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Gamification: What if they don’t want to play?

What if people just don’t want to play your game? How do you engage them?

Before I launch into this blog, I just wanted to shamelessly tout for your vote!. GSummit have a vote going for the top most influential people in gamification. If you think that I may fit in there, I would really love a vote. You can vote for more than one person as well! Take a look here http://list.ly/list/Ef2-most-influential-people-in-gamification

On with the show!

One of the questions I get asked all the time is,

“What if people just don’t want to play your game? How do you engage them?”.

Now, before the argument about the word "play" kicks off, I am using it with a dash of irony. I am aware that in gamification "play" is the wrong word to use when considering the interactions users have with a gamified system.

That out of the way, the answer comes in two parts, both as important as each other. One you may not like, but you have to accept it!

The first is, make sure you have designed the system properly.  If you have just added some badges and a leaderboard, then you are only going to engage a very small number of people for any length of time. Consider looking at the User Types and design more to support them. People often say that people don’t engage with gamification because gamification is bad. The truth is that many gamification designers are bad – and so they create bad gamification. This is true of any industry and especially new technology, just think how wrong most companies got social media at the beginning!

Now for the more difficult to hear and unpopular bit of this answer. Most gamification only increases engagement by a few percent.  There are lots of examples that quote massive increases – and it is true that this is more than possible. But, generally speaking you will never reach everyone – and that is just fine! There will always be at least 20% of people who just will not engage. They will either be totally apathetic to it, or actually very against it (these ones fall into the disruptors and you need to watch out a little bit with them!).

The point is, that is okay. You can’t make people have fun, engage more or do things they just don’t want to do. Gamification is not magic! What you have to do is design a system that either engages as many people as possible, or that engages the “right” people. By this I mean the ones who will get the most out of your system.  The rest you just have to accept – but not upset. You just can’t force people – as much as you may want too – other wise you will end up having the exact opposite effect on them. If they don’t want to be involved, you have not lost anything – concentrate on the ones who do and hope they can evangelise your system enough to get more of the “non believers” involved.

“Some men you just can’t reach”

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