Successful websites are applying game theory to excite & engage users. What can you learn from video games to improve your charity campaigns?

Video games are becoming an important part of our lives. Even if you have never played a game you’ll still have been affected by them. Chances are that you will have played one though since games such as FarmVille have attracted 62 million players and World of Warcraft has 12 million paying subscribers.

Just imagine if we could get a fraction of those 62 million virtual farmers donating and volunteering to help developing nations with actual farming.

The thought of incorporating game-like elements into your site may sound like a childish idea. However, the use of game mechanics in websites are a lot more common than you might think. If you’ve ever used Foursquare,  LinkedIn or even Facebook then you’ll have seen them in action with points, badges and competitions encouraging you to get more involved and use their service again and again.

The basics

There are thousands of different games out there, but one thing they all have in common is interactivity. Playing a game isn’t a one-way experience – like watching a film or reading a website. Gaming is all about two-way engagement.

Increasingly, gaming isn’t a solitary experience, too. Leader boards and competitions, along with discussion boards encourage gamers to interact not just with the game, but with each other too. The Rock Band game forum alone has nearly half a million members and 4million posts. That’s just people talking about the game, now imagine how many are playing.

Just imagine if we could make donations, providing content, or reading our support materials as addictive as games. Here’s 5 techniques you can apply to your website or campaigns to use game psychology to your charities advantage…

Reward your users


It’s not a surprise that people like to be rewarded for doing good things, yet so many sites do nothing to reward their users. The implementation of a points system is an easy way to give your users a sense of satisfaction. If someone donates to your charity then reply with a friendly message and a bunch of points. This simple reward can be applied to any action to encourage participation. Want more comments then give points for comments. It’s that simple.

Surprise your users


Routine rewards after every action is a great way to encourage people to act but an even better way is by surprising them with rewards. It sounds counter-intuitive but think about it this way, finding a pound coin hidden in your pocket is much more exciting than knowing you can get one from your desk. Give bonus points out randomly after a user completes a task or have hidden achievements to surprise and delight.

Progress bars and leader-boards


Gaming, like charity, is a social thing. People enjoy competing alongside and against each other. So to complement your point system you can add in progress bars and leader-boards. Progress bars give users a tangible sense of progress and leader-boards show how you stack up against other users. Watch your site fill up with user generated content as people compete to be number one.

Sharing is fun


One of the main problems that a lot of charities have is awareness.One of the great things that points, leader boards and achievements lead to is pride. If you give your users the ability to share their accomplishments with their friends then you’ll both give them a sense of satisfaction and raise awareness of your charity. Maybe seeing their friends accomplishments will also encourage new people to join you as well.

One more go


Games are great at getting people to come back and play one moretime. Charities would love to have this quality and can with a simple technique. You can reward your users just for simply logging in. Even just a few points for a log-in per day can increase your returning users by a vast amount. Offer bonus points for random days and if you really want people to come back then remove their points if they stay away too long.

These simple game mechanics can make helping your organisation through your website much more fun. CauseWorld, Practically Green and other websites are managing it, all without looking even slightly like Pac-Man.

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