Ep 035 Doing proper player research in gamification with Gustavo Tondello

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Gustavo Tondello is the co-founder and gamification specialist of MotiviUX, research leader at GamFed (the international Gamification Confederation), and a Ph.D. candidate and sessional lecturer at the University of Waterloo, Canada. With more than 10 years of experience in software engineering and business analysis, he is currently researching how to design and personalize gameful systems and learning experiences. He has published many scientific articles on gamification and writes a popular blog on techniques for making everyday interactions more motivating, Gameful Bits. Gustavo uses gameful design methods to create participatory learning experiences, which help students practice what they are learning to further develop their skills in engaging ways.

He usually works from his home office, this might involve some research on gamification, writing a paper or on other publications, at other times he might be having meetings with students or clients, giving lectures or collaborating with other Ph.D. students on gamification. He teaches computer science courses but likes to add a lecture about gamification as well.

His story is related to gamifying a course about programming user experience. He gamified the student experience, which was the successful part, however, he was also using the experience for a research and didn’t get nearly as many responses as were needed for a paper. His proposals were denied based on the size of the sample. From this, he learned that for a situation like this he will try next time to offer extrinsic incentives that will get them to take action since there is hardly any intrinsic motivation for a student to participate in such a survey.

He is teaching business systems analysis, and his challenge has been to engage the students and improve the learning experience, to go beyond memorizing. He wants for them to have more practical opportunities that go beyond the grading. His inspiration came from games, the best ones make us learn through challenges that are above our current skillset and it’s what he did. Gustavo provided his class with a set of quests the students could submit, he provided them with feedback and even allows them to resubmit and try again! There are students who do all the quests even if doing them all does not actually affect their grade! This brings us back to our usual topic of remembering that learning is fun!

When he is using gamification to software applications, he follows his own process. Gustavo begins by trying to better understand the goals of the business or system and the motivations of the players/users. With this information, he does a motivational analysis, the different types of motivations that the users might have. He has been using the gameful design heuristics that he has developed as a part of his Ph.D. research, available online here. For each type of motivation, he uses a lens to ask questions to help the user different things, to understand how it would work in such a system. Then come the gameful design elements, that he classifies into the different types of motivations they encourage and picks the appropriate for the system. We can find out more about this process at gamefuldesign.hcigames.com.

A best practice in gamification would be to have a proper user research process, to actually engage with the target users and their motivations. Talking to real people not just what the designer thinks could be the users, test things out directly with them. His favorite series of games, that he’s played for decades, are the Civilization series and the Final Fantasy series of games. Gustavo would love to listen to Lennart Nacke! The book he would recommend is, to make it different, Games User Research whose authors include Lennart Nacke.

His superpower is that he is able to understand both the research and the application side of gamification. The random question is related to the user research stage of gamification design and Gustavo’s answer is phenomenal! You should listen to it, go ahead and click play above! His final advice would be to study and understand what’s behind it, not just follow a simple set of steps. There’s a lot of material out there. And especially for engaging learners to think about how to engage those students in the actual learning, the experience, not just something to complete and get a grade to get done with it.

We can contact Gustavo on twitter @GustavoTondello or on LinkedIn. He also has two websites where we can read from him: blog.gamefulbits.com, a personal blog about gamification, and motiviux.com where we can find out about his consulting company. He even gave his email for questions: gustavo [at] motiviux [dot] com.

One thought on “Ep 035 Doing proper player research in gamification with Gustavo Tondello

  1. Pingback: Ep 045 Lennart Nacke the Acagamic and Games User Research – Professor Game

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