible achievements could be having been a user for a certain amount of time, logging in a certain amount of times, or buying something from an in-world shop.

2. Leaderboards

Leaderboards are sort of the natural progression from achievements. You can use them to rank users on anything, and convince users that they will be recognized for their achievements, which will motivate them to achieve more. Leaderboards are usually accompanied by some kind of reward for being on top, like a trophy of some sort. However, often the reward that comes from being the best at something is enough.

Leaderboards could be used to track who owns the most land, who’s spent the most money in-world, or who’s been on the grid for the longest.

3. Pet Ownership

Pet ownership isn’t something you see in games as often as achievements, but it’s still been a part of gaming for a long time. The act of getting a pet — or a plant — that the user has to take care of is often a powerful motivator in getting people to stick with games. A lot of the time people will even being feeling affection for their virtual pet, and treat it the same way they would a real one.

However, pets may be more difficult to include than achievements or a leaderboard. If pets are done wrong, and they start looking creepy instead of cute, then obviously they won’t have the same sort of lasting effect.

4. Progression

Progression is something that is already starting to be used in a lot of non-gaming settings. When completing a profile on a social networking site, for example, users will often be told that their profile is some percentage complete, and to “click here to complete your profile!”

By quantifying what the users are doing, and by showing them how close they are to achieving something, like a level or an achievement, it encourages them to stay and finish. Instead of the rewards being far off in the distance, they’re easily reached if a few simple tasks are completed.

5. Quests

Not only are quests an easy way to introduce new residents to a grid, they’re also a good way to get users to interact more. Give multiple users a common goal, and by working together they’re more likely to make lasting connections that will keep them going back to your grid.

Quests are also an easy and engaging way to introduce users to new functionality when it’s added.

6. Exploration

People love discovering new things, and having that as part of your grid could help keep it fun and exciting. Offer bonuses for visiting a region for the first time, and every so often include a region with something strange or unique on it, to make users feel as if they’re actually discovering something interesting, rather than the same region over and over.

Still, users are going to eventually become bored, and it’s always good to add fresh content — like new and exciting destinations — on a fairly regular basis.

7. Rewards

Rewards, such as a freebie or a coupon for an in-world store, are often a good way to keep users interested. However, regularly scheduled rewards are predictable, and when that happens, users will only come as long as the reward is still available.

Instead, offer intermittent random rewards. This way not only can they not be scheduled for, but they’re more of a surprise, and therefore more valuable in the eyes of the user.

8. Time-Sensitive Events

Another way to increase user interest is to hold an event at a specific time, or have users complete a task at a certain time of day for an extra reward — think happy hour in a bar. Add negative consequences to missing the time slot, although if they’re too negative users can get disgruntled and leave.

Time sensitive events could include sales at shops, or large events held in a public space.

9. Meaning

Instead of just offering achievements for the sake of achievements, try to add an underlying meaning, something people are working for or towards. In role playing games, for example, there is usually an underlying storyline that adds a sense of purpose to otherwise menial tasks.

This can get a little tricky, since it toes the line to actually making something a game, but giving your grid a theme or a common cause can go along way to keeping users interested.

10. Virality

Games are often more fun when they’re social. Users enjoy something more when they’re enjoying it with their friends, whether they’re real life friends or not. So one way to increase your user-base is to encourage users to invite their friends, by offering some sort of reward, or by encouraging them to announce what they’re doing on a social networking site.

Not only is the publicity good, but users are more likely to stick with something if their friends are doing it too.

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