Gamification book review
By erikanollwebb on Aug 30, 2013
Earlier this summer, I was asked to review a new book on Gamification put out by Janaki Kumar and Mario Herger called Gamification at Work, put out by the Interaction Design Foundation. As you can image, I've read a lot of these but I would really recommend taking a look at this one if you are interested in gamification and how it can be used in business software. One of the key reasons is simple, while other books I have read tend to focus on the game mechanics, Kumar and Herger put more focus on the user of the systems.
To me, that's what's been missing from a lot of the books I have read. Many of them are very focused on the mechanics themselves, but spend very little time on understanding who your users are. While that might be ok for a consumer site, where the audience may be very broad and not easily defined, in business software, it's pretty essential to understand who is using your software and what motivates them before slapping on points and badges. If you apply game mechanics badly, as I have said before, you can alienate your users. That's pretty risky when you are talking about the software that runs your business--do you want to take a chance that your users are so put off by your attempts at sloppy gamification that they don't want to use that software?
Kumar and Herger, instead, spend a good deal of the book talking about how they would define and understand users before coming to a decision about how to add gamification to the software. I think this is a critical change between this offering and others. *One exception to Andrzej Marczewski (@daverage), who writes a very useful blog and has spent a lot of time looking at how to define user types. They describe the need to do research into your users and develop a persona to help understand what kind of users you are developing for. Coming from the usability side of software development, I think that's great.
My only wish for this book was that they went just a little further into how you move from the specific users to the specific mechanics, but that's a leap I haven't seen anywhere yet. In fact, it's one we're working on now, since we're developing a set of Gamification Guidelines for Enterprise applications that we are hoping to roll out very soon. It's not an easy question (or I'd have finished it a long time ago!) so I can see how it's been missing from most of the offerings out there.