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Gamifying the Gospel

Wreck it Ralph/Disney

Eugene Gan - published on 11/28/13

Our faith isn't a game, but that doesn't mean our outreach on the Internet has to be boring. Make your site more engaging, and you just might reach more people with the Gospel.

We’ve looked at a few gamification examples, some powerful gamification principles, as well as gamification methods to engage your audiences. We conclude this how-to gamification series with some practical steps, tips, and considerations in applying these methods and principles to your faith-based websites and social media.

Earlier, when we discussed the principle of onboarding, we know that we first give then get. Of course, that’s a foundational Christian principle too! So offer your players something of value immediately. Let players experience the beauty of the faith that Christ offers us through what you offer on your site before asking players to register (make the altar call, so to speak) or invite friends (evangelize). Jesus offered food and healing as He taught. Keenly aware of the needs and experiences of His listeners, Our Lord fed the body, heart, and spirit while tailoring His stories and parables to what His listeners saw, heard, knew, and experienced.

It helps to think of your players’ experience on your site in terms of a journey. In gamification circles, the weight-watchers program is an oft-cited example: I’m not at weight-watchers because I want to master weight-watchers. I’m at weight-watchers to master my weight. Weight-watchers is there as a guide and companion on the journey. The more effectively weight-watchers can provide support as guide and companion, the better the commitment and long-term engagement.

Similarly, your site can motivate players to embark on a journey of faith while offering support and guidance. To do this effectively, you want to clearly state the levels of self-mastery and reveal complexity gradually, creating many short-term tasks that are challenging but achievable. You also want to provide frequent feedback and encouragement which in turn helps maintain engagement. If you think about it, this is really about effective teaching. A good teacher points the way to the steps necessary for students to take, provides frequent feedback and encouragement, and inspires students to “conquer” greater levels of mastery. Additionally, it can prove beneficial to let social interactions accompany every level of this journey e.g., communicating with other players at the same level, or with other players who are at earlier and later points in the journey. In practical terms, a novice player might be welcomed and granted access to ask questions and to view comments and articles. Getting your response voted “Best Answer” can bump you up a level. Attaining still higher levels would require you to post reviews or provide feedback and responses. And by garnering “stars” from others’ ratings, you can earn greater trustworthiness for thoughtful contributions and be granted greater (or priority) access to the site or be given access to limited-edition virtual items. You’ve likely already seen a version of this in action: eBay and Amazon for example, both employ buyer ratings and feedback as ways for a seller to gain credibility.

So ask yourself: What do you really want your players to do on your site? What actions do you want your players to perform? To ensure that you have features that are implementable and practical, you’ll want to use verbs when describing these actions. Verbs like “comment”, “explore”, “argue”, “express”, “give”, “donate”, “greet”, “help”, “join”, “support”, “share”, “reflect”, “vote”, “praise”, and “invite” are good starting points. Then select the top three (or five, but too many and you begin to quickly lose focus). For example, you might want your players to share their goals and invite others to sign up on your site, in which case you want to reward players accordingly when those they invite join your site. Clear objectives and well-defined rules of play greatly aid in ensuring that players feel empowered to achieve their goals.

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