The science of behaviour change is undergoing a groundswell of change, informed by combining the findings of experimental psychology and behavioural economics together with advances in neurology. Applied games and gamification developers should be applying the fruits of this labour in their development process, right? In theory, yes, but in reality many of the research recommendations remain highly inaccessible. Many publishing in this space are writing to an audience savvy in social research, rather than a developer community. Some focus so completely on their specific area, as to miss the bigger picture of the generalisable methods of impacting individuals’ actions and behaviours.
Rarely do we find researcher-turned-authors such as Ariely, Sunstein & Thaler and Kahneman who articulate their finding in a way most can comprehend. Even then, many beyond the advertising industry (who do use these findings to great effect) don’t know a nudge from a wink.
Luckily at PlayGen, we’ve developed some smart ways to make behaviour change science accessible for folks who don’t live in the research world. Here are two of the fundamental principles we use in our applied games and gamification development processes. Think of these as ‘hacks, although in reality they are just good scientific methods to maximise the chances of success.
Time and time again research concludes that there is no holy grail of a behaviour change approach to solve all problems for all people. The first step should always be to identify the specific audience groups and behaviours you are trying to change. You then need to understand the motivations and other factors that influence how your target audience decides to behave.
We say: We’re with the researchers. We don’t all like the same shoes, food, or colour, so why pretend all our users like the same interface and interactions? We know that simple ‘points and badges’ products are a waste of time unless the audience are 11 years old, and that all will most certainly fail if they don’t fulfil a basic level of utility. So whilst ebay points have utility for anyone wanting to know if they can trust another individual, the points in the latest gamified app that reward signing in won’t work.
Our first step in the development process is a comprehensive analysis of the elements that could affect behaviour change in a given situation: the determinants, the influencers and the capacity.
Luckily we’ve proved that there are other ways to explore audience behaviours and motivations than the dreaded questionnaire (how much do you drink every week? Erm…let me look at the government guidelines again) or a full-blown research project. Games and simulations can reveal a more accurate picture of preferences and attitudes than a simple survey. Digital can enable personalised interventions, providing the audience is well understood. Look at the success of persuasion api and okcupid in using personalisation to drive engagement and conversion. Where money, sex and love lead there’s gold.
We’re researching the link between different personality types and the impact of different interfaces. Our findings are extraordinary. The days of a single interface for all are well and truly numbered, and the businesses that know this are already racing ahead in the market.
We use proven models such as Intervention Mapping, which are founded on a cycle of interaction between users and programme developers. Researchers recommend that users should be engaged at all stages to test understanding of what drives user behaviour, gather feedback and ideas on the overall approach to changing behaviour and explore the potential effectiveness of different interventions. Suddenly the geeks are not enough, it’s starting to sound like you need an army on the ground to hold and document these conversations.
We say: Use digital to catapult audience engagement beyond flip charts and focus groups. At PlayGen we have proprietary tools to generate ideas across large numbers of users in different locations. Our use of social technologies drives peer feedback and assessment. We use rapid digital and paper-based prototyping to quickly start a dialogue with users about how a solution could work for them. This insight and our experimental methodologies mean we can try multiple designs and see how people actually use the platforms – rather than relying on their stated responses to questions.
Researchers and developers both contribute to the field of decision sciences and behaviour change. This is why we work in collaboration with so many research institutions, to both advance theory and to enable practice to catch up with the science. Our development process is a reflection of these ideas.
PlayGen is organising Gaminomics on June 11th to focus on Behaviour Change through games and behavioural economics.
Come along : see http://gaminomics.com/landing