Interview with Christopher Cunningham

I have met with Christopher Cunningham the co-author of ?Gamification by Design? at Game Industry Trends 2011 Warsaw, Poland on the 28-29.11.2011. This is a brief unauthorized yet summary of our conversation:


Sebastian Starzyński (S) ? How did you came up with the idea of Gamification

Christopher Cunningham (C) ? We were working with Gabe Zichermann together on our startup. Our idea was to create an application to help in evaluating photos (your own and your friends as well). The issue was how to engage people to view thousands of photos. At some moment I started to describe a new model of engaging users, and Gabe said ?Do you know that you have just described are game mechanics??. A lot of people thought about this idea at the same time. It was something around 2007/2008, we were starting Beta tests, negotiating financing with VC?s and then the crisis begun and we had to stop the project.

S ? So you came up with an idea of a book

C ? Yes, this was our first approach to this book. Gabe invented a word ?Funware? to describe this new way to engage people. We were almost done but could not get to an end. After a year we got back, we did a lot of changes in the text ? from a wide topic which was Funware we have narrowed it to gamification. On Christmas 2010 we were doing last corrections, and we published in mid-2011.

S ? Is Advergaming part of gamification?

C ? When we had our first approach to our book we wrote about different ways of using games and game mechanics to engage people ? that?s why we were using the word ?funware? to describe it. Gamification is something slightly different than Advergaming, Alternet Reality Gaming etc. They all use game mechanics, but gamification is something long term (more like Farmville then Tetris), more linked with the real life (it is not a game with a logo inside).

S ? What is the key element of gamification in your opinion?

C ? Gamification is not only about points, badges and leader-boards. In my opinion the social part is the key element. Its creating the environment in which people can interact with each other. Games have evolved in the last 20 years. When you look at Donkey Kong, even the first level was very hard. The game was designed for Hard Core Gamers. Now games are very easy to start, and you do not have to master the game to have fun. That is why we can observe a huge growth of woman above 30, or even 50 starting playing social games ? they spend time in the game.

S ? I can observe in Poland that a lot of social media agencies start offering gamification services ? what do you think about it.

C ? The will definitely have to learn a lot.

S ? ? on their clients.

C ? Probably yes. The key to good gamification is perfect understanding of game thinking, game mechanic and knowing how to balance the game. This is what game designers do on daily basis. On the other hand game designers not always understand the marketing objectives, that is why they need to cooperate with marketers.

S ? What are you working on now.

C ? I work in the Spain brunch of a startup company Lumata. We work on a social media content aggregation and relevance engine. It will be an Android platform for a specific tablet device, where the user will be able to sign in to his/hers account on Facebook, Twitter etc., and follow the stream of information in one place. What is most important we develop different tools (for example semantic), that score the relevance of information for the user. The application learns what is interesting for you, and puts this king of content on the top of the stream.

S ? Any plans for the future?

C ? I want to try my own startup again. I am thinking about a platform for products and services evaluation. There is a very popular site Yelp, it?s so powerful that it can create or destroy a business. That is why there are already companies offering upgrading rating on Yelp. I want to use game mechanics not only to engage users but also to increase the quality of rating in the service, to avoid this kind of situation.

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