During Eric Hackathorn’s recent webinar on ‘Game On! How Gamification Can Work in Government’, it was stated that “recent studies show that 70% of Americans play video or computer games. The numbers are expected to rise with mobile apps and other emerging technology. ” This statement was followed by the question, “ how can government tap into this surge?
Here at AIDS.gov, this has been a question we have been throwing around for the past three years when we saw the heavy presence on the topic of gamification at SXSW , the conference where many start-ups debut.
Stepping back a bit, the internet started out as a very basic communication platform, allowing dispersed people to communicate and provide information textually, almost instantly. From its humble beginnings, a massive medium for digesting information emerged throughout the modern world. Regular denizens, whose knowledge was once limited to what they could read in the local newspaper or check out at their library, had access to the sum of the world’s knowledge base. The question for content providers was: how do you get them to read your stuff? The internet has iterated several times in its rather short life span and we have been talking a lot about how to engage users and provide them with content they really want to see in an interactive manner.
Insert the concept of gamification.
Every single one of us has indulged in games at some point in our life (and still do regularly!). Whether it is through simple board games like checkers or Life, to more immersive experiences like World of Warcraft or the Diablo franchise, games have engaged us for the entirety of our existence.
So how can we leverage games to educate and engage our audience in HIV/AIDS related subject matters?
By allowing the users of your site to interact not only with the content on the pages, but with other people reading the same topic, you can create an environment where collaboration and competition take hold. Services and websites like Foursquare engage users by awarding badges for accomplishing specific activities which increases the engagement of your audience. Instead of checking into your local bar or any new destination point, you are now competing with your friends (and strangers) to be the person with the most check-ins or badges.
Similarly you can leverage the concept of leaderboards and leveling to give users a source of pride in the time they have spent on your site, accomplishing different types of activities while showcasing their accomplishments. Allowing users to see where they rank against the people around the world gives a sense of urgency to improve their knowledge/accomplishments relating to specific subject areas.
The digital world as we know it is predicated on social activities, and adding elements of this to your website can allow users to form communities to interact with each other about your content. At the end of the day humans want to be rewarded for the things that they do, and even simple gamification techniques can accomplish that. Our challenge for the future will be, do we and how do we smartly incorporate gamification into AIDS.gov’s digital strategy?
The great Charles Lamb, English essayist, once said: “Man is a gaming animal. He must always be trying to get the better in something or other.”