When considering whether or not to "gamify" your brand, it's important to apply the lessons learned from previous hype cycles. Part two in a two-part series.
In my last column, we looked at the burgeoning gamification trend by examining its characteristics, glancing back at some history, and checking out some examples. Hopefully you've had a chance to play around with some of them. If you haven't (or you skipped last week's column), I'd suggest going back and reading it before moving forward.
Like so many new technology trends, "gamification" is now headed towards the peak of what Gartner calls "The Hype Cycle." This model posits that new "hot" technology often rises from the initial breakthrough that kicks things off (the "trigger") up to the "peak of inflated expectations" (identified blog posts including phrases like "game changer," "paradigm shift," and "changes everything") to a precipitous fall to the "trough of disillusionment" (usually accompanied by articles describing it as "dead" or "so last year" or embarrassing comments from friends such as "you're still using that?"), and the eventual (if it's actually a good technology) "plateau of productivity" once all the bugs are smoothed out and it becomes yet another thing we use without too much thought. It's a good model because if you apply it to common technologies in use today – the Internet, cellphones, Wi-Fi, social media to some extent – it fits very well with the rise, ebb, and eventual integration of these technologies into our lives.
If we look back at the technologies that have ridden the "hype cycle," we can learn a lot of lessons that can be applied to the new wave of gamification:
When considering whether or not to "gamify" your brand, it's important to apply the lessons learned from previous hype cycles and previously successful technology trends in order to not create yet another bandwagon rider that's going to eat resources, divert attention from efforts that are actually working, and, frankly, is probably going to suck.
While it's hard to see the Plateau of Productivity while we're still riding the hype swell up to the Peak of Inflated Expectations, I think that we can identify a few characteristics of gamification that work:
The one lesson that we'll all probably learn as we inevitably climb out of the Trough of Disillusionment to revisit gamification sometime in the future is this: making a good game is hard. Really hard. If you don't believe me just spend a little time downloading many of the free games available on the App Store or Android Market. For every "Angry Birds" there are countless awful clunkers that get deleted within seconds of being downloaded.
And once you get deleted, it's game over.
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Sean Carton has recently been appointed to develop the Center for Digital Communication, Commerce, and Culture at the University of Baltimore and is chief creative officer at idfive in Baltimore. He was formerly the dean of Philadelphia University's School of Design + Media and chief experience officer at Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc.
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