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Gamification itself is an informal explanation that generally refers to the application of game elements to non-gaming scenarios to enhance user experience and engagement.

Yongcheng Liu, Blogger

July 6, 2023

6 Min Read

1. The application of gamification design in communities

Since the 1980s, scholars in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) have been continuously attempting to use games to inspire research in education and sociology, among other non-gaming scenarios. In research, the concept of gamification has mostly focused on the insights brought by game design, gameplay, and user experience. Gamification itself is an informal explanation that generally refers to the application of game elements to non-gaming scenarios to enhance user experience and engagement.

In online communities and social media, gamification design has increasingly been applied in various ways, from rating systems on shopping websites, to food delivery reviews, to achievement systems on Q&A websites and more. These websites and communities all rely on user-generated content to develop and maintain the community. Therefore, how to encourage user participation in the community has become one of the main objectives of these community managers.

Preece & Schneiderman divided community users into five levels of participation based on their degree of involvement in "The Reader-to-Leader Framework": All users, readers, contributors, collaborators, leaders. The two major factors that affect the willingness of community members to contribute are the visibility of members' contributions and recognition of high-quality and professional contributions by members.

Just like how excellent students in school can receive rewards, and students with excellent grades can occupy the top spots on the ranking board, achievements and medals in games are also a way to recognize and reward players for their performance. Similarly, by using gamification to design some virtual rewards, it can stimulate community members and encourage more people to actively participate in community development, while also highlighting active community members and creating a good community atmosphere. As a common virtual reward in communities, the design of community medals can be considered from multiple perspectives, such as the value and meaning of the medal itself, as well as the management methods.

2. Badge design in community

In communities, as a form of incentive for members to participate in community activities, badge designs are diverse. The well-known online forum Discuz! has also released a badge function in its Discuz! X2.5.

Developer community Stack Overflow has designed different achievement medals for different user scenarios and preferences, to encourage users to participate in community activities. In order to encourage users to answer questions, Stack Overflow provides a variety of me

dals for different user levels. For example:

● Guru badge: Guru means mentor in religion, while in Stack Overflow, this badge refers to members' answers being accepted by the questioner and receiving more than 40 points (in Stack Overflow, members' answers are scored +1 for each upvote and -1 for each downvote).

● Self-Learner badge: This badge refers to members answering their own questions and getting more than 3 points.

● Tenacious badge: This badge represents members who have more than 5 zero-scored answers, and zero-scored answers account for more than 20% of their total answers.

These various badge designs cover different levels of user scenarios and encourage users to create a collaborative atmosphere in the community. No matter what kind of question is answered and how many upvotes are obtained, it is a behavior worth encouraging in the community. Similar to the Tenacious badge, there are also achievement titles in games, such as the lucky star and koi achievement in Nakara: bladepoint.

2.1 Facebook group badge

In 2017, Facebook launched the badge feature in its "Facebook Group" section, and began promoting it to communities that met the criteria (with more than 50 members) in 2018. Community administrators who meet the criteria can manage badge display of relevant badges for their community in the Facebook Group management panel. Facebook Community officially explains that this feature is designed to "clarify the identity administrators, reward community members who have outstanding contributions, and promote mutual understanding among members".

Our user researchers evaluated six common badges in Facebook groups from the understandability, information value, and distinguishability of the badges in their research on game communities. The research conclusion showed that Facebook Group badges play a role in emphasizing member roles and increasing member exposure, but certain badges may also lead readers and administrators to have certain biases when browsing post content while also indicating the identity of the post author. Due to the unclear obtaining rules of the badges, core members of the community may have different understandings of the meaning of specific badges based on their own experiences. In some users’ perspective, what is more important than badges is the "post author" and "post content".

By using gamification designs to apply a badge achievement system in community, for users who read posts, badges that indicate the author's authority or the user's length of participation time in the community (such as Admin, Moderator, New Member, Founding Member) will have a certain impact on their understanding of the content. Members believe that the comments by administrators and senior members are "more authoritative" and the content of their posts tend to be "more trustworthy," which also attracts more attention and discussion. Administrators themselves also indicate that the additional exposure brought by the badges makes them more aware of their behavior, creating a good community atmosphere. Conversely, for the content posted by new members, members will "lower their expectations" and "patiently and empathetically understand them".

The high exposure brought by the badges will have a magnifying effect on some of the shortcomings and mistakes in the content, and from the perspective of administrators, these posts will be more noticeable. For example, the "Topic Starter" badge in Facebook Groups was originally designed to commend members who raised "meaningful discussions" in the community. However, the statistical method of this badge only considers the number of replies to the original post, and the content quality of the original post is not included in the consideration of this badge. This led to some members who frequently caused conflicts in the community being awarded the "Topic Starter" badge after the feature was released. Users actually feel that such badges are "unrealistic", while administrators, after a period of time, believe that such badges will attract their "extra attention" when they appear.

3. The Opportunities and Challenges of Medal Design for Gaming Community

Introducing achievement and badge systems through gamification concepts in communities can encourage community members to participate in interactions to some extent, and enhance community stickiness. However, there are many differences between the social purposes of players in the game and in the community, and the badges in the community cannot simply copy the achievement system in games.

As developers, when designing badges for game communities, transparency of the rules, interpretability of the badges, sustainability, and flexibility in different communities should also be considered. Designers could consider the actual situation of the community, allowing users to participate in the customization process of the badge, so that the badge achievement system can better serve the community, create and maintain a good community atmosphere.

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