Gamification of User Assistance – “RPG Maker for teens”

The latest addition to our bookshelf is RPG Maker for teens, which was released in the UK last week.

“RPG Maker for teens shows teens and other beginners how to make fun, fantasy role-playing games that they can play and distribute on their computers using the easy-to-learn RPG Maker VX 1.20 program. RPG Maker requires no previous programming experience making it ideal for beginners who want to explore game design techniques and build a basic game design skill set. It also utilizes an anime-style art which is popular with the teen market. The book uses step-by-step lessons and includes tips from game design professionals. Readers will learn how to how to create new art and sound assets to import into the program, how to perfect and enhance their role-playing games, write stories for quests, and more.”

What is RPG Maker?

RPG Maker is the name of a series of programs for the development of role-playing games (RPGs). Most versions include a character creator and a simple scripting language for scripting events. You can sell any game you make with the program, as long as you’ve not used characters that are already copyrighted (e.g. a character from a movie).

What does this have to do with User Assistance and training?

It’s too early to judge whether this book could be relevant to User Assistance, or whether the RPG Maker software could be used to provide a game-based form of Help or training for users. Hopefully, the book will provide the answers to the following questions:

  • Could User Assistance be provided via different character archetypes? Would some users learn better from a “guide” and others from a “challenger”, a “librarian” or a “chief”? Which attributes should each helper character have? Should some characters be succinct and others more verbose?
  • Could RPG Maker be used to deliver training or Help content in an effective way?
  • If RPG Maker is not suitable, could we use it to identify a list of functional requirements for a tool that would be suitable for user assistance?
  • Could RPG Maker be used as a prototyping tool – to map out a story, game or training process, which would be then developed in another application?

If anyone has thoughts or experience with this, then we welcome your comments.

We’re speaking at UA Europe 2011

We’ve been invited to speak at UA Europe 2011, which is being held in Brighton on 16th-17th June. Ellis Pratt will be speaking on:  You win! Getting users to RTFM using techniques from games.

It’s claimed that games are a powerful way of affecting user behaviour, so can we apply game theory to the provision of User Assistance and increase its uptake?

In this presentation, we’ll look at games such as Frequent Flyer Programmes, Google AdWords, as well as more recognisable games software. We’ll look at what makes makes some successful and others failures.

We’ll also look at how organisations are today applying game techniques to Web sites, Help files and support communities, in order to drive a positive response, participation and engagement from their users.

We hope to see you there.

The gamification of assistance (aka How to boast about your Help)

Gamification is the integration of game dynamics into any medium such as a Web site, Help file or community, in order to drive a positive response, participation and engagement from a target audience. It’s used by lots of organisations: airlines via Frequent Flyer Programmes, Google via AdWords, as well as more recognisable games software, such as Farmville.

It’s claimed that games are a powerful way of affecting user behaviour, so could game theory be applied to the provision of online Help to increase its uptake?

In The Role of Status Seeking in Online Communities: Giving the Gift of Experience, Joseph Lampel and Ajay Bhalla discovered that status was a key motivator in online communities and games. Users are motivated to be awarded “badges”, such as “Premier Executive Club” membership with an airline. So could we award badges to motivate users to use the Help? If so, what actions would we want to encourage, and how would we track and measure these actions?

There might be a badge for users who:

  • have read the relevant Help page, before they contact Support regarding an issue (gaining the entitlement to make the call)
  • have read a number of pages of the Help (though this might imply the software is hard to use or the user is stupid!)
  • have assisted someone else who had a problem
  • have used the software in an advanced way.

Reading the Help could be a badge of honour. Indeed, there could even be points indicating how many people have been reading the online Help in a particular week (so the organisation can boast about the usefulness of your Help). There could also be “badges” for the Subject Matter Experts who share their knowledge to the Technical Author (or share their knowledge on the company intranet).

Such a system requires the ability to track user behaviour – whether they have read a particular Help page, for example. This suggests it’s more likely to be implemented where the Help is delivered via software such as Mindtouch, where user activity can be tracked and their input can be rated by other users.

There are challenges with this concept – defining the right behaviours you want to encourage, keeping people engaged in the activity, avoiding people being able to bend the rules, for example. There’s also a lot of overlap with Training and Support. However, gamification is appearing in many different places, so why not in User Assistance as well?