My dear colleague Thomas recently pointed me to the enlightening presentation “Putting the Fun in Functional: Applying Game Mechanics to Functional Software” where social architect Amy Jo Kim describes the mechanisms that game developers have for long used to keep the interest of gamers, and how they can be (and are) used by websites to engage users, increase their loyalty and finally have them do more and spend more time on the site.
Collecting stuff, earning points, receiving feedback, exchanges with other “players” and customization are the main techniques she outlines. You can see them in many websites: Twitter followers, LinkedIn profile completion status, customized YouTube channels, etc. And of course of Foursquare or Gowalla whose badges and mayorship drive competition so that people always say where they are.
With the upcoming “digital native” generation, people who’ve played video games before they even learned to speak, these techniques are becoming more and more important to engage users. And they do not only apply to social networks but also for more regular work, as show in a recent Venturebeat post or the “Productivity Games” blog.
A good source of information on these topics is Bunchall’s Twitter feed where lots of interesting links are posted.