Community As Gaming Experience

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about a new generation of community site: the website as game. The paragraphs below were taking from an initial spec that I worked up this week for my development team, which will guide usability and interaction choices that we make on the site, which is a social networking/incentive/e-commerce/community site. And then, I stumbled across an article that said exactly what I’d been mulling over.

I won’t repeat everything that was in this article, but much of what I’ve been thinking about is discussed there. Read it carefully, as they make a lot of very good points.

This concept ties in very closely to several areas, such as rewards, the profile areas, and all user-created content on the site. As the above-referenced article states, there are basic concepts of game design that relate directly to this type of site:

• Basic action-reward feedback system
• Levelling your character
• Exploring the environment to find new rewards and challenges
• User created content

Every area where the user has interaction with the site can provide rewards, whether those are represented tangibly (spendable rewards points) or not (trust rating, higher access levels). I’ll refer to these rewards as monetary (points), status (ratings) and vanity (downloadable pets, avatar extensions, site graphics or premium themes).

We could handle the explanation of the rewards in a single page, explaining the rewards associated with different levels. This way it is totally transparent to people who don’t care about that element of the site, but is accessible to people who want to work towards premium levels.

Transgressions against the Code of Conduct (trolling, harassment, language, unacceptable posts) could also remove status and vanity ratings.

“Levelling” actions:

1. Creating an account (we had talked about giving them a few initial points) – monetary
2. Completing tasks and goals – monetary, also possibly status and vanity, if we reward for certain levels/amounts of tasks accomplished – this also provides a benefit for children who have tasks/goals that are not tied to points.
3. Creating content – personal content, community blog/forum posts, reviews, artwork, video, music, etc. – status and vanity.
4. Participation in focus groups, both as a participant in the group and a teacher/mentor of the group. Higher levels of reward for contest winners. –monetary, status and vanity.
5. Long-term, we could have users creating high-level content for e-learning material and gaming, such as in the MMO development. This would be “paid” work in terms of points, premium themes, documented “developer” status, and also in high-level items available for use in the 3D areas. –monetary, status and vanity

And so on, cut for NDA purposes. I truly feel that this is where community/social networking sites are heading, and it’s why I am pushing for development on MMO/3D environments for social interaction, for learning, for gaming.

Never forget the game. Always ask “Where is the fun?”

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