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Insert Coin: What video games can teach us about designing stronger digital experiences

Shaun Choo Head of Perth

A recent Bond University report into video game habits in Australia states that the average adult gamer has been playing video games for 12 years - nearly a third of their lifetime when you consider that the same report suggests the average age of video game players in Australia is 32. As digital experience designers, what can we learn from the techniques game makers have been using to form these strong bonds with their players?

Achievements, incentives and rewards. 

These three things are at the heart of video games and goes some way to explaining the long standing romance we have had with this past time - we all love the sense of accomplishment.

The same principles easily extend to the digital experience and you have probably already been exposed to 'gamified' systems like LinkedIn's profile builder which rewards you as you contribute more information about yourself. This is a great example of an organisation shaping your interactions by tapping into that sense of achievement which is ever present in just about all video games.

There are many ways to use techniques like leaderboards, points / currency systems and achievements to help make digital experiences more compelling - especially if the experience you’re building is transactional and/or recurrent. Tree House uses points and achievements for users to chart their progress and showcase their skills. A classic leaderboard technique is used by Stack Exchange, where if the user answers more questions and gets those answers recognised by peers, they travel up the leaderboard, gaining recognition from the community.

Imagine the service provider that gave you points every time you paid your bill online and on-time with those points being redeemable for some form of reward down the track - could paying your bills become a more pleasant task? It's a win for the organisation too as they reduce debt collection resources and improve their cash flow. Gamification techniques can make mundane tasks more appealing by simply recording achievements and providing incentives. Check out Chore Wars which aims to tap into the gamification concept by creating incentives around completing chores around the house.

Before diving in, a word of caution - go in with a plan.

'Gamification' may sound great but the core principles of good digital experience design still underpin everything. Know your audience, know your organisation's objectives and then think about where gamification can add value to your various user journeys - at the end of the day it's all about making things better for them.

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