Gamification of Swap

The Solution to FavorTree

Gamification is the inspiration of this app. I came up with the idea while doing an analysis of the Octalysis Framework of Yu Kai Chou, laid out in his book, “Actionable Gamification.” It was inspired by Yu Kai Chou’s proposed gamification core values: Social Influence and Relatedness and Epic Calling and Meaning. This is counterintuitive because Swap is essentially an ecommerce site. However, instead of viewing it as ecommerce, I want the user to feel that they are simply helping each other.

Looking at FavorTree and its Shortcomingcs

There was a failed app created by top gamification experts in the field, including Jane McGonnigal (possibly, the most popular gamification expert). In a way, FavorTree is almost the EXACT same app as Swap. As I understand it,

Why would the solutions I came up with for Swap fix Favor Tree’s faults? Well first let’s find out want wrong with FavorTree. I emailed one of the founders of FavorTree, Daniel Hengeveld, to get his thoughts and this was his response:

“My feeling today is basically that Favortree created friction in transactions without adding enough value to make up for it, much less encourage more action. The aspect of surfacing needs&wants was useful (and I still think could be the base of something successful) but the timebank-like currency aspect was just not enough of a draw to get people into the system and participating. There’s probably some better way to add motivation to this wants/needs exchange, whether it’s some kind of game-like novelty, notoriety outside the system or something like sponsored real-world rewards, but a glorified time bank didn’t seem like it was gonna work for us.

 Good luck with whatever you end up starting – whether you succeed or fail you’ll learn a lot about developing products and right out of college is an awesome time to take risks.”

If you actually did read his email above, you will have noticed he said there were two faults:

  1. Time-Bank Currency was insufficient
  2. Friction in transactions

In addition, he proposed a couple solutions

  1. Notoriety outside of the product
  2. More game-like novelty
  3. Sponsored real-world rewards

Explaining Daniel’s Concerns

It sounds like FavorTree ended up only creating a system where time was the currency instead of money. Therefore, I was careful to take learnings of this time-bank economy.

  1. Time-Bank Currency was insufficient

To point out the obvious, and frame it academically- FavorTree was trying to create a socialist economy. In other words, everyone’s work was valued equally, and the skilled probably felt cheated by this. For this reason, it makes sense that the time-bank currency was insufficient.

  1. Friction in transactions

Similarly, it can be very hard to value time. In real life, the US Dollar has been flushed out and people have a good sense of what the currency means. However, when a new currency is introduced it could prove to be difficult. In the end, learning from FavorTree, creating this product as purely transactional is destined to fail.

Addressing Daniel’s Recommendations

  1. Notoriety outside of the product
    • There will never be notoriety outside of a product like this. There is the real world, and then there is the game. Nobody is going to go put on their Linkedin that they have a certain status in a random app. MAYBE if the app is worth billions of dollars, people might start caring about a certain status… but until then, it’s out of the question.
  2. Game-like Novelty
    • I assume Daniel means very explicit game-like novelty, unlike Yu Kai Chou’s definition of game-like thinking. Either abiding to Daniel’s [assumed] definition or Yu Kai Chou’s definition of game-like novelty… there is truth. In order to create a fun little world, filled with community and higher meaning, one cannot simply put together points and badges, and expect this game to be successful. No, this game must be nuanced. This game must carefully thought out. Like any other game, it will be successful or unsuccessful according to the actual design not merely the value proposition. We know that people need help, and they are willing to return the favor- but there cannot be friction in the game- it is a game that must make sense.
  3. Sponsored real world transactions
    • My first impulse is to staunchly disagree. The whole point of the app is that it is a game outside of the real world. Once outside influences start affecting the game, it will corrupt it. However, this may be clinging to the idea of “game” too much. In the end, this “game” is a means to an end to real-life benefits. For example, if I need web design help, I don’t care about the game… I want help. Meshing this

The real solution: Trading

The fact that this is a system of trading, not of creating a time-bank currency, changes everything. Before people were trading, and now they are collaborating. Before, people were helping each other… but not really; they just wanted to get paid in this new currency. When people are swapping, there is direct human interaction. Payment is not as much of an issue because there is no currency… there is a personal negotiation. Nevertheless, this is a nuanced personal negotiation. It is nuanced because the center of the negotiation is not stinginess, and getting a bang for the buck- it’s doing what is right. There is a true sense of wanting equity.

Okay… so now both parties seek fairness… is that enough? Probably not. There is still too much “friction” as Daniel put it. In fact, now fairness becomes a hindrance, because there are logistical concerns. Both parties want to make sure they are doing what is right. On the other hand, friends don’t think this way. Friends say, “I’ll help you move your couch,” and I trust everything will work out in the end between us. There is not much thought behind it. The obvious answer is… make them feel like they are friends.

Yu Kai Chou’s theory behind social influence is the ANSWER to FavorTree. This is executed in the interface of the design, and in how the community is emphasized in the newsfeed, how the pictures are enlarged, how the badges indicate people “liking” each other, and getting along. It is a community of friends in the end. The incorporation of community and friendship, is the theme, and must be considered in the heart of Swap.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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