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GIST TechConnect Talks About the Power of Gamification for Startups

December 22, 2017

Gamification is the use of game play and game elements, often in websites and mobile applications, that motivate and engage customers, generate leads and make products fun to use. Traditionally, these are elements found in games for entertainment but startups are beginning to use the same elements in product design, marketing and customer engagement. Some companies are even using gamification to motivate employees on certain tasks.

During the panel discussion, GIST TechConnect: Gamification – Making Your Product Engaging and Fun!, a panel of experts covered when startups should consider using gamification and why. In particular, the panelists highlighted why game elements are good for startups trying to solve problems in education or health care.

According to both Dr. Elena Bertozzi and Dr. Mandë Holford, entrepreneurs need to understand their target audience or customer before using game elements. Failing to understand the audience, they explain, results in games that are not engaging or do not benefit the player in anyway. Typically, these games fail.

“If you want to engage your customers you have to give them something they want and they need, and you have to talk to them to figure out what that is,” said Bertozzi, associate professor in game design and development at Quinnipiac University. “Gamification is really thinking about the player’s problem and the player’s wants and needs, and not exclusively about what you’re trying to get out of them because otherwise it’s manipulative.”

Another thing to consider when developing a game are the technological limitations of the players. During the discussion, the panel explained that high-tech games may look good but may not be playable in an area with low internet bandwidth. To overcome this, a startup needs to look at the playability of the game itself.

“Technology isn’t the barrier. I think the barrier is creativity and the barrier is imagination,” said Holford, associate professor in chemistry at Hunter College and the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center. “So start always first with what is the pressure point? What is the story that we can tell people that will grab them? And then how do we design that in a way that’s cost effective and within our budget. And if it means collaborating or paying to get a designer then that’s what you have to do to get to overcome the technology barrier.”

Finally, the panel explained that gamification can become expensive if it is not done properly. For this reason, Bertozzi said it is a good idea that startups hire a game developer. Holford agreed, adding that game developers can help ensure that the right content is getting into a game.

But if a startup does its audience research, determines a game is the best way to engage with its audience and hirers a good game developer, the panel said there should be no barriers to success. The panelists explained that a well-designed game can teach a player something important while the player is having fun. And at the end of the day, both Bertozzi and Holford agreed having fun while learning is the goal of gamification.

Dr. Elena Bertozzi focuses on developing games that solve intractable problems in health care. Her most recent game, “My Future Game,” helped players in India learn about human sexuality, reproduction and birth control. From her work, Bertozzi noted that games are particularly good at collecting information and modifying behavior.

Dr. Mandë Holford worked to develop a game for children about killer snails. The game exists both as an analog card game and a computer game. Both help students learn about the snail’s venom and the ways it can be used to fight cancer or pain. From her work, Holford noted games are also very good at teaching players about an issue or topic.

To view the full English or Spanish TechConnect, click here.