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Book Review: Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps by Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham

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Depression, The Great Recession, to say the least, the economy is in flux.  With ballooning unemployment numbers, many of the more creative people are trying to find their own business niche.  Growing and keeping a business these days requires savvy marketing, through a variety methods.  In Los Angeles, next week is Social Media Week, five days and 75 events focused on squeezing money out of social media.  If you think gamification means kids play too much Call of Duty these days, or have no idea how to use social media as a marketing tool, Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps  is an accessible way to get a handle on the growing trend of using gamification to promote customer engagement.

Gamification by Design, at 169 pages, is a good quick read, a Saturday afternoon, and until the coding portions at the end is pretty easy to follow, even for those readers who are not tech savvy.  The book, by Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham, begins with a simple history of gamification, from those long ago days before computers, when grocery stores used stamp books to maintain customer loyalty.  New business owners or those contemplating a new business venture will probably find this book the most valuable, as the strokes painted are typically broad.  Though Gabe Zichermann is a well known and experienced proponent for the use of gamification, his arguments here are made plainly.

Some may argue Gamification by Design oversells gamification and others may even be offended by the overall theme of making your customers think they are getting something, when you are really giving them nothing at all.  While there is some truth to that, the book does a good job explaining the basic game mechanics and how gamification works.  Where the concept gets tricky is in how much your business really going to get out of giving badges to customers that interact with you.  The purpose of keeping people on your website longer is really just to expose them to more advertising and some may argue those people are already buying everything you offer them.  For those sold and intent on implementing gamification, the author recommends checking out GamificationU.com.

The last couple of chapters cover planning, coding and implementing gamification on your website.  Some readers may be a little intimidated by coding, although the instructions provided are fairly straightforward.  The only problem with the coding is that others might find the application a little stark and as such, contrary to the main tenets of gamification.  The solution provided for those who don’t want to use the coding provided — and this where it gets a little bit tricky — are referred to the Badgeville service.  The final chapter is sponsored by badgeville.com and reads as a ‘how to guide’ for badgeville customers.

Gamification by Design makes a solid argument for using and implementing gamification in your business.  For those that don’t know what gamification is and want to know why everyone is talking about it, this book will certainly fill you in, and if you’ve decided gamification is a tool you can use, Gamification by Design will walk you through finding new ways to engage and reward your customers. The issue some readers will have, particularly with the last chapter being sponsored by badgeville.com, is that it reads like an advertisement for gamification services.  Business is hard work and gamification is probably not the only thing that will determine your success, but Gabe Zichermann makes the argument for at least giving it a look.

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About Lance Roth

Lance Roth has over 10 years experience in the video game industry. He has worked in a number of capacities within the industry and currently provides development and strategy consulting. He participated in all of the major console launches since the Dreamcast. This videogame resume goes all of the way back to when they were written in DOS. You can contact Lance at RPGameX.com or rpgamex@gmail.com.
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