Play the game and be a winner

STRIVING for "achievements", competing for a trophy, or desperately trying to get to "the next level".

STRIVING for "achievements", competing for a trophy, or desperately trying to get to "the next level".

Recently I have noticed these strange terms being bandied about, as online businesses jump on the bandwagon of free incentives for their user community.

The idea is that people are offered rewards for their contribution to a website, forum or community in various forms, but all without a material value. The idea is to build interest in your product or service and create a community which will champion your cause.

Having been a dedicated player of video games for many years, I have watched the gaming business develop into a powerhouse turning over billions of pounds annually.

More money is now spent on video games than on cinema trips and films on DVD/Blu-Ray each year in the UK. We have seen the expansion of so- called “casual” gaming with the Wii, the rise of gaming on smartphones and web-based gaming through the likes of Facebook.

But how does this affect businesses in unrelated sectors? The number of people playing games has expanded hugely, the average age of a gamer is now estimated at around 35. The result seems to be a diverse selection of people fluent in the language of “achievements” and business tapping into this.

By introducing systems which tap into the same desire people have in gaming – to have better scores than others – businesses can get people to contribute to their content and evangelise their website.

Haven’t spotted these things on the web? Some of the most obvious examples can be found with and, dealing with comics and films respectively, which offer “quests”, “points” and “bounties” to encourage users to contribute content; this in turn increases the popularity of the site and gives the business more potential revenue.

More subtle approaches can be found everywhere. The Wikipedia community measures contributions, with high numbers worn as a badge of honour by many. Even Amazon rates reviewers by the number of reviews they produce and how helpful others find them.

I love this new trend. These ideas work because people want to be seen as better than others, to be an expert in something, to compete. I think this trend will last a while, and I can’t wait to see the new ways business can get engagement with their customers, by making them want to.

:: Daniel Halliday is a senior development consultant at Durham-based business and IT consultancy Waterstons


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