How to Make Your Application More Like a Game (Hint: It’s worth the effort)

I received a link to this deck last fall via an email chain that included a long list of Seattle-area entrepreneurs and VCs. I’ve since passed it on by email to over a dozen people who were looking for ways to accelerate user adoption of (or engagement with) their Web application. I just sent it out again this morning, and as soon as I hit ‘send’ I realized I needed to get this content out of my inbox and up here where others can find it more easily.

It’s absolutely worth clicking through and reading the entire presentation (all 58 PowerPoint Slides worth), but here’s the 30-second version: written by Amy Jo Kim, the creative director at custom game studio ShuffleBrain, the deck is called “Putting the Fun in Functional: applying game mechanics to functional software”. Through a series of concrete examples she walks you through the five big levers of engagement in gaming environments: 1) Collecting; 2) Points; 3) Feedback; 4) Exchanges; and 5) Customization. For each one, she drills into the psychological triggers that drive the behavior, and demonstrates how the behavior has been exploited in a range of successful gaming and non-game applications (including eBay, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube and

We backed our way into several of these approaches at Judy’s Book, but seeing them all laid out in sequence made it clear that we’d missed several opportunities to tap into the gaming instincts present in all of us. And even if you don’t think that gaming behavior is a fit for your application, you’ll likely be surprised at how applicable her framework is to any software product in which users maintain a persistent identity. If nothing else, the deck is a great reminder that we humans are very predictable animals, and it doesn’t take much prodding to get us to act in predictable ways.