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Beyond badges: the case for gamification

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Over the past several years, gamification, the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people, has found its way into the corporate lexicon, with companies scrambling to ‘gamify’ elements of their business, writes JASON RIED, MD of Fuzzy Logic.

As with many new technology platforms and tools, however, the rush to adopt gamification led to many poor use cases and a misinterpretation of what the tool can really offer. Clearly, this hasn’t hindered investment – according to M2Research, ‘the size of the gamification market, currently estimated at around $100million, will grow to more than $2.8billion by 2016.”

To date, the majority of companies have viewed gamification as a way to retain staff and hopefully motivate teams and departments – by simply bolting on a gaming element to existing systems and processes. Yet true gamification extends far beyond simply rewarding a user with a virtual badge or points – and then pitting users against each other in a race to accumulate these online rewards. Sometimes, the word ‘game’ also deters companies from applying the concept in more impactful ways.

Indeed, to leverage and explore the full potential of this tool, companies and developers need to work together to add meaningful layers to the gamified experience – which not only enhance the experience, but also result in tangible (and measurable) changes in behaviour. Essentially, this is the great promise of gamification: influence and ultimately modify human behaviour to drive favourable business outcomes. These outcomes can include more successful loyalty programmes, higher engagement with internal communications and e-learning tools, or wider adoption of internal systems and processes.

Gamification is certainly a way to not only engage employees, but consumers/clients as well. Indeed, as some prominent insurers have already proven, gamification can be used to influence consumer behaviour for better social – and business – outcomes.

Ultimately, the use cases are infinite – but the fundamental approach has to be sound.

Identifying the Core Loop 

We approach the development of gamification tools – and indeed, games and apps – using the same underlying principle as a Skinner box. Also known as an operant conditioning chamber, it is an enclosed apparatus that contains a bar or key that an animal can press or manipulate in order to obtain food or water as a type of reinforcement. This concept has enabled researchers to find out which schedule of reinforcement will lead to the highest response rates.

In the gaming world, we explore which levers or elements within the game design or app can potentially influence behaviour – so, it’s a process of discovering the Skinner box within the virtual universe or app we have created. Once these levers have been identified, you can then start modifying and adding layers to guide users in the discovery of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ outcomes.

A critical part of this process lies in identifying the ‘core loop’, to borrow another term from the gaming sphere. The core loop is the single most important element of a video game – it’s how players will describe the game to their peers. As developers, we understand that making this core loop easy to comprehend and repeat goes a long way towards engaging and retaining players and users. So when developing a gamified tool or app, the key is to link this core loop with the key behaviours or outcomes you are seeking. This inevitably requires a deep understanding of the psychological drivers behind behavioural patterns. As developers, we integrate this type of understanding and insight into what we do – making it integral to our offering.

Planned Unpredictability

An interesting insight that we have gained is that planned unpredictability can increase users’ engagement. Again, game loops are the key tool here – in that the first loop is the basic task/reward, the next loop is what you do with that in the medium term, and then the next loop is what you do with that in the longer term. Each loop needs to ‘surprise’ the user in that they are excited to see something new open up – either as a task or a reward. This in turn creates further engagement in the first loop as now there is a bigger picture to the task. Revealing the much bigger loop then surprises people again, giving them an incentive to perform the medium loop, which in turn drives the first loop.

This ‘holistic’ view can really drive and impact behaviour, and while it can appear random, truly well designed systems are anything but random. For example, we like to add unexpected elements into the game/system which can then obscure the task loops by introducing surprising elements that even disappear at times. These layers are what make games addictive, as you’re always finding new things (people are explorers at heart!).

For example, a major financial institution was looking to develop a tool that blended both gamification and augmented reality in order to improve the on-boarding/training process with new employees. We developed an app in which new staff members start with an image, and this becomes a seedling plant. The adjudicator from Training Room Online asks questions and awards points throughout the training period and these points are used to grow a virtual tree. As the days – and training – progress, the seasons will move from autumn, summer, winter and spring, each with corresponding visual designs, allowing the players to see their progression in relation to other trainees. Teams doing well might have a luscious tree going into winter, while others might have a sapling and have a lot to catch up on!

A Constant Feedback Loop

In the spirit of much of today’s software development, we adopt the agile approach to developing gamification solutions, and constantly user test to make incremental adjustments This approach applies to any development project – not just gamified solutions, particularly as data becomes more readily available. The data can lead to critical insights into both employees and customers. As a result, we view these projects as an ongoing feedback loop, using data to guide our decisions and ultimately add value to the business or platform in question. So while virtual badges and titles remain useful and compelling tools, there is undoubtedly a far more layered and nuanced approach behind the most successful gamification strategies.

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Facebook fakes behind most phishing attempts

In the first quarter of 2018, Kaspersky Lab’s anti-phishing technologies prevented more than 3.7 million attempts to visit fraudulent social network pages of which 60% were fake Facebook pages.

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The results, according to the Kaspersky Lab report, ‘Spam and phishing in Q1 2018’, demonstrates that cybercriminals are still doing what they can to get their hands on personal data.

Social network phishing is a form of cybercrime that involves the theft of personal data from a victim’s social network account. The fraudster creates a copy of a social networking website (such as a fake Facebook page), and tries to lure unsuspecting victims to it, forcing them to give up their personal data – such as their name, password, credit card number, PIN code, and more – in the process.

At the beginning of the year, Facebook was the most popular social networking brand for fraudsters to abuse, and Facebook pages were frequently faked by cybercriminals to try and steal personal data via phishing attacks. This is part of a long-term trend: in 2017, Facebook became one of the top three targets for phishing overall, at nearly 8%, followed by Microsoft Corporation (6%) and PayPal (5%). In Q1 2018, Facebook also led the social network phishing category, followed by VK – a Russian online social networking service and LinkedIn. The reason for this is likely to be the worldwide 2.13 billion active monthly Facebook users, including those who log in to unknown apps using their Facebook credentials, thereby granting access to their accounts. This makes unwary Facebook users a profitable target for cybercriminal phishing attacks.

This all reinforces the fact that personal data is valuable in the world of information technology –both for legitimate organisations and attackers. Cybercriminals are constantly searching for new methods to hit users, so it’s important to be aware of fraudster techniques to avoid becoming the next target. For example, the latest trend is spam emails related to GDPR (Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation).  Examples include offers of paid webinars to clarify the new legislation, or invitations to install special software that will provide access to online resources to ensure compliance with the new rules.

“The continuous increase in phishing attacks – targeting both social networks and financial organisations – shows us that users need to pay more serious attention to their online activities. Despite the recent global scandals, people continue to click on unsafe links and allow unknown apps access to their personal data. Due to this lack of user vigilance, the data on a huge number of accounts gets lost or extorted from users. This can then lead to destructive attacks and a constant flow of money for the cybercriminals,” said Nadezhda Demidova, lead web content analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky Lab experts advise users to take the following measures to protect themselves from phishing:

  • Always check the link address and the sender’s email before clicking anything – even better, don’t click the link, but type it into your browser’s address line instead.
  • Before clicking any link, check if the link address shown, is the same as the actual hyperlink (the real address the link will take you to) – this can be checked by hovering your mouse over the link.
  • Only use a secure connection, especially when you visit sensitive websites. As a minimum precaution, do not use unknown or public Wi-Fi without a password protection. For maximum protection, use VPN solutions that encrypt your traffic. And remember: if you are using an insecure connection, cybercriminals can invisibly redirect you to phishing pages.
  • Check the HTTPS connection and domain name when you open a webpage. This is especially important when you are using websites which contain sensitive data – such as sites for online banking, online shops, email, social media sites etc.
  • Never share your sensitive data, such as logins and passwords, bank card data etc., with a third party. Official companies will never ask for data like this via email.
  • Use a reliable security solution with behaviour-based anti-phishing technologies, such as Kaspersky Total Security, to detect and block spam and phishing attacks.

Other key findings in the report include:

Phishing:

  • The main targets of phishing attacks have remained the same since the end of last year. They are primarily global Internet portals and the financial sector, including banks, payment services and online stores.
  • About $35,000 USD was stolen through one phishing site that appeared to offer the opportunity to invest in the rumoured Telegram ICO. Approximately $84,000 USD was stolen following a single phishing email mailshot related to the launch of ‘The Bee Token’ ICO.
  • Financial phishing continues to account for almost half of all phishing attacks (43.9%), which is 4.4% more compared to the end of last year. Attacks against banks, e-shops, and payment systems remain the top three, demonstrating cybercriminals’ desire to access users’ money.
  • Brazil was the country with the largest share of users attacked by phishers in the first quarter of 2018 (19%). It was followed by Argentina (13%), Venezuela (13%), Albania (13%), and Bolivia (12%).

Spam:

  • In the first quarter of 2018, the amount of spam peaked in January (55%). The average share of spam in the world’s email traffic was 52%, which is 4.6% lower than the average figure of the last quarter of 2017.
  • Vietnam became the most popular source of spam, overtaking the U.S. and China. Others in the top 10 included India, Germany, France, Brazil, Russia, Spain, and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • The country most targeted by malicious mailshots was Germany. Russia came second, followed by United Kingdom, Italy, and the UAE.
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Acer gaming beast escapes

Acer this week unveiled two notebooks that take portable gaming to new extremes.

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Acer  unveiled two new Predator Helios gaming notebooks this week at the next@acer global press conference in New York. They include the powerful Predator Helios 500, featuring up to 8th Gen Intel Core i9+ processors, and the Predator Helios 300 Special Edition that includes upgraded specs from its predecessor and a distinctive white chassis. Both feature VR-Ready performance, advanced thermal technologies, and blazing-fast connectivity.

“We’ve expanded our Predator Helios gaming notebook line in response to popular demand from gamers seeking extreme performance on the go,” said Jerry Kao, President of IT Products Business, Acer. “The Predator Helios 500 and Helios 300 gaming notebooks feature Acer’s proprietary thermal technologies and powerful components that, coupled with our award-winning software, deliver unparalleled gaming experiences.”

“The 8th Gen Intel Core i9+ processor for gaming and creation laptops is the highest performance Intel has ever delivered for this class of devices; purpose built for enthusiasts who demand premium gaming experiences whether at home or on the go,” said Steve Long, Vice President and General Manager, Client Computing Group Sales and Marketing, Intel. “Intel and Acer’s long relationship has produced amazing products over the years, and the new Acer Predator Helios gaming notebooks are powerful examples of what’s possible with this unprecedented level of performance.”

Predator Helios 500 is a gaming beast featuring overclocking, 4K 144 Hz panels

Designed for extreme gamers, the Predator Helios 500 is a gaming beast. It features up to overclockable 8th Gen Intel Core i9+ processors and overclockable GeForce GTX 1070 graphics. Intel Optane memory increases responsiveness and load times, while ultra-fast NVMePCIe SSDs, Killer DoubleShot Pro networking, and up to 64GB of memory keep the action going, making the Helios 500 the ideal gaming notebook for graphic-intensive AAA titles and live streaming.

Top-notch visuals are delivered on bright, vibrant 4K UHD or FHD IPS 17.3-inch displays with 144Hz refresh rates for blur- and tear-free gameplay. NVIDIA G-SYNC technology is supported on both the built-in display and external monitors, allowing for buttery-smooth imagery without tearing or stuttering. For those looking for maximum gaming immersion, dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, and display and HDMI 2.0 ports support up to three external monitors. Two speakers, a subwoofer, and Acer TrueHarmony and Waves MAXXAudio technology deliver incredible sound and hyper-realistic 3D audio using Waves Nx.

The Helios 500 stays cool with two of Acer’s proprietary AeroBlade 3D metal fans, and five heat pipes that distribute cool air to the machine’s key components while simultaneously releasing hot air. Fan speed can be controlled and customized through the PredatorSense app.

A backlit RGB keyboard offers four lighting zones with support for up to 16.8 million colors. Anti-ghosting technology provides the ultimate control for executing complex commands and combos, which can be set up via five dedicated programmable keys.

Acer’s PredatorSense app can be used to control and monitor the notebook’s vitals from one central interface, including overclocking, lighting, hotkeys, temperature, and fan control.

Predator Helios 300 Special Edition brings a sophisticated design twist to gaming notebooks

Acer’s budget-friendly Helios 300 gaming line sees the addition of a Special Edition model featuring an all-white aluminum chassis accented with gold trim, an unusually chic design for gaming notebooks.

The Helios 300 Special Edition (PH315-51) allows for ultra-smooth gameplay via its 15.6-inch FHD IPS display with an upgraded 144Hz refresh rate. The rapid refresh rate shortens frame rendering time and lowers input lag to give gamers an excellent in-game experience. It’s powered by up to an 8th Gen Intel Core i7+ processor, overclockable GeForce GTX 1060 graphics, up to a 512 GB PCIe Gen 3 NVMe solid state drive, and up to a 2 TB hard disk drive.

The Helios 300 Special Edition also comes equipped with up to 16 GB of DDR4 memory, and is upgradable to 32GB. Intel Optane memory speeds up load times of games and applications, access to information and improves overall system responsiveness. In addition, Gigabit Ethernet provides fast wired connections, while Gigabit Wi-Fi is provided by the latest Intel Wireless-AC 9560 that delivers up to 1.73Gbps throughput when using 160 MHz channels (2×2 802.11ac, dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz).

The Helios 300 Special Edition also includes two of Acer’s ultrathin (0.1 mm) all-metal AeroBlade 3D fans designed with advanced aerodynamics and superior airflow to keep the system cool. They can be controlled with Acer’s PredatorSense app, which offers three usage modes:

1. Coolboost mode:

For heavy loading games, rendering, streaming, and extended video consumption

2. Normal mode:

For productivity tools like Microsoft Office

3. Silent mode:

For web browsing and online chatting

Price and Availability

Predator Helios 500 will be available in South Africa in June starting at R34 999.00

Helios 300 Special Edition will be available in South Africa in August 2018. Exact Price will be communicated closer to the time.

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