The wildly successful novel Hunger Games will premiere its adapted film version tonight at midnight. While the novel is written for young adults it has gained quite the cult following amongst all ages resulting in a Harry Potter-like following. We are fans of the books and thought we’d highlight a few things that we can learn about gamification, from the fictional world of Panem and the characters that exist within it.
The book follows protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old girl living in District 12 of Panem. After a brutal revolution against the Capitol of Panem the districts are forced each year to provide one boy and one girl to compete in the televised “Hunger Games” as a reminder of their complete obedience to the Capitol. The Capitol-organized games take place in various terrains and force the teens to fight to the death, until only one remains and is crowned winner.
So what does any of this have to do with gamification?
Cooperation over Competition
In his SXSW talk, Bing Gordon brought up the idea that gamification should be more than just competition. Using WoW, he pointed out that in groups, users were 20% more productive. In an arena fight to the death, the idea that cooperation can be successful over competition seems silly, but as Hunger Games demonstrates, an interesting dynamic emerges among the players. These are not skilled players, but randomly selected teenagers, some of whom have no real applicable skills. Players, who believed they had no chance alone, became more effective and ultimately survived longer in cooperative teams. The element of competition still exists, it always must on some level, but the cooperation prolongs, intensifies and maximizes the engagement, especially when some users lack specific skills that may be useful to complete certain tasks. While gamification should rely on some elements of competition, it’s also important to remember that social aspects drive users more readily than any other metric. Gamification should encourage collaboration amongst users.
If users are going to spend their time on your site, they are much more willing to do so if they receive some kind of reward. However, rewards that are too easy to receive mean nothing and rewards that are too difficult are demotivating. In the Hunger Games arena, players have sponsors that send gifts to their player (often food or medicine). The sponsors often ‘reward’ their players with these gifts when the players complete an action that the sponsor finds desirable or entertaining. In the first book, Katniss receives much needed medicine when she makes her first kill. While she quickly realizes what she is being rewarded for, she also realizes that repeating the same action she won’t earn the same gift over and over. Instead, she must escalate her entertainment value in order to receive future and possibly better rewards. Players who don’t know exactly when or what they will be rewarded for, are more likely to spend more time exploring actions and participating in more challenging campaigns.
Gamification is all about creating loyalty to your brand or website by engaging and rewarding users. By harnessing the power of each user’s social network, brands can multiply their user base quickly. In The Hunger Games, the intense loyalty of each district towards their player is a great representation (albeit extreme) of the loyalty a social media network feels towards its members. When one member participates in something, the entire network behind them becomes on some level, engaged. The Hunger Games forces Districts’ engagement and support because of the brutal circumstances of the games, but encouraging users to engage their own network through incentives and collaboration can be a great way to increase users on your site.
Gamification is definitely not anything close to the brutal Hunger Games arena, but as with any game mechanics, we can look at the success of certain elements and apply them towards gamification solutions. Cooperation, sporadic increasingly challenging rewards and asking users to engage their social networks are all important elements to think about when implementing gamification.
We cannot wait for this movie to come out tonight! If you are curious and haven’t seen the trailer yet, you can watch it here.
May the odds be ever in your favor!