How to Reward Players during the Mid-Game Phase in Gamification
The objective of the mid-game phase is all about progress. The user is unlocking achievements and reaching new levels through gameplay. In other words, experiencing more triumphs in the gamification system.
During this phase, the user must be aware of the path to progress — that is, where to find the next victory. You can build a clear path to progress in three ways:
Pushing the next step: Maintain a constant, visible reminder about the next step. After each gameplay victory, nudge the user toward what’s next. The user should never be allowed to forget that there is a reward still waiting to be to be claimed.
Giving users multiple paths toward success. Providing diverse achievements helps alleviate fatigue and builds more urgency. You want users to think, “I can’t leave now — there are still a few things left to do!”
Incrementing gradually. Introduce tasks that are gradually more challenging. The previous achievement is a setup for the next achievement. Don’t ever allow the user to dismiss the next gameplay task as too difficult and don’t let too much time pass between victories. At least for the first week or so, your users should be capable of accomplishing at least one achievement every day.
In practical terms, for at least the next ten sessions, the user should feel the taste of victory at least once every gamification session. That doesn’t mean that simply logging in drops a reward in the user’s lap, but logging in and interacting to a reasonable degree should give the user something — some sense of progress. And all the while, points could be visibly accumulating.
You may want to reward some players for being great community members or loyal fans. In that case, you might opt to manually assign a reward.
Eventually, the user will need to do more than just reach for the next step on the ladder. They’ll need a higher gameplay motivation — looking ahead and farther down the line. This is a source of aspiration. You can build a clear source of aspiration in three ways:
Show the full story. Users need to know where they stand in the community and how far they are from reaching their goals. This might be through interactions with higher-ranking members in the community; simply revealing the full achievement ladders in a place where everyone can find them. Although the full story shouldn’t be central to every interaction on the site, hints of it should be felt.
Follow through on integration. Tie benefits to status. Give users real privileges for all their hard work. Reward them with responsibility and deeper forms of interaction. Make them the captains of your gamification site. They’ve clearly shown their dedication to your site; haven’t they earned a little trust?
Keep content first. In the minds of your users, the reason they’re returning to your gamification site is never the rewards; it’s their passion for your content. Never make the mistake of placing greater prominence on the rewards than on the content.
The temptation is to design solely for the mid-game phase. Doing so is a mistake, however. You must account for all the phases of the gamification program’s life cycle.