Great intro to Gamification, includes a worked example and plenty of theory. Gamification is about adding game like elements to non game applications for a number of benefits including better and longer user engagement.
This is a fascinating topic and the book contains some good material and examples, but it doesn't go into enough detail. There are only 109 pages of material on gamification plus a couple of disappointing tutorial chapters. One is a Ruby tutorial on creating a primitive game skeleton which really doesn't add anything to understanding the principles of gamification, and adds even less if you're not a Ruby programmer. Worse - and particularly disappointing - is that the book contains a second tutorial chaper on using a commercial gamification platform which is sponsored by the platform vendor. I didn't buy this book to learn how to use a commercial product, and vendor sponsorship makes me worry about the reliability of the overall content. On the plus side it's not expensive, but then you don't get very much content for your money.
Humans enjoy play, and certain elements that are usually associated with play or games can be used in non-gaming contexts to enhance the user's enjoyment or engagement with a product or service. The technique for designing and utilising these elements for your site, service, or product is gamification. Gamification is increasingly recognised as an important tool for marketing or driving behavioural change in users, although it has in fact been around for many years in the form of loyalty points and rewards seen across many industries such as airlines and supermarkets.
"Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps" provides an introduction to the history and concepts of gamification, to some extent the psychology of gamification, and techniques to use to implement gamification that is suitable for your own intended audience. In particular they emphasise the importance of understanding who your 'player' is, what their goals and interests are, and how to keep them engaged in the game. Gamification is not a one off process that you can implement and then forget about. You need to monitor your player's behaviours and then adjust and add to the gamification design so that none of your players 'plateau out' and lose interest in the game.
The book is littered with examples of gamification techniques used by apps, sites, and games together with the pros and cons of the approaches, and ideas on how they could be made more successful. A lot of the examples were familiar to me, and some of which were more subtle in their gamification than others. I know from my own experience that if the use of gamification to purely take away my money turns me off, but other ways of using gamification that successfully create engagement and loyalty.
Advice is also provided on policing your system and designing the system against being 'gamed'. There are some types of players who want to beat the system and will essentially work out ways to cheat, which can ultimately be detrimental to the system and to the other players. It is important to consider how to deter, or at least make it difficult for this minority to take over the system.
Chapter six provides a small number of interesting gamification case studies in more depth than the other examples provided. The final two chapters provide technical implementation details. One using a Ruby on Rails project example, and the second using a commercially available platform for gamification design and implementation called Badgeville. As well as allowing you to define your game mechanics, Badgeville provides an analytics engine so that you can monitor the user behaviour and how effective your design is. Although I didn't find the code examples in these two chapters very useful, they do go through a full process of design on paper, implementation, and check that would apply to gamifying any site or service.
Overall I found the book an interesting read, particularly because of the examples used to demonstrate where and how techniques are used or ineffectively used. I did find it jumped around a lot, and was really left wanting more detail. Perhaps the inclusion of more psychology or user research (if it exists) would have improved the book for me. I didn't find the code examples at all useful, maybe pseudocode would have given more value, enabling more people to apply it to their environment? Also there were repeated references to supporting material being available on the gamificationu website. This website though breaks the author's own advice on gamification - don't ask a user to register before showing them what they can get out of the game. I would have liked to have seen the accompanying exercises, but much like most 'players' I don't just hand over my personal info without having some trust or a good incentive!
If you are at all familiar with video games, then much of gamification is 'common sense', but there are certain elements that I was less aware of, especially the overwhelming importance of including social aspects in the game.
People enjoy computer games - therefore if you turn non-game things into games, everyone will be happy. That's the idea, and that's what this book is trying to tell you. But (and I guess you saw that BUT coming) the argument is not convincing. The authors describe in depth (and then in more depth) the techniques that games use (e.g points, levels, badges, power-ups) and then gives examples of non-game games that use these techniques. But (!) imho they are not very good examples. Take for, instance, Four Square: does it make me want to use (play?) it because it gives me quirky badges? Ok, to be fair I am not your typical gamer - I liked Lemmings and SimCity - but my thoughts on gamification are that it can be a powerful tool to engage people who are not your typical gamers, and I think this is where the book fails. The last 2 chapters, a tutorial on programming a points/badge website, are out of place here and would have been happier on the associated website.
Curiously, I expect books about games and gaming to be enjoyable reading; the reality is that they are all too often rather dull (A Theory of Fun being a notable exception). I've given the book 3 stars because it really made me start to think about what systems and processes could really benefit from gamification (Schools and the House of Lords! - not appropriate to expand here, but will do so in my LocoMatrix blog), though I think that would have happened if I had read a good article on the subject.