The 8 Core Drives of Gamification (#5): Social Influence & Relatedness

social pressure envy The 8 Core Drives of Gamification (#5): Social Influence & Relatedness

The 5th Core Drive of Gamification

For a video walk-through, check out: Episode 14, Social Influence & Relatedness

Social Influence & Relatedness (or Social Pressure & Envy) is the fifth core drive within my Gamification Framework Octalysis that is primarily driven by the nature of competition and companionship. It is a right-brained core drive that bases its success off the common, and sometimes inevitable human desire to connect and compare with one another. When utilized properly, it can serve as one of the strongest motivations for people to become motivated and engaged.

Almost every social media network urges you to “Invite Your Friends” upon joining their website. Once you invite your friends to Facebook, everyone is able to see who is doing what and where they’re doing it and creates more social bonds within a site. However, there are many pitfalls as Social Pressure & Envy is a double-edged sword and needs to be done carefully.

For example, it is actually a mistake to ask users to invite everyone they know to your product during the Onboarding process. Why would they invite all their friends before they even know what your app is about? This should only be done during the scaffolding period of a game. Of course, in a 2-Player game it is appropriate to allow the user to invite one other friend to explore with her at the beginning, but not with a spammy email list.

In this post, I will go over many types of game techniques that are related to social pressure, including mentorship, group quests, flaunting, bragging, and gifting.


Mentorship Through Gaming

Imagine that you’re playing a challenging game and you’ve barely reached level three. Your job is to kill some monsters in a stage, but no matter what you do, you keep losing. Suddenly, a higher leveled person came in and killed all these monsters swiftly and easily. You’ll start to think, “Wow, he killed the monster in less than 8 seconds. I wish I could be like him one day.”  The mentor instantly turns into your source of inspiration.  Even though he could just be a relatively lowly level 8 player, his ability to do things easily that you struggled with makes you create a sense of envy, on top of a pressure of wanting to not be a burden anymore one day.

The most important concept of mentorship is having someone to look up to in order to strive for a ranking that is achievable. Once people realize, “Hey, I can be at that level too!”, they’ll work harder to keep advancing in the game.

In earlier posts I talked about the 4 Experience Phases of a Players Journey, and how the Endgame is one of the most important yet hardest to optimize for. Mentorship is very powerful because it can appeal to both the veterans in the Endgame and the newbies who are Onboarding. It makes veterans feel as if they’ve worked hard enough to prove their status and show off their skill. For a newbie, or beginner, it benefits them in a way that inspires them to advance further and creates a social bond that reaches beyond the beginning levels of a game.

When I first started doing research for a game called Parallel Kingdom, I was just planning to learn about the game and why it’s interesting to players for a couple hours and then get back to focusing on other work.

The beginning experience was so-so, but forty minutes later, I received a message that said, “Hey, User X has been assigned to be your mentor and will contact you next time he signs-in.”  This message is in of itself interesting, because since the mentor could not talk to me immediately, it was more convincing that the mentor was an actual player, not just a computer or a company employee (regardless if it actually is an employee or not).

When the mentor showed up twenty minutes later, he immediately shared tips that helped me advance in the game.  He also started giving me items he knew I needed to survive.  He eventually led me through quests and dungeons that I never would have conquered if he didn’t reach out to me.  Initially, I didn’t plan on continuing the game, but because of the game’s unique mentorship program, I felt compelled to stay.

Since my mentor would have been playing and leveling up at a much more difficult level without me, I felt guilty if I just quit after he had invested so much of his time and energy into a newbie player like me. And of course, I couldn’t just sign-off when he is still taking me through dungeons that I couldn’t survive in by myself! What if I don’t catch him online later?

I ended up staying for months longer than I should have and the sole cause was because of the game’s unique mentorship program.

Brilliant eCommerce Gamification Idea through Mentorship

Mentorship can also be an amazing way to super-charge an eCommerce marketplace website.

Generally, the best way of establishing trust from sellers online is to show that other veterans have been using/profitting off of your site and loving it for a long time.

Also, the majority of most eCommerce site support calls from sellers are not really about bugs, but “how do I do this?” questions, where the operator just patiently walks the users through, “First click profile. Then click seller’s dashboard. Good. Now click there.”

This model is not very effective because:

  1. Users are not exactly enthralled by talking to “customer service” people because they believe the customer service team does not really empathize with their problems and do not understand their needs.
  2. Costs for customer service can run very high, especially when the majority of them are solving these “interface problems.”
  3. Newbies of the site don’t feel emotionally engaged with anyone on the site and feel no incentive to behave better in the community.
  4. The veteran sellers of the website do not feel the achievement of reaching a higher status.

The solution? Get veterans to do “interface” support for newbies!

What if each time the veteran logs onto the website, he can move a slider that says, “I am available for mentorship” and offer himself to become available for g-chat like text chats for newbies on the site?

When a newbie has a question, he can connect to a veteran expert who’s been there, done that, and is exactly what the newbie seller wants to be like one day.

Of coures, if the veteran expert can’t answer the questions, the newbie can immediately press a button that says, “Talk to an actual customer rep,” but newbies generally would love to get the opportunity to talk to a veteran who can not only help them solve their interface problems, but also give them tips and advice on how to become better sellers – what the eCommerce site would LOVE also.

At the end of every month, the eCommerce site can calculate how many “mentorship hours” the veteran did, and apply that to some type of fee discount or free shipping that the veteran, who likely sells in large volumes, would love to get. This is economical for the eCommerce site because compared to the massive savings of support costs, fee discounts or free shipping plans would be like a rounding error.

That way, the veteran gets his status perks and bonuses, the newbie gets his questions answered while feeling a social bond towards becoming a better seller, and the site saves a massive amount of support costs while having more engaged and professional sellers in the ecosystem.

What a massive win-win-win.

Group Quests

Group questing is clever because it requires group participation before any action in the game can be done in order for you to move forward. A successful game that utilizes this is World of Warcraft.  In WoW, there are quests that are so challenging that it requires an entire team of players to work together before they have a chance at getting to the next level.

Farmville is also another game that forces you to invite a group farmer friends to produce a certain amount of crops within 24 hours. The game forces you to not only invite your friends to join a service, but to participate WITH you, which is more powerful than a spammy “I just started playing this game. Click on this link!”

It’s a powerful motive and effective tactic to get more game-players involved or invested.  Some games even require the need for dozens of players.  Inevitably, the player has to reach out to other people to assist.

Bragging vs Touting

Bragging is when a person vocally (and relentlessly) expresses their accomplishments and achievements whereas touting is a implicitly showing people that they’re skilled without really saying it.  Both of these actions come in handy when it comes to recruiting new players and keeping veteran players active.

Product games that allow users to brag or tout are very successful and can actually gain more users by allowing game-players to share their score, prize, or trophy on social media networks. Take the game Temple Run, for example. Users were screenshotting their high scores and sharing it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Soon after, people were competing with those who were scoring in the millions and users scoring in the millions were proud to post their score for everyone to see.

When there is a mutual understanding toward the difficulty of reaching a certain level, people are more than likely to brag or tout about their score because they want other people to know they’ve mastered what most people haven’t.  Temple run epitomizes the process of gaining new users through bragging and stood high-up in the leaderboard of Apple’s top featured apps for weeks in a row with a 5/5 star rating.

Allowing users to efficiently brag and tout could get them to become more enthusiastic and invested into the game. After sharing their achievements, their friends will also become curious enough to try the game and buy the product.

Social Treasures and the Thank-You Economy

Social Treasures are gifts or rewards that can only be given to you by friends or other players.

In Farmville, there are certain types of virtual goods that are unobtainable in all ways – including the option to purchase it. The only way of getting the item is if it is given to you by a friend. This, of course, pushes people to get their friends to join the game.

Soon, people were requesting items from their friends nonstop on Facebook, badgering them to give them various items. It became a nuisance and an annoyance for Facebook users, but even if it was overwhelming, it effectively attracted more users to the game.

If you were in a sweepstake competition that required voting, you could ask your friends to go vote for you in order for you to win.  The important note behind this is that it requires you to promote the website to explain to your friends why you’re competing and why you need votes. Quite often, you can even see people creating Facebook Events titled “Please Vote for Me!” that posts the link of the website.   This is tremendously useful for the website because it exposes it to heavy traffic and attention. .

Beyond the four techniques covered above, a concept coined by Gary Vaynerchuk called “Thank you Economy,” is based around the idea that if you’re continuously and generously giving, there’s a social pressure to give back somehow, even if it’s not always a 1-1 ratio.

Based on this concept, it’s very useful for a product or ecosystem to create an environment of generosity and reward that generosity. People will get attached easier because they feel as if they’re helping their friends and they of course cannot abandon anyone.

Gamer Forums and Social Prods

Forums are very helpful for the gaming community. Not only does it provide a base for people to go to when they have relatable questions, but it establishes the game as a social norm.

Back when I was playing the game Geomon, I was skeptical about buying virtual goods with real money. I was curious if any others were doing it, so I went to the forum and found out that many people talked about the virtual currency as if buying them was a common practice.

After that, I was influenced by those in the forum and had no problem spending a few dollars to unlock a few slots so I could capture more Espers that I wanted. Having a forum and community makes it more engaging for users and boosts confidence in game-players because they  don’t feel alone in any activity.

The final technique we’ll cover in this post is the Social Prod. The Social Prod is a social connection that requires the least amount of effort, often times a click of a button. Good examples are Facebook Pokes/Likes, Google +1s, or Twitter Retweets.

Facebook provides a small “Poke” button that does not do anything other than notify the user that you’ve “poked” them. At first, it seemed pretty useless, but the small connection, no matter how minor, still establishes a connection and makes it known that they’re “with you” or thinking of you, which generates happy chemicals in your brain that makes you happy.

We all know how influential peer pressure can be, which is why knowing how to interact with each other that utilizes Social pressure & Envy in a positive fashion can make things better and engaging in many ways.

We saw how the use of mentorship, group quests, bragging, and gifting can play a part in getting others to become socially connected to one another.  When other players rely on each other to boost and motivate each other through a game, more are willing to invest time into it because their friends take part in it.

Like life, if you master the social, you master the game.