Ep 013 The Right Space and Time for Creativity in Gamification with Vasilis Gkogkidis

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Vasilis Gkogkidis is a gamification speaker and trainer working full time for GAMIFICATION+ alongside Pete Jenkins. He studied computer science and did a postgraduate in Business Management at the University of Brighton where he met Pete Jenkins. He runs training on gamification introducing people to the basics of it, organized Gamification Europe with Pete, he is the Greek Ambassador for GamFed, the organizer of the Thessaloniki Gamification Meetup and a certified LEGO SERIOUS PLAY facilitator

A regular day, it depends on where in the world Vasilis is located. Half of the year is in Thessaloniki, Greece, and the rest in Brighton, UK. Of course, he also travels quite a bit for workshops and whatnot. In Greece, he has some friends who (he claims) tolerate him in a shared space and in Brighton, he and Pete share an office with JFDI Consulting. He starts to work, usually, at 9, but there are no 8 hours a day 5 days a week, as he occasionally works on a weekend and not on a Monday. There’s not much monitoring of schedules at Gamification +. It might be a Friday afternoon and then go to the movies and no work, but projects get done anyway. He feels that especially in creative work, as with gamification, it is important to stimulate the brain at whatever moment that comes and to express that creativity in the best moment.

After around 18 months working in gamification design and one big problem is that much of the work they do does not get implemented, or at least many times they do not necessarily get the feedback from the client. Once, in his worst experience, he left some people behind when not entirely considering his audience. On this particular project, he was designing for Shedia (there’s a button for English version), which is about homeless people selling the magazine on the street and keeping most of the proceeds, for the sellers to engage with the people in the streets. So he designed a few games for passerby’s to play with them. One of them was a create your own story, however, one of the sellers seemed to have a lot of problems writing. This person was also very proud, so he certainly didn’t feel good, Vasilis as the facilitator didn’t feel good about it. The main learning is to learn as much as possible about the players and spend time with someone who might already know them well, to ask for potential problems especially.

Vasilis used gamification on himself to organize Gamification Europe (certainly the biggest challenge he’s faced), just like Monica Cornetti, he used the “just another 10 minutes and then we check again”, also projecting into the future, what it will look like to motivate himself. He used this especially to reach flow, using small challenges and goals to reach the fulfillment of the large project. This is something you can use to gamify your classes, perhaps not to tackle the full course, but maybe a single topic or session and take it from there. Vasilis does this for his gamification workshops when breaking things down and presenting smaller challenges. Also for flow which is very important, like when somebody tries to talk to you when playing a game! Chances are you are in flow and won’t pay full attention while playing…

Vasilis uses a framework developed together with Pete Jenkins. The first step is to define the problem, which is something us humans have a lot of problems defining! Once you reach this place, you can realize how big (or small) the problem really is. Like Andrzej Marczewski said at Gamification Europe, don’t go looking for a problem after creating a solution, it’s the other way around! And sometimes problems are just hiccups, so make sure they are large enough to solve the problem. Until the problem is really well defined, and everyone is committed to finding a solution to the problem, only then you start your design of a solution for it. The next thing is, especially if it’s a project for internal gamification (for their own employees) he starts working on rewards to make sure how to keep, as much as possible, the intrinsic motivation for those. Then it is important to think about the users and think about the user experience, what you create is to serve the users, otherwise, they won’t use it for a long time. Try to reflect them on the way they learn that they interact. Finally, it is fundamental to playtest and start small, look for something that works and build from there. Assume that you might be wrong so then you can iterate and change until it really works! The best practice that Vasilis would name for gamification is playtesting.

Vasilis needed to do some work and research to know which is his favorite game, but the winner is Kingdom Rush! It was developed in Uruguay and it is a tower defense game. He would love to have Jane McGonigal’s views on the gamification industry, how it has evolved, to get some feedback, even if she’s still following gamification and what is her vision for the future.

The superpower that Vasilis has is that he’s able to teach very well and also he is quite good finding what does the user want out of a system, out of the user experience. His final advice is to read, to do some research so you can learn how to do this. You don’t necessarily need to do a course, but at least some books will certainly help guide your path. His reading list would be “Drive” by Daniel Pink, then “Reality is Broken” by Jane McGonigal and “For the Win” of Kevin Werbach.

If you want to reach Vasilis Gkogkidis, he’s on Twitter @v_gkogkidis, LinkedIn, Facebook, you can reach him through gamificationplus.uk contact page and his speaking page there as well.

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