Day 1 kicked off with the keynote from Dr. Marigo Raftopoulos on “Has Gamification Failed?”. It was essentially what we all needed early in the morning, a slap in the face and a wake-up call to up our game as gamification industry professionals. And as Marigo said, some may not want to believe it, and others will have to. I, for what it’s worth, fully did believe.
In her keynote, she revisited those individuals and companies she had included in her Ph.D. and reported that many had dropped off in the enthusiasm they had originally had for gamification. Main reasons for this were a lack of compelling and sustained services and a dwindling interest, support and satisfaction from leaders and internal adopters.
The key lesson(s) from this research then was that we as gamification professionals need to be just that: professionals. There needs to be a higher positive correlation with organizations that take a strategic approach to gamification. And companies are looking for innovative fully encompassed products. They don’t want a vendor that has a selection of fragmented 3rd party services, but rather want a “gamification producer” that essentially delivers the full product. And with that creates a long-term sustainable value for the company.
Beyond that Marigo also reminded us of certain core beliefs, as well as giving us hope for the future. She reminded us that we may need to go back to the basics and started off a theme that would continue with every speaker; we’re not delivering games to the client, we’re delivering value for what the client wants and needs. As for the future, it appears to be bright, with many things to look forward to and explore, such as Playful Experiences, AR, Serious Games, and more gamified platforms.
Dr. Marigo Raftopoulos slides can be found here.
Next up were Dr. Zac-Fitz Walter, former lecturer, now full-time gamifier at EatMorePixels, An Coppens, from GamificationNation, and Melinda Jacobs, from Subatomic. I’ve grouped these speakers together, not to diminish the impact they made, as I found them all three interesting, but rather because their topics fit very well together. Zac was Prototyping, An Playtesting, and Melinda on User experience.
Zac, as part of his piece on iterative design, aptly reiterated how important it is to prototype anything you do. And this doesn’t need to be expansive and expensive prototyping, paper prototyping is still the most (cost) effective to test an idea to see if it actually works. But he also mentioned, that with the ease of use that 3D engines like Unreal and Unity provide, you could almost make your prototypes in them as well. With that, I’d like to add that 3D environments like TableTop Simulator on Valve’s Steam platform are also great for those of us who can’t code quite yet and still want a virtual test environment.
An Coppens then followed with her piece on playtesting. As with any prototype, it needs to be playtested and revised, and playtested, and revised, and so on… At least with the time and resources, you have available. Since we all have deadlines to meet, one can only playtest so often, so the main takeaway from her was to start early and do it often. And especially to playtest with those that are unfamiliar with the prototype “game” and gain their objective feedback.
An Coppens slides can be found here.
As the final speaker before lunch, Melinda reminded us all that User Experience, UX, is still all about understanding and learning from real users. We as professionals, designers and creators must always keep that in mind, and that the purpose of what we do is to build stories that give concepts form when reality is too complex, so that users are better able to understand and work with those concepts. Her final quote of choice sums it up nicely: “we are architects that make choices for the user’s story”.
After lunch was a discussion with Juliette Denny, Mun Choong Lam, Will Stuart-Jones and Rob Alvarez as host and interviewer. They discussed their work and perspectives as gamified platform providers and offered a fairly positive outlook on the growth and interest still in the gamification industry. They did also echo the theme of focusing on the end user and offering real (business) value to the user and client.
Next up was Karen Sikkema, who discussed her work with Living Story, and how it brings digital and physical gamification together through narrative. To illustrate this, she used a case study of the game Lost in Time that they had developed for the city of Utrecht, to bring its history to life. With this, she took us through their methodology, their gamification framework, the Game-based Learning Design Wheel, and the learning they had gained from this endeavour.
After Karen came Manuel Pimenta, who continued with case studies of how gamification is working in Portugal, and the success it is having there.
Once we had had some coffee and recharged, we heard from Willem-Jan Renger, whose presentation I personally found refreshing, enlightening and humbling. He reminded us that gamification isn’t just for the corporate world, but that it can also have a lasting positive effect in healthcare, both mental and physical healthcare. And also, that not everything needs to be digital, sometimes, very often in fact, physical interaction is a far more effective method of using gamification, specifically playful experiences. Most notably he added this reminder due to the cost scalability when using digital solutions, but I suspect in addition also because of the removal of a human aspect when dealing with the topics he was interested in.
The penultimate speaker was Bernardo Letayf, who relayed to us his unconventional journey to gamification and that as with anything, if it’s worth doing it takes time and effort to achieve it.
The final speaker of Day 1 was Michiel van Eunen. Who I was glad to hear speak, as I had, unfortunately, missed his session in 2017. He restated the sentiment that even though “things may seem easy, they rarely are.” He took us on a journey of his thoughts and practices when delivering playful experiences and prompted us that we should always keep in mind what the result or outcome it is that we want and that we must always reflect on the process and on what the participants did, to get the most of out it for them.
The day ended with drinks, dinner and the award ceremonies. My congratulations to all of those who won and a thank you for the hard work done by the various judges and Dr. Michael Wu for the difficult job of deciding on the winners.