By Matthew Hellon
Over the next two days, we will review the recently released book Games and Gamification in Market Research: Increasing Consumer Engagement in Research for Business Success, by Betty Adamou.
Today, we look at the book from the view of a researcher, focusing on ‘Section 1: World of Understanding’. Tomorrow, from the view of a designer, focussing on ‘Section 2: World of Design’.
Fittingly for a book discussing participant engagement, it follows its own advice and does a good job of keeping you engaged. It does this by being organised like a textbook (where sections can be read in isolation) yet written in captivating prose.
How to Define Games
“There are no widely accepted definitions of gamification research (or gamified surveys) or research-games”
Research games and gamification are used interchangeably. They describe traditional methods of data collection that only borrow select elements from games. The book clearly defines the differences between:
- Research game
- Gamification of existing research methods
Both research games and gamification of existing research methods fall under the umbrella term ‘game-based research methods’. Both contain the four key game ingredients: goals, autonomy opportunities, rules and feedback.
However, they differ regarding how participants are motivated to take part:
- Research games encourage intrinsic engagement (a desire to complete an activity for no external reward)
- Gamification of existing research methods still rely on extrinsic engagement (financial incentives for participation)
Conversely there’s ‘surveytainment’. Drag and drop functions and rewording questions to be scenario based fall under ‘surveytainment’ and don’t include all the 4 key game ingredients and therefore can’t be considered games.
The distinction between what is a research game and what is gamification also falls on the participant – did they feel like they were playing a game? This feeling of playing a game is important because it is the key to intrinsic engagement.
Pushing for Research Games
The book champions the use of research games as opposed to gamification or ‘surveytainment’. The closer you can get to a research game (and further away from a traditional survey), the higher the intrinsic engagement of participants. This is the key to fostering play and flow. This concept of play leads to less rationalised and thought out answers, providing researchers with a better reflection of real-world behaviour.
Intrinsic engagement in gaming culture can lead to surprising behaviours. Games have inspired players to write fan fiction, dress up as their favourite characters and even watch others online play the game they love. Whilst we cannot expect (or need) this kind of fandom with research games, we certainly need more engagement than is currently seen from traditional online surveys. If even a fraction of the intrinsic engagement that comes from video games can be captured in research games, surely that would be a marked improvement on current participation.
Common misconceptions exist around the use of games in research. These range from the simple ‘games are for male audiences’ and ‘games are for gamers’ to the more challenging aspects of cheating and the creativity (or lack of) needed to develop research games. One of the most interesting of these misconceptions is that games must be complex or visually impressive to be effective.
However, Pong kept players captivated for hours when it first came out in 1972 with nothing more than a few white pixels on a black background. Text adventure games have been played by millions with nothing more than an engaging story and choices of how to progress. The key ingredients of a game (goals, autonomy opportunities, rules and feedback) remain constant regardless of the colours, graphics or resolution.
Outside of these four areas, I was left wanting more in one area…
…Engagement as a proxy for better answers…
The book touches on the power of games to put participants in a situation that better replicates the environment in which they make purchasing decisions, but I would have liked to have seen more emphasis placed here. Games as emotive experiences, mirroring the emotive power involved in decision making was a nice addition, but only included towards the end of the section.
Often, better engagement is assumed to mean better answers. However, survey participants are still making decisions in a cold state (as opposed to a hot state when purchasing). Games and gamification are tremendous antidotes to low engagement. Combining them behavioural science principals could lead to more engaged participants in a less cold state. This would enable the most accurate data possible, short of measuring real behaviour.
By Matthew Hellon, Northstar Research