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Gamification: Playing a Game to learn how to create one?

At Perficient, we have been focusing on using gamification in healthcare applications to improve the patient engagement experience and help consumers of healthcare enjoy the experience more.  One of the challenges of gamification of a mobile healthcare application or creating a social media community experience is designing the game and the interaction process with the end user.  Clearly, there are multiple goals to keep in mind when creating a fun and engaging exchange and it is fascinating that a UK company called “addingplay” has created a toolkit for gamification, simply a game to help a game designer create games!

The idea that you can “stretch your imagination through the power of play” makes real sense when creating a great user experience or gaming application for patient engagement.  Today’s presentation of graphical user interfaces largely lack the “wow” experience that we have grown to expect from our mobile or tablet based experiences, especially the interactive or discovery process that makes games fun.  Adding Play has broken the process for creating a game down into a series of cards matching the four major components of a great game:

  • Motivators – what are the underlying reasons for playing this game?
  • Victory Conditions – how does a player succeed in this game?
  • Game Mechanics – what are the rules, processes and dynamics that define the game play
  • Social Mechanics – defining the core social interactions between players (competition is fun!)

In addition to the cards to help define the key elements of the game, the makers of the “ultimate gamification toolkit” have outlined a simple process in an online video to explain the process of using the cards.  My belief is that software designers need to contemplate this process carefully in designing ANY application, but especially in healthcare:

  1. Decide on a topic, theme or subject that you want to create a game about
  2. Identify the target audience and think about their desires and expectations (very key IMHO)
  3. Pick 1 or 2 Motivator cards and discuss the main reasons for playing the game
  4. Pick 1 or 2 Victory Conditions cards and discuss how a player can win (or lose)
  5. Pick up to 5 Game Mechanics cards and describe the rules and processes for playing the game
  6. Pick up to 5 Social Mechanics cards to define how players interact with one another
  7. Bring it all together to describe how the key goals, conditions and mechanisms work together to create a playful experience

Okay, the editorial comment on step two is mine, but I believe it is clearly overlooked in design way too often, especially in some EMRs that we won’t mention by name.  It is a key idea to incorporate the social mechanics directly into the game in the same fashion as Game Center by Apple or head to head competition like the Xbox or Wii gaming systems.  Competition helps keep people engaged, otherwise fantasy football wouldn’t grow from season to season, and we would stop keeping score in most games.  Personally, I think step 7 of bringing all the key elements together for a complete gaming experience or great user experience will be the real key to success.

In summary, all of you healthcare folks racing to determine how patient engagement and satisfaction can be improved through portals, mobile applications and wellness programs to address Meaningful Use Stage 2, need to play a game to create a great gaming experience for your consumers.  Ask yourself about your motivators, victory conditions, game mechanics and social mechanics and see if your healthcare organization is “in it to win it!”

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