Goodbye Gamification Weekly, hello Gamification Geek

This is a fairly long post which helps explain why the Gamification Weekly newsletter has been retired and been replaced by this website.

TL;DR:

  • It's tough finding fresh and interesting gamification news...
  • ...so it's time to start writing content instead!
  • Goodbye Gamification Weekly, Hello Gamification Geek!

Where has all the good news gone?

After putting together 80 issues of Gamification Weekly (an email newsletter I ran for a few years before this website) something clicked that had been subconsciously bugging me for a while. This had become a chore. Don’t get me wrong, it was great fun putting together the newsletter each week and I enjoyed finding interesting news and research on gamification. However, what was starting to bug me was that although the understanding of gamification was changing... the news around gamification was not. It had stagnated. And this meant that it was difficult to find new and interesting articles for the newsletter as the news I found was the same, and I didn't want to be churning out a sub-par newsletter.

“Gamification increases engagement and attention and will become a multi-billion dollar industry!”
— Every single gamificaton news article*

*Okay, not every single news article but it felt like nearly all of the Google News updates I was getting were mostly like this.

This drought of interesting news began to affect the “weekly” part of the newsletter, which was loosely adhered to initially before the whole newsletter went on permanent hiatus. Finding articles became a forced exercise just to try and reach the weekly deadline, and as you might know if you’ve looked into theories on motivational psychology, when autonomy starts to wane, things can become less motivating. 

What was my goal?

I started publishing the newsletter in 2013 but my goal has always remained the same: keep up to date with the latest gamification news and share the best news with those who are interested. It was very much inspired by iOS dev weekly, which was one of the best app related newsletters I had found. The difference though is that iOS dev weekly appeals to a particular audience - iOS developers. With gamification, the audience is much larger, ranging from academics to industry, from a range of different domains - education, business, health, government etc. So the gamification newsletter tried to cater a little for different audiences by providing a range of different categories of updates (i.e., latest news, examples of gamification, research and a comic). 

Things have changed

When I started the newsletter I was deep into a PhD in gamification which was quite an isolating and daunting task. Gamification at that time was generally viewed as a silver bullet - just add achievements to increase engagement! If Foursqaure can do it, why can't we? As I ventured further down the rabbit hole of the PhD reading what seemed to to be an endless amount of research papers, I found myself in a deep into motivational psychology research which, combined with the views of some incredible academics in the area, changed the way I looked at gamification. Gamification it seemed, wasn't the quick fix-all that many people believed it to be at the time. So I took it upon myself to start speaking about gamification to industry wherever I could, and from this the newsletter was born as a way to keep in touch with industry in the area and to provide useful resources for a better understanding of the area. 

Gamification wasn't anything new, we have a rich history of using game design to create engaging and motivating experiences - just look at serious games in the 1970s. But the popularity of video games combined with cheap mobile technologies and sensors meant that we had seen a resurgence of gameful design, because now it was easier than ever to embed game elements in everyday tasks.

Yet beyond the key leaders in the industry, it's still difficult to find gamification discourse in industry that goes beyond using it as a silver bullet - especially on a weekly basis. So what does this all mean for Gamification Weekly? Well...

...it’s time to publish my own content

After researching and implementing gamification over the last six years I like to think I've levelled up enough in the area to be able to talk about it. And although there are excellent MOOCs available, and other websites out there, I feel there is still a need for something a go to learning resource about gamification for people new to gamification, and gamification veterans. Particularly from someone with a perspective from both academic and industry worlds.

But a newsletter isn't going to cut it. The list growth for Gamification Weekly was good for a newsletter with no marketing - it grew organically from an initial 26 subscribers to the current 1,823 subscribers*.

*Mail Chimp is incredible by the way… it provides brilliant statistics about your campaigns.

*Mail Chimp is incredible by the way… it provides brilliant statistics about your campaigns.

Although the growth has been good, the open rate painted a different picture. Over time more people were subscribing but the overall percentage of newsletter opens was decreasing. The data can be a little deceptive as it doesn’t count all opens successfully and also the number of people who open the newsletter was fairly steady, but it wasn't growing. 

This graph paints a picture that people are initially interested in keeping up to date with gamification and motivated to subscribe, but then lack the motivation to keep engaged with the content. 

What could contribute to this? Well I theorise it’s one part novelty and one part email overload

There’s an initial excitement when learning about something new, or about a newsletter that will keep you up to date with something you're interested in. It’s easy to subscribe to a newsletter, you simply need to enter your email address, and after verifying it, BAM! You’re subscribed.

 
Psst... not a real submission box - but if you do want to subscribe to updates, scroll to the bottom of this page.

Psst... not a real submission box - but if you do want to subscribe to updates, scroll to the bottom of this page.

 

So the initial effort is small, and there's novelty in receiving something new but then additional effort is required to keep engaged with it. The newsletter might also be sent to you at a time when you’re dealing with work tasks or not at your computer. The unread newsletters start to pile up, get lost among all the other new emails and you may then suffer from email overload. In my case, it is something that affects me… to prove it, here’s my gmail inbox count.

I know, I'm one of those people...

I know, I'm one of those people...

I recently signed up to unroll.me, a service that makes it easy to unsubscribe to subscriptions and then combine all the subscriptions you want into one regular email digest. After a week of use I realised I didn’t even look at the email digest being sent to me which included iOS Dev Weekly - the newsletter that Gamification Weekly was influenced by. All of this points to the possibility that newsletters might not be the way to go. Instead I thought I'd create a website.

    Introducing Gamification Geek

    The aim of Gamification Geek is to turn you into a gamification geek on your own time. It's a one-stop place for learning about gamification, finding useful resources, keeping up to date and sharing your work. I'm tailoring it for a range of different levels:

    • Beginners: People who are new to the concept of gamification and want to learn more about it
    • Intermediates: People who know of gamification and want to use it or keep up to date with it
    • Gurus: People who do gamification and want to share their work

    There are three main offerings on this website. A section to learn about gamification, a resources section for relevant examples and literature and a news section for articles. I've also started a podcast where I interview gamification experts from around the world.

    What about the newsletter?

    There still will be a newsletter component, but rather than being weekly it will be sent out a lot less often. I've created a Gamification Geek Twitter account and Facebook page that can be used to share the latest gamification news and research. Additionally, I’ll be archiving the last 80 issues of gamification weekly as resources on the gamification geek website.

    Making this work

    At the moment I'm doing this out of love. After completing the PhD I want to share my findings and educate as many people about gamification as possible. I'd like to make some money to help run it, and I plan on being as transparent as possible about how the business side of things go. I've started experimenting with a few Amazon Affiliate links but I'd like to explore other options as well such as sponsorship or job advertising. Saying that, making great content will always be my priority and focus.

    So, dust off those controllers because we’re about to try a new game and I’ll be damned if it isn’t going to be a fun to play. 

    Game on. 

    Zac