What to Consider When Gamifying?

There are many different ways to apply gamification in tourism. Whether the visitor is visiting a museum or a restaurant, a natural wonder or cultural objects, the experience can always be heightened through gamification. But what needs to be kept in mind and what need to be present for this to be possible?[1]

  • Objective and target audience. The objective of the gamification must be clear and it is ideal to start by realising why we want to gamify and who for. What is the purpose? Who is the target audience? What do we want to obtain with this gamification? Is there something to recommend we don’t? Are there any risks involved in the gamification? 
  • Plot. The first thing that needs to be shaped is the plot, as it controls the narrative mode and technology which is used. Try to tell the story in 1-2 sentences. Who is the protagonist/hero? What challenges must they meet and why? What is their reward? What happens if they should fail in their mission? 
  • Materials and space. You always need some materials and space to work with. What information and sources is accessible and in what form? Are their pictures or drawings? What new material must be created? Which places and space can be used? Do you only need one place or does the game move between places? 
  • Form and presentation. The form and presentation must be selected based on the target audience. Games can be executed in various ways and technical solutions are not necessary. However, technology in the form of open game databases (CMS) is accessible and can make presentation and execution simpler. The key issue is to make decisions based on the intended participants. Is this for primary school children? Is this for families with children or adults only? All this has an impact on which graphics to use, which language style and what kind of technology. 
  • Promotion and communication. If no one knows about this game, no one will play it. How will you attract visitors? How do they approach the game? Is there a prize or reward for those who finish it? If smart phones are used, do people use their own or borrow a phone? Does an app need to be downloaded? Is the internet connection decent? Is there any follow-up through social media or the like? 

Many museums and historical places follow the old trend of trying to appeal to everyone and end up appealing to very few. The same goes for game design, if the objective is unclear, we cannot plan our visitors’ visits. 

The objective of a visit to a heritage site isn’t so tightly focused. It’s the paradox of free-choice learning environments. To be all things (or many things) to a diverse audience, we all-too-often wind up being not too much of anything. That weakness of objective means that there’s no way to plan the arc of your visit, or know what progress you’ve made toward a completion goal. Visitors go until they feel tired, and then they leave. (Ed Rodley, 2018)

Rodley, Ed. 2018. Playing with the Past, Part Three: The Challenges of Working Across Industries.

Who doesn’t recognise this from Ed Rodley’s description? The visitor wanders around until they are tired and then they leave. We have all been there. Wandering aimlessly around a museum until your feet start to ache and everything blurs into one. Then you look for the exit. 

This leads us back to storytelling. In gamification, the game is like a narrative based on a certain story which the game is built around. 

Good storytelling is the backbone of good museums. Thus it is not surprising that cultural institutions celebrated the possibilities which virtual and augmented reality give us, the closest we get to time travel. 

James Kay. Lonely Planet: Travel Trends for 2019: Augmented Attractions

The story is the essence behind a memorable museum visit and effective communications. A good story influences our brain in so many ways. 

  • It activates the parts of the brain which make us feel correlation. 
  • It awakens feelings, causing the brain to create dopamine which helps us remember. 
  • It creates rapport and influences and activates the brain. 

[1] “How to gamify the visitors experience?”. 2019, July. Digital Tourism Think Tank. https://www.thinkdigital.travel/opinion/how-to-gamify-the-visitor-experience/

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