OPINION24 September 2015

Think games not gamification


Forget everything you know about gamification. Now, remember what you love about games. If you can follow these two simple steps when designing market research studies, the payoff might surprise you says Joe Marks.


The typical gamification approach is to take a task that isn’t intrinsically enjoyable such as responding to a survey or learning about new industry regulations, and add game elements (points, badges, leader boards etc.) in an effort to make it more engaging.

Our approach turns that process on its head. We start with a task that’s intrinsically enjoyable and engaging ­– playing a word, image or prediction game ­and tweak the content, rules and incentives to ensure that the results are comparable to existing market research solutions. The game­first approach takes a little more ingenuity but can deliver huge benefits in terms of recruitment costs, respondent engagement, response quality and respondent retention.

We launched our first market research game suite, The Pryz Manor, in July 2013 and have since received more than 100,000 downloads. Here are a few of the things we’ve learned along the way:

Respondent Recruitment
It’s much easier to recruit a balanced pool of participants to play mobile games than respond to surveys. People are also enthusiastic about playing games in a way that they never have been about answering surveys? they seek them out, make time for them and recommend them to their friends. A simple indication of the relatively high appeal of games can be seen in the significantly higher Google search volume for the terms ‘survey’ compared with ‘game’.

Engagement Rates
Games are intrinsically engaging and rewarding. Our longest player session during the past week was 4hrs 9mins. That level of engagement isn’t uncommon within mobile games (the second and third longest sessions during the same period were 3hrs 51mins and 3hrs 45mins respectively).

We offer in-game currency and real-world prizes to encourage participation but, in reality, a substantial percentage of our players continue to participate without ever having won a prize or purchased a reward using our in­game currency.

In fact, one of the most common types of review we receive is from people who say that they love playing the games and sharing their opinions, and that the opportunity to win real­world rewards is really just an added bonus.

Response Quality
Game interactions are not subject to the cognitive biases common to survey responses. Survey respondents often suffer from increased boredom and fatigue, resulting in acquiescence, straight—lining and random responding. Mobile game players participate only when convenient for them and are free to drop out at any point during the experience, so they are less likely to get bored or tired.

Also, the well-defined goals of games reduce the temptation to take part in related satisficing behaviours.

Respondent Retention
Somethings never get old. Many mobile games are designed with long term engagement and retention in mind. Over half of the players who logged into our games during the past week have been playing for over six months, and two ­thirds of those have been playing for more than a year. The longevity of players allows us to complete longitudinal studies and, when our clients request follow-­up enquiries, we can easily assign the new games to the same pool of players.

The next time a colleague, participant or helpful bystander suggests using gamification techniques to make your survey or focus group more engaging, I’d encourage you to take a minute to think about it.

First consider whether you can use a task that’s intrinsically enjoyable and merely tweak the content, rules or incentives to get the type of results you need. The benefits of this approach can far outweigh the extra thought that it takes to implement it.

Joe Marks is the founder of Upfront Analytics, and spoke on this subject at ScotSoft 2015 in Edinburgh.