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How to Use Activity Feeds and Notifications in Gamified Systems

One way to encourage player engagement is to broadcast well-written, helpful, engaging on-screen messaging in the form of real-time notifications within the gamification system and/or via e-mail when players perform a desired gameplay behavior, level up, unlock a reward, or need to complete an additional behavior in order to earn their next reward.

Notifications might appear in the player’s activity feed or as a small pop-up on the screen and can become increasingly sophisticated, triggered by any behavior or series of behaviors. Often —especially in game systems that involve daunting goals (for example, on sites devoted to losing weight or mastering a foreign language) — feedback can keep players from feeling paralyzed, as if no progress is being made.

Specifically, you’ll want to provide the following types of feedback:

  • Behavior hints: These hints should be short descriptions of what the player needs to do. You don’t need to include the result of the action, just the gameplay behavior. Examples of behavior hints might be “Visit daily” or “Read articles.”

  • Activity stream text: This text appears in pop-up notifications known as croutons. Examples might include “John read [name of article]” or “Mary commented on [title of video].”

  • Achievement hints: Hints for achievements and advanced rewards should provide a short description of what the player needs to do and include how many times the task needs to be done. Some good examples include “Visit 20 times” and “Read 50 articles in the Cars category.”

  • Achievement messages: What goes in these messages — which should be snappy and engaging — is largely up to you. An example would be: “Public Speaker Achievement Unlocked for leaving 20 comments! Has someone been taking classes?”

  • Level hints: These hints should tell the player how many points are needed to reach the next gamification level. So, “Score 50 points” is a good example.

  • Level messages: This should be friendly and engaging text relating to the new level. Remind the player how many points were scored to reach the level — something like “You scored 500 points and reached the level of ‘Authority’!”

  • Mission hints: These hints explain what a player should do to complete a mission. Often, this information will already have been conveyed through achievement hints, so you could use these to simply say something fun or encouraging.

  • Mission messages: These are congratulatory messages for completing the mission. It’s suggested the message reference the gameplay behavior that was used, but this is optional.

Don’t go crazy on notifications or you’ll likely overwhelm your player. For example, if you run a content site, notifying users when someone comments on or likes a blog post they wrote would be appropriate. Notifying players each time someone viewed the post would not be.

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