Intrinsic motivation with a pinch of salt: the conceptualization of badges in Share4Rare
If you have ever attended a talk on the topic of gamification, you will have noticed that a concept is on everyone’s lips: motivation. And rightly so: it is one of the cornerstones to understanding why gamification works in the first place. In fact, more precisely, what is crucial is grasping the nature of extrinsic motivation as opposed to intrinsic motivation.
Let us guess: at this point, many of you are already thinking that you know a lot about motivation, that this is just a fancy way of referring to the same old concepts over again, that you might open a new tab in the browser to watch some YouTube... Hold on! In a way, you are right. But this is exactly the elegance of simple concepts: understanding them is nearly not as important as knowing how to exploit them in new, fresh, creative ways.
So, let's take a look at these simple concepts through the prism of the Share4Rare platform.
Intrinsic motivation is what brought you here
There is a reason you are part of Share4Rare, or are thinking about becoming a member (do not hesitate, register). It may be that you want to find support and answers from other people in situations similar to yours. It may be that you want to help others by sharing your experience and knowledge. It might be that you want to actively take part in research. In fact, there are as many reasons as users, all of them good.
The thing is, people usually have a genuine interest in doing what they do, and they expect to get something out of it. That is what we call intrinsic motivation: the tradeoff between investment and outcome that grows within and drives each one of us. And one of the most important things we have learnt so far as organizers of a community is that without this motivation, we have nothing. Overcoming the lack of intrinsic motivation is next to impossible.
Extrinsic motivation is what will keep you hooked
Working next to our personal interests in tipping the balance towards participating or not in something are the factors that come from the environment and from others. Recognition. Prestige. Scores. Awards. Shiny stuff. Gratitude.
Although these reasons might seem petty to some, actually they are not. In the context of a social environment (such as an online community of people), they are useful because they are a means to detect value users. Also, they are worthy because they are a return of investment, since rewards usually improve as the activity of the user increases.
What is more important, down the line: there is a learning hidden in here too. Extrinsic motivation is rarely harmful. Rather, it tends to add up to the overall motivation. In a sense, the worst that can happen is that some users just do not care about getting a badge or scoring 1000 more points. That’s fine. Many others will care, even if it’s just a little bit, just that little bit needed to make their experience more enjoyable.
The case of Share4Rare
As we have said, we had to learn a few things before we were happy with the idea of bringing badges, rewards and gamification to Share4Rare. At first, it did not feel right to blur the deep, moving reasons that our potential users had with a patina of idle playing. We reasoned that internal motivation, in our case, was more than enough to keep the platform going. After all, what would anybody want more than improving the quality of life of a loved one, or finding the answer to a vital puzzle, or extending one’s own life expectancy? We thought that badges would be an uncalled for distraction that would shatter all that.
Then, one day, something made us change our point of view: people are not glass. They won’t shatter as easily. They won’t dislike a bit of color here and there.
We were talking to an expert in the field and she had the certainty of experience and knowledge. We had nothing to lose, and a lot to gain, if we rewarded the right activities, the ones that make the platform special and interesting, the ones that bring forwards the most altruistic face of our users. The ones that are contributing to meet the motivation of all users in global, as a community: participating, caring, researching. Sharing.
A few brainstormings and some research later (and after some unsuccessful attempts) the user experience team and the graphic team came up with the Share4Rare’s badges, with the certainty that this little bit of external motivation works in favor of strengthening the activity of users, not against it.
Will you get them all?