Explaining Game Mechanics With Ice Cream

A recent conversation turned to Game Mechanics (offering points, badges and while progressing a user through stages or actions in your product) and I got the common response: ‘I want to visit a website, not feel like I am playing a game’. ¬†Game mechanics are best used to keep users coming back to your website, and always close to what they want/achieving a goal.

To most this sounds ridiculous. Why would we do this? Why do people care? It’s a difficult construct to explain. So now, I give you my ice cream analogy:

My favourite ice cream used to be cookies & cream. Now I lean more towards cookie dough but the flavour is irrelevant, what matters is that there a big chunks of a something which I want (my prize). If I was just eating ice cream (browsing the website, playing the application) I’d probably stop after a few spoons. The big chunks of cookie dough (free account, a badge, getting to the top of a leader board, finding the information I am after) keep me going long after I would have quit.

That is the beauty of game mechanics. You get a prize, reward or tidbit right when you would have normally left to keep you in the loop, even if just for a few more minutes. As a Marketer that lets me hit you with more ads, increases the chance of getting you on a premium account, making you buy virtual goods or whatever it is I am trying to do.

A friend of mine, Shanta, was telling me that she got on the wrong bus a few days ago. Her first response was not ‘sh*t’ but ‘I’ve never been here, I can get bonus checkin points and beat Alex on the leaderboard’. She stumbled upon a big piece of cookie dough.