The Gamification of Steam

Gamification of Steam

Whether you like the new buzz term or not. Gamification — that is the use of engag­ing play­ing prin­ci­ples applied to desk­top and con­sumer appli­ca­tions, prod­ucts, and ser­vices — is a big thing in research and (non-game) indus­try. Even SIGCHI was kind enough to let us orga­nize a CHI 2011 work­shop on gam­i­fi­ca­tion. It is inter­est­ing that most of the buzz sur­round­ing gam­i­fi­ca­tion comes most­ly from peo­ple out­side the games indus­try (prob­a­bly the game indus­try just does not like the term and the badges con­cept). However, in December 2010, Valve took up gam­i­fi­ca­tion con­cepts to pro­mote Steam sales, which I found par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing. The sales gam­i­fi­ca­tion was called “The Great Steam Treasure Hunt” and it fea­tures all gam­ing con­cepts nec­es­sary to fos­ter engage­ment in the Steam com­mu­ni­ty: rules, goals, chal­lenges.


As point­ed out in the work of Caillois, Huizinga, Juul and Salen & Zimmerman, games need rules (oth­er­wise we talk about toys or free-form play). The Steam trea­sure hunt con­test fea­tured a very sim­ple rule: Complete a dai­ly chal­lenge to enter a con­test.


The goals of the con­test were also sim­ple and tied to short-term and long-term rewards, such as the pos­si­bil­i­ty to instant­ly win dai­ly game spe­cials or enter the grand con­test at the end to win a whole lot of games.


This was the inter­est­ing part of this con­test that made me think of gam­i­fi­ca­tion. The chal­lenges were most often to earn cer­tain achieve­ments in games or set­ting up new achieve­ments to amass a num­ber of points. All of these chal­lenges were designed to get peo­ple inter­est­ed in games that might not have received the nec­es­sary atten­tion on Steam or in the gam­ing com­mu­ni­ty before because they were some less­er known indie games. However, most inter­est­ing were the chal­lenges that were eas­i­est and there­fore most entic­ing to most gamers, such as watch­ing trail­ers or writ­ing reviews of games or even just cre­at­ing a com­mu­ni­ty pro­file. Here, it was clear that Valve want­ed to fos­ter a cer­tain play­er behav­ior and grow the gam­ing com­mu­ni­ty that fuels their Steam plat­form. And noth­ing is bet­ter to dri­ve behav­ior change than gam­ing. Cleverly played.


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