"The art and science that have grown around the game design industry are directly applicable to financial services user experience design."
A century ago, the game we now call Monopoly was growing in popularity.
It had spawned several patents, each with a new design that forced its rapid evolution from Elizabeth Magie’s ‘The Landlord’s Game’ in 1903. Since then, there have been a few changes to the board game, yet its mass appeal continues to flow from its original design as a tool for financial education, a quality that is easy to overlook in the countless editions of the game we know today.
A century later, and the global video gaming industry is worth an estimated $100 billion and gamification has become a mainstay of digital development and website design. Indeed, to ‘gamify’ has become a shorthand for improving the user experience. It is understood to be a given that gamification increases customer engagement levels, and sometimes misunderstood that the next generation of users are easily won by catchy 8-bit theme tunes, points, badges and leaderboards. This is the popular hype of gamification which, unfortunately, undermines its serious intentions, because no matter how trivial it might appear for an investment firm to hire Donkey Kong developers to “gamify” an app, the application of game design thinking can have a bigger purpose at heart, one that is interested in more than just wooing millennials.
The art and science that have grown around the game design industry are directly applicable to financial services user experience design. The slickness, polish and “playability” that are found in modern gaming are exactly what is needed in financial websites and digital properties. Also, like Monopoly, gamified financial websites and digital properties can educate users while entertaining them.
Nor is gamification only suitable for younger demographics - the appeal extends to all ages. Ofcom’s ‘Adult’s media use and attitudes’ 2017 report found that one in eight adults play games online with or against other people. The computer game has been around since 1958, that’s almost 60 years, and, it’s easy to forget that modern communication, including social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, is gamified by push notifications: Likes, Retweets, Friends and Followers - all of them ingredients in the risk/reward cycle that is elementary to gaming platforms.
This cycle helps companies to attract new customers and build customer loyalty if they receive meaningful rewards for their engagement. It also provides the opportunity to promote new services and build their social reputation. But these benefits depend on a good design, and that means defining what you want to achieve with your game. Loyalty is built on trust and if you can educate customers to become more responsible consumers, that is perhaps the best relationship you can nurture as a financial services brand.