The science of gamification

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Andy Sekula, Head of Games at Kalamba Games talks about the science of gamification

Gamification is a term coined in the early noughties and is typically understood to be the application of gaming mechanics to non-gaming situations. For the online casino industry, however, the term can represent any gaming mechanic outside of the core game. For suppliers, gamification tools have become essential components of game design over the last few years. Endless time has been spent on trying to create the next big thing and improving the application of gamification tools in order to increase acquisition and retention rates, as well as the longevity of a title.

The traditional definition of gamification describes a science that aims to maximise enjoyment and engagement while motivating people to learn by using game elements. Dozens of books have been written about the topic exploring how the brain reacts to gaming components such as leaderboards, levels and progress bars in a learning environment. Simply put, when you achieve something, dopamine is released, lighting up your brain’s reward centre and encouraging you to do it again. This reaction is what makes gamification tools so effective across multiple industries, from language teaching and fitness apps, making it more fun to achieve your goals.

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At Kalamba, we consider most of our game mechanics – certainly anything with RTP directly attached – as being core to the game play experience and not gamified layers ‘on top’. However, we have introduced certain elements such as missions and achievements which look to extend the gameplay beyond that of a classic slot. By maintaining player advances in our missions or other in-game progression features, players can always return to where they left off and continue to strive for their goal. This has delivered substantial improvements in player engagement and retention within our titles.

However, as players get used to the existing gamification offering, they will soon start demanding more, especially as technology advances. So how do we ensure we fully utilise the science of gamification in the gambling industry as we look at developing these tools in the future?

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We believe that operators and suppliers could work better together in sharing data to get a better picture of player preference. Operators have a lot of information that suppliers don’t have access to, and vice versa, that could assist in the development process of a new title. Knowing your player and what makes them tick is key and with more data, we can improve the gamification tools offered in a game.

One thing that we believe is currently under-utilised in the industry is the possibility of adjusting the player experience to better match player preferences. The current offering is very much ‘one-size fits all’, but with the technology currently available we will soon be able to dynamically segment players and better cater to their individual requirements.

We also think there are still many things to be learned from social gaming. One concept which has not yet been developed to full potential, for example, is building engagement meta layers within a supplier’s entire portfolio. This means adding another gamification layer buy introducing achievements and missions that are connected between different titles offered by a supplier. Meta layers somewhat resemble the way players help Super Mario on his quest through different levels and worlds to save the princess in Nintendo’s super hit. Including portfolio-wide features would greatly enhance the time spent on each session and ensure players come back to complete their missions.

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In our view, gamification is not just a buzzword in the industry but will continue to be an important tool as the casino game sector evolves. Focusing on improving these layers of gamification will no doubt be on the top of our agenda in 2020 and beyond.

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