This week's connectinghr chat – #chrchat – prompted this post. In the chat I raised the issue of using game mechanics in developing learning apps. More of that later in the post.

Game mechanics tweet cropped

Game mechanics – the techniques that are used in games to help participants progress through the game and to get fully immersed and engaged with it – can be usefully applied to increase user engagement with content – that could be a learning app or it could be B2B content.

Essentially we are talking about the psychology of user behaviour and understanding how certain elements within gaming lead to behaviour change ie doing something different. Gaming is very good at achieving behaviour change, motivating us to do the next thing and take the next step.

It is also worth noting – and this is a point Richard Sedley made at last year's Design for Persuasion Conference – that anyone who chooses to play a game plays freely – as opposed to a task they have been told to do, for example. Playing a game against your will simply does not work – you have got to want to do it. You either want to play or you do not. And implicit in this is that participation will be enjoyable. Yes, gaming is fun.

Richard expands on this point here:

In terms of learning apps, his final point is very important – intranet users may see taking online training as a chore. Put a gaming interface on it and that chore suddenly seems like something fun that they will enter in to freely.

On a separate point, I think fun is hugely overlooked when it comes to publishing content – be it an app, an article etc. In B2B publishing, for example, the really fun stuff can be rare. Why? Because most of the time readers and users are seen as being serious not people who also had a sense of humour. 

Back to the mechanics. Here are some . . .

Points/rewards – you are rewarded for achieving certain goals. Central to this is the idea of collecting and completeness. Gain a certain number of points and you get a reward. Notice how Linkedin uses completeness for profiles eg your profile is 95% complete. Once your profile is 100% complete you should attract more eyeballs to your profile. The psychology of collecting is also discussed by Richard in the Audioboo above.

Levels – players strive to get to the next level to get rewards. Progress is rewarded so we are motivated to continue. This affects their profile.

Profile/status – once players accumulate points their profile/status changes to reflect their achievements. This is clear for others to see. Location services such as Foursquare have this at its heart – collect badges and gain a different status.

For a more complete list check out this list of game mechanics at Gamification – it is an excellent resource. 

Game mechanics have an important and powerful part to play in engaging users. The challenge is to adopt some of the psychology behind the techniques in game mechanics.

Final point about learning within the enterprise – this is not about turning training content into games (although Richard Sedley provided a great example of how his agency developed a games interface for training content on an intranet which hugely increased engagement), this is about thinking through how game mechanics can be used to design and deliver engaging content. Especially exciting is developing content for mobile as the interface requires a whole new approach to how to use content.

I'll end with this fantastic slide deck from interaction and game designer Amy Jo Kim – there are lots of great examples – really inspiring ideas and real world examples of how to motivate users to do what you want them to do.

Putting the Fun in Functional

View more presentations from Amy Kim.