Presentation: Don't Be a Douche - Best Practices For Game Mechanics In Your Web App

Here's my presentation from BarCamp Boston 5 on Sunday, April 18, 2010.  It doesn't work as well without me jumping around, questioning the audience, berating their answers, and generally acting like a, well, douche.

Because most of the deck is very text-light, here's an overview of the general structure of the presentation:
  • First, for fun, I introduce Irwin R. Schyster as our Chief Revenue Officer character and The Million Dollar Man, Ted DeBiase, as the founder/philosopher king character.
  • I review the differences between game mechanics and viral mechanics because I've found that people often just think "FarmVille!  Zynga!  Wall posts!  Game mechanics!" and I need to disabuse them of that notion.
  • First "ah ha": viral mechanics lead to additional revenue by reducing customer acquisition costs and game mechanics lead to additional revenue by getting engaged users to pay for things that make engagement more fun/easier.
  • Based on what I've read, I talk about how 2% of users upgrade from free to premium in freemium apps (Freemium Summit) and 2% of game players purchase additional content (MIT Business in Gaming conference).  Just putting it out there as an observation, not a hard and fast rule.
  • Then there's a basic overview of three different types of karma trappings, and how points lead to completion lead to achievements.
  • Second "ah ha": using Foursquare as an example, I talk about how viral mechanics have more utility to the sponsor/company than to the user, whereas with game mechanics, all of the utility accrues to the gamer/user.
  • Jumping off of Jesse Schell's 2010 DICE talk, I introduce two hypotheticals - Twitter and Etherpad - on how existing web apps could use game mechanics to incentivize and reward "good behavior".
  • Third "ah ha": I talk about how if web app makers use game mechanics to incent good behavior, they could also use the same scaffolding to monetize additional features on a one-by-one basis through microtransactions. (My favorite tweet from this section of the presentation.)
  • Lastly, I wrap up with two text-heavy slides that bring together and revisit the core themes and learnings from the presentation.  (Those of you who know such things will see a lot of David Sirlin in my recommendations.)
Because this is a work in progress, I've chosen not to (yet) make full notes available or the deck available for download.  (Also, it's a sneaky bleg to get people to invite me to give the speech again.)

I'll be in the comment section to answer questions and take abuse.


4 responses
Very interesting. Just started playing around with game development, some helpful tips
Nice work, Sachin -- I liked your style on stage.

I had never thought much about game mechanics, despite protecting my mayoral positions in Foursquare. Your presentation made me think about how to use this, specifically, to test this on an alumni association web site I manage. I'm going to see how alumni respond to getting points for leaving comments, adding events, brushing their teeth, etc. Thanks a ton for the ideas.

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