New Home Forums Community, Engagement & Gamification The Dark Side of Gamefication

6 replies, 4 voices Last updated by  Andy Freist 8 years, 1 month ago
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    Alchemy Jeff

    First let me say that I love the aspects of gamefication in this eCourse adventure. I found even a simple thing like progressing through a mapped territory and checking off checkpoints really motivating and fun. My wife, Catherine_wildfox, was saying today how she likes the bajillionaire points rewarding engagement on this site. These are clever and creative approaches to foster engagement and follow-through. If the eCourse industry in general adopts gamefication as standard practice, it seems like a few lessons from the games industry might be in order.

    My professional background is a developer in the games industry for the last 18 years (the last 3 in mobile). I’ve seen a lot of trends in gaming, over the years and one of the most powerful has been free-to-play. This is where eCourses could go if there is mass acceptance of the gamefication model.

    A background in free-to-play (from Wikipedia:)
    Free-to-play (F2P) refers to video games which give players access to a significant portion of their content without paying. There are several kinds of free-to-play games, but the most common is based on the freemium software model. For freemium games, users are granted access to a fully functional game, but must pay microtransactions to access additional content. Free-to-play can be contrasted with pay-to-play, in which payment is required before using a service for the first time.

    The model was first popularly used in early massively multiplayer online games targeted towards casual gamers, before finding wider adoption among games released by major video game publishers to combat video game piracy and high system requirements.

    The Dark Side
    The dark side of free-to-play is player’s feeling like they get nickle and dimed to death, or that although they can play for free, they actually need to pay to WIN. A game released by the company I work for received so much criticism for this approach, that the game failed miserably and the studio that produced it was shut down!

    Once an economy of any kind is introduced in a game or e-course, there’s potential for exploitation if you can buy it with real money. This is especially true if you have to trade in-game currency for core content or services. If it feels like you actually need to buy valuable core content separately, then customers feel ripped off. If it’s just reward points for fun extras or bonus content, it’s not as much of an issue.

    The lesson? Gamefication is awesome and a great trend for increasing engagement in eCourses. I’m definitely going to use it! However, I think free-to-play e-courses will be right on the heels of gamefication. I’m sure Brad and Andy will approach this cautiously, but I’m also sure there are those who will deliberately build their e-course business model around f2p, fishing for the “whales” (people who spend thousands on micro-transactions). When that happens, there could be a backlash against e-course gamefication.

    We don’t want people to feel like they have to keep paying extra to get full value from their e-course. We also don’t want to be lumped in with a f2p exploitation model. The fun and engagement of gamefication IS an innovative and valuable approach. Let’s just keep a watchful eye on the dark side!


    Bradley Morris
    Mountain Guide

    First off, man, it’s great to see ya around the fire Jeff!
    This is super insightful @jeff_kuipers.
    We really appreciate your perspective, coming from the Gaming industry.

    @andyfreist and I have definitely been talking about a kind of f2p approach with the Great eCourse Adventure.
    At the moment, we have the main mountain, which is the 14 checkpoints everyone’s experiencing.
    However, as we create this for all of you, we realize that each checkpoint could potentially have multiple deep-dive lessons or entire journeys on specific topics covered in that checkpoint.

    With this, we realized we’re actually creating a mountain range.

    So on the f2p side of things, we would imagine creating those additional tracks or mini-courses at an additional fee. For example: Doing a deep dive in Green Screening or a deep dive in Active Campaign or something.

    The extra lessons would still be done in GEA style and fashion.
    You’d even get a hidden piece of the map when you sign up for them.
    But, you’d be charged a bit of money.
    (we were imagining $50ish per mini course)
    We want to keep it extremely affordable to our intended audience, just like that price for the main course.

    I’d actually be curious to hear what others think about this.

    This is a great conversation to have because EVERYONE reading this is going to have to discover their own unique way of charging money for the course you are creating and we can be extremely creative with that.

    Thanks for opening up this can of worms Jeff!


    Andy Freist
    Mountain Guide

    Awesome post @jeff_kuipers !

    We are sort of doing a free-to-play model here.. Though one key thing that we are wanting to offer is the ability for people to play-to-pay. Everything GEA offers will be sold in both dollars and bajillion. So theoretically, someone could come here, get a free account, and then earn bajillion through participation in the community and completing all the challenges we are creating. They could then use that bajillion to purchase our products and offerings.

    So while the base level is free-to-play, theres also a level of play-to-pay, so technically there’s always a way to go further and “win” without ever spending a dollar.

    Thanks for sparking this discussion 🙂


    Catherine Fox

    “Play to Pay” is a wonderfully rebellious inversion and I like it a lot – when it’s used with integrity in the way you describe. I think it’s similar to do a professional training, where you sign up to get the core material that makes you (hopefully) a competent person able to do be an osteopath/make ecourses from scratch/pass a driving test — BUT there are extra courses to cover special interests and go into more depth. I totally accept that and I think being able to ‘earn points’ to pay for it with value other than money is really cool. The bad version is if you sign up to learn competency at the thing, then discover you have to pay for essential pieces of information – ie you cant ACHIEVE the thing (learning, success at game, winning) without paying additional $$. When there’s already been a huge time investment that’s pretty annoying.

    Luckily your manifesto captures it all nicely – just because a sales technique WORKS doesn’t mean it’s ok to do.

    Andy/Bradley – what I don’t quite understand is what is your f2p ‘base level’ ?

    “making a mountain range” is an excellent analogy btw!


    Andy Freist
    Mountain Guide

    Hi Catherine 🙂

    So the free-to-play base level is that people can get a free account which gives them access to the community and challenges. They can earn bajillion and badges without paying anything. The main course and sub-courses are paid add-ons.

    Essentially, we’ve created a world/environment. People can enter that world and participate for free. Though they need to pay via dollars or bajillion for experiences that we’ve created inside (aka, courses).

    The big picture focus is really on the community/culture building activities.

    With our new strategy, people are signing up for a community. Thats our gift/offer. “Find the others.” They get to participate in this new culture thats brewing.

    The world/environment is our gift. The premium experiences (courses/products) within that world are what pays the bills. The community will always be something worth sticking around for. So then the course(s) become an extension.. A way to experience more. And to experience more, you gotta pay and play into it.

    Do the challenges, participate in the community, log in every day, etc etc and earn bajillion. Then use that bajillion to earn the deeper experiences, like levels in a game.

    Don’t want to wait to earn the bajillion? just pay in dollars.

    Everyone has to contribute, that what keeps it alive.

    Which makes me think:

    I’ve heard a lot of marketers essentially say that our “audience’s attention” is our greatest asset.

    In this world, our greatest asset is our “player’s participation.”


    Bradley Morris
    Mountain Guide

    Such a great conversation here.

    It’s definitely amazing what GEA is evolving into from it’s original idea.

    Love the “Audience’s Attention vs Players Participation” analogy @andyfreist.

    I really feel like participation is the new metric to measure a courses success. Whereas the old model is measured on leads, conversions and sales. We are 100% focused on participation + results.

    I think this needs to be the focus for all the eCourse creators joining this community.

    So the question is, through a gamified immersive experience, how do we amp up participation levels like never before?


    Andy Freist
    Mountain Guide

    So the question is, through a gamified immersive experience, how do we amp up participation levels like never before?

    Actually, I think a more suitable question is “how do we create gamified immersive e-learning experiences that people are actually motivated to play?”

    The gamification itself is what results in increased participation. So then, what are the mechanics of an engaging game, and how can we apply that to our courses?

    Games can be extremely simple or extremely complex.

    If we can get a grip on what games are at a higher perspective, then we will be making headway.

    At the core of all of this is basic human psychology.

    Humans thrive on connection, belonging, collaboration, communication, mental stimulation, and learning/evolution (to name a few).

    A well-crafted game hits on all of these.

    The key then lies in creating a course (game) that provides participants with a sense of place (environment), purpose (role), belonging (community), and meaning (narrative) – and inspires them to take action for the sake of advancing themselves and their fellow players.

    It is quite interesting to see how these traits are essentially key metrics for what I would consider a “life well lived.”

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