Ep 030 Understanding your objectives and players in gamification with Andrzej Marczewski

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Andrzej Marczweski is a Gamification Solution Designer and Consultant at Motivait. He is a recognized expert in gamification, especially on the topic of gamification mechanics and user types. In 2015 he published Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play. In his spare time, Andrzej enjoys spending time with his family, playing guitar and video games.

Depending on how far we want to go into his day it would start by getting his daughters to school and managing their on-screen time… At Motivait, he’s normally looking at what’s going on in the world with gamification, how it’s evolving, how to design better solutions and actually designing solutions, meeting with clients, preparing for talks, every time it’s different. The nice thing is it all revolves around gamification!

His favorite failure story was to understand a client need. He prepared a meeting and after two minutes in, the client said: “so far I’ve hated everything you’ve said.” Everyone froze and went quiet, of course, everyone looked at him. They had been working very hard into every aspect, so…

– what do you hate?

– I don’t like games. And it looks all like a game.

– Do you like productivity?

– Yes.

– Do you play sports?

– So you don’t really hate games.

He had to go back to the principles and de-contextualize the game information, things like a feedback system and add a theme to make it interesting to the people in the company, it was until then that they could get back on track. It was probably going to work beautifully for the people in the company, but they had to get through this person to be interested and approve before that! This experience could easily be translated to different stakeholders in schools, universities and other institutions, there’s always a gatekeeper to be convinced, and it’s important to understand what are their motivations and interests to get gamification through.

His favorite application of game thinking was with one of his daughters who wouldn’t even try vegetables, they had already tried several things. She is into superheroes, so they created a narrative in which every vegetable she tried, she would take a step towards defeating different bad guys in Batman. Of course, there were rewards involved in defeating each of the bad guys and a larger one for defeating them all. It was not a total success, she didn’t defeat them all, but now she eats carrots without the need of the chart to defeat the bad guys! I’d say that’s a pretty good result. It was very simple, no tech, no complex thing, but it involved onboarding, the user journey rewarding small user actions and arriving at a place where the rewards were no longer necessary.

He’s discovered that sometimes gamification can do an absolutely amazing job at getting things that really suck, to not suck that much, that you don’t completely hate them at least. For certain goals, that small not being terrible is enough and is the solution that you really needed.

Regarding the process, his procedure is pretty standard. The first thing is to question what it is the project leaders want, why they want it, why is that a problem, why do they want to use gamification, really, why gamification. These whys are really important because, more often than not, the first answer is not the real one. After that is really understood, the next thing is who are the stakeholders, remember the users or players but also the gatekeepers, and understanding what motivates them, what games do they play and why, what they feel, what is good and bad about the current situation and how they would improve it, what is their sense of humor like, etc. You really need to understand them as deeply as possible. Andrzej is not a fan (like me) of off-the-shelf-solutions, because they cannot consider all the previous, so the next step is to understand what are the things that are necessary and start to design a solution. Then all the bits and pieces are brought together, reviewed, shown to the stakeholders to see how they react, then going back and making changes. This happens several times (iterations) until it is final because it hits all of the objectives that were intended. Andrzej doesn’t like, for this type of solutions, to use minimum viable products (MVP) but prototypes instead. He feels that the MVP is an actual product that the final user can actually start solving problems with, whereas the prototype shows the full extension of what the final one would do, but it doesn’t really work yet. It’s not something to keep building upon, that is working, and build on top of it. He mentions that partial solutions in gamification might end up backfiring.

He feels that better user research is something that any gamification project can certainly benefit from. We also discussed off-the-shelf solutions, and there are some that do a basic job properly. The part that can hardly be done by those is when we need to tailor a solution to the needs of the users, and here, once again, the user research can be critical. Andrzej’s favorite game would probably be Minecraft, or perhaps the original Mario Kart. He would also really enjoy listening to Dan Pink, Nir Eyal, Raph Koster, Richard Bartle and Ian Bogost.

Besides, of course, Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play, Andrzej would recommend reading “A Theory of Fun” by Raph Koster and “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses.” His superpower is being awesome, well really it would be more a willingness to learn and accept that he might be wrong if he’s proven so! He’s also pretty good at breaking down complicated problems into simple things. He then goes into how he went from studying biomedical science into working into technology! Didn’t know about that one, must say.

The random question this time is about whether or not gamification is always the best solution. He goes into examples and great explanations here, if you click play you’ll be able to hear all the details!

His final advice is to read everything when you’re getting started, read books on game design, psychology, gamification, also blogs, listen to podcasts ( 🙂 ). Something very important to remember is that just because you’ve played a game, it doesn’t mean you can design gamification!

Get a hold of Andrzej on Twitter @daverage, his own website gamfied.uk or if its business his email is andrzej.marzewski [at] motivait [dot] net! He’s very kind and willing to respond and help, so hit him up on any of those!

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