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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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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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