First, if you add points and badges to an ordinary activity, does that make it a game?
Let's say you sit down at lunch with a colleague. You make the usual small talk, and after five minutes, she puts a tick mark on a small whiteboard, under the heading "Points," which at first you had overlooked. No explanation. You keep eating your sandwich and chatting about the upcoming office Lasagna fundraiser. A few more minutes, another point. By the time you finish your seedless grapes you've got 7 points and a slight feeling of apprehension.
Was this awkward lunch a game? Game philosophers could debate, but reasonable people probably would say no.
If you want to put the fun and satisfying experience of game play to work, you should make the leap from awarding points to presenting interesting choices, within a play space that's designed for fun. The points and achievements aren't the essence of the game. They are just part of a framework for communicating progress and confirming correct choices.
Your lunch companion could have made any number of games out of your time together. She could have told you you'd get a point every time you used an adverb appropriately in a sentence. Or played Twenty Questions and given a point for each Yes. The points aren't the game, but they point you in the direction of what we might call a "privileged outcome." More commonly called winning.
If there's one game design concept to take and start using, it is this. Think of what "winning" means to your audience, and how they would move toward it from where they are now. That could be their shopping experience on your cool online store. It could be their learning journey through your curriculum. Think about moves they might make, and how you can reward them and make them fun. If your players get the slightest hint of how they can move through the game, and you reward them with immediate feedback that feels good, you're already a big step closer to tapping into one of the most powerful and fundamental aspects of how the human mind learns, works, and plays.
I'll write more about this in my spare time between development stages of Firecracker Fight. Useful and interesting? Subscribe and get weekly updates. And you might win a FREE M-80 firecracker!
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