[e-book] Debunking the Gamification myths – part 4/10

Learn how gamification can really help you engage and motivate your audience.

– Part 4 : Understand the true nature of rewards 

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Rewards are a critical aspect of Gamification. They are a strong incentive to impulse a desired behavior. However, they are often misunderstood and misused, even to the point where they create counterproductive behaviors.

A widely spread misconception is that cash rewards are the most powerful incentive. They can take different forms: bonus, discounts, 2 for the price of 1, etc… Just look at the loyalty programs of 99% of companies to see that everyone is making the same mistake.

People want to feel they have achieved something meaningful, they want to feel they are improving at what they are doing, they want to win competitive challenges, they want to earn peers’ recognition. They want to feel “special”, to feel that who they are and what they do matters, that it makes a difference. Self-satisfaction and Social Recognition are the best rewards, not money (which is fortunate).

Once again, the video game industry understood that a long time ago. Do players get cash for spending more time on a game? No. Actually it is quite the opposite. The more you want to play the more you may have to pay. But games offer rewards that are more powerful than money, especially now that players are connected together on the Internet and that games have gained such an important social dimension.

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One critical thing that is almost always forgotten is that the way the reward is earned matters as much as the reward itself (maybe even more). Again, people have to feel special when they receive their rewards, whether it is that they have been lucky, or that they have accomplished something to deserve it. The path to earning the reward should be an exciting one, maybe even an uncertain one sometimes. Think about scratch cards, and how many different sorts there are. Each of them is a slightly different path to reach the same goal, a slightly different story to get the users excited every time, regardless of the fact they are playing against the odds.

Be careful though. Giving users rewards all the time for any reason can result in a biased behavior where they will stop to perform actions that are not incentivized, even though these actions have a positive value by themselves. You do not want people to stop exercising just because their Nike Fuel Band is out of battery and they cannot keep track of their next workout.

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