You may have noticed on our website that we recently added a couple of key features that are designed to encourage good content and generally be good fun for everyone. The two main features I am talking about are reputation and badges. These are two types of gamification — adding game-like mechanics to non-games such as websites.
There is no such thing as too many badges
These ideas are not of course new and we can’t claim to have invented them, although we think some of our badges are unique and quite creatively applied! I’ll talk more about those later.
If you didn’t know Ash and I are pretty fanatical about the StackOverflow programming Q&A site. We’ve found it to be invaluable for finding expert help in difficult problems as well as generally an amazing learning resource. StackOverflow is the first website I’ve personally come across where I think they hit the nail on the head in implementing gamification on a website. Not only is it fun, it’s also providing real benefit to all the users in terms of better quality content and more quality content. When you have an abundance of quality content you’ve managed to create something rather valuable.
Why are games fun
In an interview I did a while back with Simon Fox from PlayLabLondon.com (//www.playlablondon.com/10200125499) he posed to me the difficult question “why are modern games fun when they inherit a lot of properties from industry which is less fun? For example learning, communication, teamwork, effort and time”.
I think there are a variety of reasons games are fun and work usually isn’t fun. One reason is possibly that work is often negatively reinforced. For example, if you don’t turn up to work you get fired. Or if you go and watch a film in your lunch break at the cinema you’ll probably be shouted at when you get back.
So that’s an important thing to note when attempting to gamify a website. If you want to implement gamification it should be positively reinforced. For us that means no matter how much reputation or badges you have pinned to your account, not having these badges/reputation shouldn’t prevent you from doing things on the website you probably will enjoy doing. Everything fun and worth doing on the website is available to everyone, no matter what badges or reputation score you have – you just get a little positive bonus for doing them.
Games are also fun because you can put them down and (generally) continue from where you started at your own leisure. If you decide you don’t want to finish that report at work for whatever reason and, perhaps you might finish it off next week (if you feel up for it) most jobs will probably look unfavourably on that strategy!
That’s why badges and reputation work well: they are always there even if you decide to have a break from the website for a bit! This means they should still be fun for most people and less like work. If we ever feel they get too serious then they probably won’t be fun anymore, so we try to keep it light-hearted.
Some of our badges
It’s fun adding badges, and users on our site generally seem to enjoy collecting them. We’ve got a few on the site which are probably worth mentioning as they are rather unique (as far as we know).
The “Early Adopters” badge
This one is particularly interesting and had positive benefits we didn’t predict. We’re currently running an “Early Adopter” promotion for Construct 2 where if you buy Construct 2 now you get a significant discount (at least 50%) over the final release price. Not only do you get this significant discount, you also get a badge attached to your profile:
Our early adopter badges are assigned automatically at the point of sale where possible, or they can simply request it by email if they did not get one. It’s also important to note that this is an unreliable proof of if the user has purchased Construct 2 or not! Users who appear to be using the commercial version of the product who do not have this badge should not be hounded or questioned. It’s nearly impossible to issue everyone a badge who buys the software at the point of sale and inevitably some people don’t realise they can claim this badge, or they are not active in the community so don’t actually mind not having one. (If you’re reading this and you don’t have a badge fear not! Just drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your payment reference ID and your username!)
These badges have had a general positive effect. Firstly people who support us at this early stage are often proud of having this badge as proof of being there during the earlier days of Construct 2. They also serve as an effective benefit and reward for these users. Lastly they also are a reward that you can’t get hold of if you pirate the software. When the early adopter period has ended we are still planning on having similar badges for paying customers but the early adopter badge will be distinct from those badges to help identify our original supporters!
Interestingly a similar “badge for purchasing” has since appeared on a couple of other websites in our market – possibly the best proof that it’s a good idea!
The “Found the Princess” badge
A bit of funny story on this one. When I first introduced this badge it was randomly handed out on a rare chance every now and then. It would popup a message on the screen saying “Congratulations, you’ve found the Pirate Princess!”. We got a few concerned emails from customers who thought this was an accusation that they have pirated our software! Bear in mind according to our server stats about half our visitors are not native English speakers. It was an unfortunate term to use and implemented too hastily perhaps. I quickly removed the badge - it’s back now but renamed to Treasure!
We gave it a little more thought and re-introduced the badge in a way that can’t be accidently obtained. To find the Pirate Princess now and earn the coveted badge you must follow a trail of clues, the first of which can be found on this page.
So an important lesson we learned here is that you should always think rather carefully about implementing badges in case the meaning is not so obvious! (Apologies to anyone this caused confusion for!)
The “Hello World” badge
This is a badge that has been an amazing success to help encourage people to introduce themselves on the forum and make their first forum post. Posting in the official introductions forum thread instantly awards you with this badge. Not only do we learn a lot about our users and what backgrounds they come from but it also helps build a welcoming and friendly environment.
The “Quick Draw” and “Lightning Draw” badges
These badges help in some small way to build anticipation and a bit of excitement for a new Construct 2 release and helps encourage people to keep up to date with the latest version of Construct 2.
The first 15 people to download a new Construct 2 release get the “Quick Draw” badge and if you are fast enough to be one of the first 3 people to download it you get the “Lightning Draw” badge.
The “Religious Updater” badge
The “Updater” badge is awarded if you install 3 of the latest releases consecutively, the “Dedicated Updated” is awarded if you install 10 in a row and the “Religious Updater” badge is for if you do 25 in a row.
These badges strongly encourage people to keep up to date with the latest release of Construct 2. This is immensely beneficial not only for us when dealing with bugs, but also for the users of Construct 2. Staying up to date with the latest version has buckets of benefits to everyone so should be encouraged.
The “RTFM” badge
RTFM stands for “Read the fabulous manual!”. This badge serves in feature discovery, encouraging people to take a look at the manual we have on the site. There are more badges for viewing certain numbers of manual pages, encouraging and rewarding users for educating themselves on how the software works.
And a host of others as well! (Far too many to talk about in one blog post!)
Gamification helps make your website ‘sticky’ (an old 90s term for describing visitors who want to keep coming back to your website). They also can act as feature discovery mechanisms introducing and rewarding users for utilising new features on the website that could be important for them. For us, they also even help our users learn more about how Construct 2 works and stay up to date with the latest release. Badges and reputation are also features that are not mandatory for participation so it’s not affecting accessibility on our website for our visitors. For us it’s a clear win.
Do you have a good idea for a badge on our website? Post your ideas in the comments below!