Reward Systems that Drive Engagement

Over the summer I’ve been ‘running’ UNversity – an online choose-your-own-project summer un-school for UWS game technology and game development students. A key feature of this was that it had to require minimal investment of time from myself (other stuff to do!), but I wanted to try to engage students, and encourage regular participation. Using a custom Moodle site, with some minor hacks, we have a points system and a leader board. We also have a basic badge system  – though I haven’t been able to spend the time to award badges, and they aren’t automatically awarded – so students have to self track their badges until UNversity wraps up and I’ll give out certificates and prizes.

The system has kind of worked – it has engaged some folk, and once folk have got into it, they have indeed kept up regular participation. But a number of students started, and quickly stopped – while others never really got started.

I’ve just watched a video of a presentation on by Amy Jo Kim from GDC 2010 that might have helped me better design my points and badge system – MetaGame Design: Reward Systems that Drive Engagement. This has given me food for thought, and I can see a couple of ways I went wrong – particularly on the need to provide more ‘early’ rewards for people getting started, and making those more visible. (A way to automatically tweet or send a Facebook message  from Moodle would be nice to make this easier!)

Overall, I think I’d have been limited by what I had time to implement though, so I’m not going to beat myself up too much about it… but perhaps there is a good student project in this – building the system I need to do this better next year.

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