I received my Xbox 360 as a birthday gift from my wife in December 2005. It has since become my all-time favorite console. Besides Atari 2600, this is probably my most used console ever. There are many reasons why I used this console more than any other and today I want to simply focus on just one reason referred to as Achievements.
Xbox 360 was unique to the console world at that time in that you “signed into” an account similar to how you sign into your iPhone or similar device. The Xbox Live account had your gamer tag, an ever growing friends list and a thing called your Gamerscore. From Wikipedia, “The Gamerscore (G) is an achievements system that measures the number of Achievement points accumulated by a user with a LIVE profile. These Achievement points are awarded for the completion of game-specific challenges, such as beating a level or amassing a specified number of wins against other players in online matches.” “Achievements are included within games to extend the title’s longevity and provide players with the impetus to more than simply complete the game but find all of its secrets.” (I added the bold formatting.)
These achievements worked like a charm on me. It was a game within the game. Microsoft knew what they were doing too. When you logged into the Xbox, your total Gamerscore was compared against your friend list. It was no longer enough to win the game, you also had to get all the achievements. You had to have the highest Gamerscore amongst your friends.
I was watching my 4 year old son playing a game that I thought I knew every move on. Unknown to me, this game allowed the user to not only see what Achievements were possible, but this game went the extra mile and had a short video clip showing you how to do that Achievement. It was a very effective way of teaching and leading a user of software. It taught a 4 year old how to kick the butt of a 36 year old. I was intrigued and began to think how something like this could be leveraged in traditional line of business software.
Fast forward 4 years later and I guess I was not the only one to make this connection. There is even a fancy word for this called Gamification. A new software niche with dedicated software companies now exists. Oddly, most if not all these companies seem to focus on web store fronts. What about line of business applications?
Wikipedia defines Gamification as “the use of game mechanics and game design techniques in non-game contexts. Typically gamification applies to non-game applications and processes, in order to encourage people to adopt them, or to influence how they are used.  Gamification’s proponents argue that it works by making technology more engaging, by encouraging users to engage in desired behaviors, by showing a path to mastery and autonomy, by helping to solve problems and being more engaging, and by taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming..”
Gamification benefits to Line of Business Software
In 15 years of building and deploying line of business (LOB) software products I have made the following observations:
- Traditional user manuals are ineffective
- All ProModel products have traditional user manuals and how-to guides.
- These documents are time consuming and difficult to create and maintain.
- My experience shows most users do not read them. Is there a better way to teach users of LOB software?
- Data Integrity Issues
- ProModel creates LOB applications that consume data from authoritative systems where the data quality is suspect.
- ProModel is not the owner of the authoritative system so we cannot fix the system or its data.
- How can we encourage and reward users who notify the authoritative systems of their bad data?
- Difficult to quantify how proficient users are at certain tasks.
- Knowledge of user proficiency could be leveraged in creative social ways.
- Difficult to understand what features are being used and maybe more importantly, not used.
My Gamification service (in progress)
I have been working on a gamification service that I intend to blog about as it takes form. This is just part 1.
Here are my goals:
- Explore how a gamification service can address some of my observations above.
- Use new technology to learn from and share knowledge with the rest of the company.
- Share the journey.