Gamification Expert &

Behavioral Designer

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Careful Transitioning between White Hat and Black Hat Gamification

Gamification Transitioning

Careful Transitioning between White Hat and Black Hat Gamification

(Below is a snippet of Gamification Book: Actionable Gamification – Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Please subscribe to the mailing list on the right to order the book when it launches. This post may be moved into a Premium Area after a certain period of time).

So now that we’ve covered the nature and differences between White Hat and Black Hat gamification, how do we blend that knowledge together into our designed experiences?

In general (with some exceptions), it is better to first setup a White Hat environment to make users feel powerful and comfortable, then implement Black Hat designs at the moment when you need users to take that one Desired Action for conversion. At that point, users will likely take the Desired Action, but won’t feel very comfortable. This is when you transition quickly back to White Hat motivation to make them feel good about their experience.

An example of this is seen in the previously mentioned game Battle Camp. In Battle Camp, there are often scenarios where you are in a “Troop” with twenty-four other players and the whole group needs to battle a big boss. Typically, you would have eight hours to fight this boss, where everyone needs to come back every fifty minutes when their energy is recharged (remember this technique is called a Torture Break), and then use that energy to attack the boss.

At times, after seven and a half hours, the will boss still have 20% of his health, and you begin to realize that your troop will not be able to defeat him. At this point, you basically have two options. Option one: you lose to the boss, and twenty-five players all waste eight hours of their time, not to mention falling behind other troops that will be ranked much higher after they defeat their boss. Option two: spend $10 and purchase more energy in order to beat the boss.

Because it is such a devastating event when everyone loses eight hours of their precious time, there is a fairly high chance that you will feel compelled to take option two – buy the energy needed to defeat the boss, especially if you were also the leader of the troop.

Now, we see that you were motivated by Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance when making this purchase – again, very compelling, but you feel fairly terrible afterwards. After you defeat the boss, if that was all and nothing special happened afterwards, you would feel pretty demoralized and perhaps subconsciously wished you weren’t playing the game anymore.

However, this is when the game starts to shower you with White Hat Motivation by showing you how great of an achievement you accomplished (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment), and the rewards or trophies you have obtained (Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession) because you have beaten the boss. On top of that, your teammate will often start cheering for you (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness), “Wow! You spent real money just to save our troop. You are our hero!” Being sprinkled by all this emotional confetti, people often start to think, “Hmm, maybe that was $10 well spent after all!” And this eventually trains their brains to be more open to spending the next $10 to buy energy and defeating the boss when necessary.

No Buyer’s Remorse from TOMS Shoes

Similar to the Battle Camp example, businesses should consider creating an environment of White Hat motivations, use Black Hat techniques to convert users, and then revert back to a White Hat strategy to make users feel more comfortable again.

The initial White Hat environment is for people to take interest and have a good opinion of your system in the first place. A venture capitalist wouldn’t want to invest in a startup if he didn’t first consider it world-changing and a smart investment (Core Drives 1 and 2), even if there was convincing apprehension that he may lose the deal. (Oddly enough, some investors still plunge under the pressure of Scarcity and Loss, even though they have previously determined it to be a worthless idea with no future).

Once people feel comfortable in your system but aren’t necessarily taking the strong Desired Action, such as making a purchase, you can then use the Black Hat techniques within Core Drives 6 and 8 (and sometimes Core Drive 5), to close the deal. If the user ends up buying the product, you want to reassure them that, if true, this is indeed the smartest purchase possible (Core Drive 2), that legions of others also made the same decision (Core Drive 5), and that it positively improves the world (Core Drive 1). This will likely ensure that customers don’t feel buyer’s remorse.

When you buy a pair of TOMS Shoes and begin to feel a little regret for making an expensive purchase, they hit you with reaffirming information on how your purchase has made a tremendous difference to a poor child in Africa – one who couldn’t afford a pair of shoes and had to walk barefoot to fetch water for her family. When you see that, you instantly feel good again about your purchase. Subsequently, whenever you see your shoes, it will remind you that you are a decent human being that benefits the world.

It is the same thing with donations to children in developing countries. When you make a commitment, the non-profit will continuously send you pictures, thank-you letters, sometimes even something written by the “adopted” child to make you feel that you have truly made an impact in their lives. Of course, there is nothing wrong with sending donors these pictures and letters for such a noble cause (unless they are falsely manufactured) as these donors are truly making a big difference in the lives of the less fortunate. In fact, it would be a mistake for any charitable organization to *not* show visual and social information on the impact they are making in the world. We would all like to see some Feedback Mechanics after taking Desired Actions.

As you design your experiences, never forget that if you want good Endgame design, you *must* immerse your users in White Hat Gamification techniques.

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