A certain person (who shall remain nameless) at the recent X | Media | Lab put it best when he said: “we’re all monkeys”.

He was responding to my spiel about my experience with GamerDNA, a site that incentivises and engages its community with rewards and achievements for such things as: filling in 5 pieces of profile information; uploading 25 or more game screenshots; logging 5 articles of gamer news; inviting 5 or more friends to join up, etc.

I signed up to the site about a year ago and was quickly drawn in by the little incentivising gimmicks that were thrown at me. As our nameless friend pointed out, I allowed my buttons to be pushed and I responded by the book: Monkey.

This type of system obviously has its roots in gaming, tapping into the competitive and reward-driven aspect of our nature as it does, but others argue that you can apply the same game-like mechanics to even the most mundane of activities – personal finance, for instance? – and incentivise and engage your users in a tangible way.

Turn the world into a game, they argue, and it works better. Give people a competition, and it can transform a dull-but-important task into something exciting.

Wired – How Game Design Can Revolutionize Everyday Life

At Pixelati, this system of engaging users through achievement and reward based systems really resonated with my personal approach to game design, so you’ll find it crops its head up in, for example, our Danger Balls game, which is ostensibly a “casual” title with the difference that we’re implementing dynamic goals-based gameplay and granular player-activity-based scoring (e.g. if you jump a lot, you’re “jumpy”, and your score and title reflects this).

…there’s a strong correlation between games that sell well and games that offer numerous and diverse accomplishments…

Gamespot – Achievement-rich Games Sell Better

Of course, time will tell whether we’ve actually done a good job of incorporating these mechanics into our game but if we have, by all accounts players/users will respond and engage in a much greater way than if we don’t employ these systems. The fun comes when we apply them in other areas, like community websites – but that’s a future blog post : ).

There’s more reading here (thanks to Rajat Paharia and Bunchball for the links throughout this article!):

The Wrinkled Future of Online Gaming (Wired)
Marrying Social Worlds with Game Mechanics (WorldsInMotion.biz)