Neurensics proves positive effects of gamification on our brain

Thanks to Neurensics the positive effect of gamification on our brain has been scientifically proven.

By Menno Gottmer – Player 2 @BrandNewGame

Neurensics is a neuromarketing research and consulting firm based in Holland, that has direct access to high-end neuroimaging techniques. Using these techniques Neurensics can measure the brain activity of potential customers, and subsequently determine the objective motives of these customers. As a result, Neurensics can provide their clients with unique insights into what customers are actually experiencing in their brains when dealing with certain images, products, advertisements, logos and games.

Neurensic’s research has been especially fruitful for KLM, the Royal Dutch Airlines. Early 2012, KLM developed a strategy with the qualitative objective to connect KLM to holiday spirit, and the quantitative objective to acquire people’s email addresses and their preferred holiday destinations. This was a necessary strategy, because KLM was still too often seen as expensive and merely for business, and therefore not top of mind at many holidaymakers. To reach this objective, KLM’s advertising agency developed a thematic campaign with the theme “To what new memory can we bring you?”, for which they created a television commercial.

Besides this campaign, the Crossmedia Division of the Telegraaf Media Group developed an activation campaign. The core of this activation campaign was the “KLM Vakantiespel”, an online revamped version of the well-known Memory card game. Before players could start playing the “KLM Vakantiespel”, they had to upload their portrait photo. The game then processed these photos in various vacation scenario images. As a result, in these images, you as a player could see yourself in a not yet enjoyed holiday in the Middle East, Africa, or any other distant KLM destination. These images were your ‘new memories’, as it were. For each found image match, you received a stamp in your virtual passport with the destination depicted on those matching images. After you finished the game you were asked to choose your preferable holiday destination from all the received stamps. After this, you immediately heard if you won any prices. Every day players could win two tickets to a ‘new memory’. In total, the “KLM Vakantiespel” was played more than 67,000 times, and more than 31,000 players left their email addresses and preferred holiday destinations behind.

Using the neuroimaging techniques of Neurensics, both the thematic campaign and the activation campaign were studied for their effects on the consumer’s brain. The thematic campaign’s television commercial scored positive in the brain on dimensions that are important for buying behaviour. However, Neurensics’ results also showed that the sought connection between KLM and holiday spirit was not made, something the activation campaign’s “KLM Vakantiespel” díd achieve. Neurensics’ objective neurological research showed that the game brought its players in the holiday spirit and also made the KLM brand significantly more relevant to the players. These are interesting results, not only because for the first time the relationship between gamification and brain activity has been demonstrated, but also because previous neurological research already showed that future buying behaviour and self-relevance are strongly interconnected. In short, Neurensics’ research has shown for the first time that keeping people busy with a brand via a game has great value to advertisers.

Unfortunately, many famous brands still turn towards traditional one-way advertising methods, such as television and radio commercials. Although gamification and serious games are becoming increasingly more used for various purposes by various companies, they are still not used that much for brand related purposes. While working at BrandNewGame, I learned that among many of the biggest brands there is still a largely negative connotation towards gaming in general. It would be wise for them to stop burying their heads in the sand, and look at the scientific facts that research firms such as Neurensics provide.


Cosplay mainstream now

The world is changing. Constantly of course, but faster and faster so it seems, especially in my world – the (applied) games and gamification world. Where we were ashamed to call ourselves ‘gamer’ five years ago, geek-chic is becoming more and more an accepted ‘style’. Maybe also because of the silicon valley billionaires like the founders of Google, Facebook, YouTube and Whatsapp – the ‘second generation nerds’… with great ideas and great wealth. In Amsterdam it has been a trend to go to ‘dress-up’ parties for some time now and seeing this video below – I don’t think that ‘cosplay’ is far from the next ‘normal’ thing in life. Where maybe now it’s an anomaly to see a stranger in a morph suit… soon we will all walk like heroes….

Gamification: Carrots and Sticks don't work!

As stated before and proven over-and-over again: reward and punishment do not work when trying to motivate people to change their behavior. MIT did research and Daniel Pink states it in his book Drive, check out the video below for the essence of his findings in ten minutes.

Research shows that if you wish to motivate people on a ‘higher’ level than just ‘do this or that’ you need to manage three pilars:

1. Autonomy (let me try myself)

2. Mastery (let me progress in what I do)

3. Purpose (give me a reason why I should do this). Every game has objectives and challenges, that make this one easy.

In my new book ‘Playing on the Job (due next year) I will describe what ‘doing’ actually is. In my opinion, to be able to DO something, we (as an individual) need to:

1. Want (not have to) : in organizational terms this is your ‘Vision’ (why do we do what we do)

2. Know how (as opposed to being ignorant or lacking knowledge) : in organizational terms this is your ‘Strategy’ or ‘Approach’ (how can we achieve our goals)

3. Can do (physically and mentally) – in organizational terms this is the execution of your sales proposition.

4. Dare (as opposed to fear to fail) – most managers lack this ability, but great leaders and great organizations thrive on this… Daring to be different, daring to take the lead, daring to try, daring to fail and daring to change will create experience. The more experienced you are, the more progress you make… This is why we challenge all our client’s employees through games to do things they normally would not do, just to try and fail… Learning by playing…


An important accelerator for ‘doing’ is context. I would never kill a chicken for no reason, but note that when I am starving, chances are I will… In games we usually use ‘time’ as a pressure to pursue progress… But of course scarcity is a good mechanic as well…

Serious games proven effective as a learning tool

TNO – The leading Dutch research company recently published a report of their extensive research how serious games contribute to the effectiveness of ‘learning’ in an educational environment. The stunning conclusions can be read in the summary below.

“They conclude that play has a firm foundation in evolution and individual development. It not only drives the physical, social and cognitive development of animals and man, but also functions as a behavior generator that simulates the development of new types of behavior and skills.”

There are three main motivators in play: development of competence, the feeling and experience of ‘autonomy’ and self-realization. External conditions that help to increase motivation are feedback and rewards, meaningful goals (in the game) and rules that restrict us to achieve these goals. These elements are all present in my basic ‘Game Design Mechanics’ model that I published over a year ago and it’s nice to see that TNO has scientifically proven I was right 😉

How NOT to rip off players in F2P games

Recently, I downloaded another ‘free to play’ game for iPad. I thought I would give it another try after being disappointed a lot of times, by poor gameplay or cheap ‘engagement’/payment -tricks. And also because I was looking for a decent tactical / strategy game.
So what do you do when you’re looking for a good game? You surf the web, read reviews and download a game developed by a team you know and a publisher that is known for ‘relatively’ great games, right? I know I loved ‘Cut the Rope’ recently and ‘Command & Conquer’ in the old days, so why not take a change with ‘Modern Command’ developed by Level Eight and published by Chillingo (Cut the Rope) and EA (C&C and many other titles).
You would expect to have a decent gameplay experience for at least a day without having to buy in-game stuff right? Wrong! Here’s how the game works.

To be able to progress in the game you need to fight off bad guys in different settings with different guns and munitions. Sounds good. In order to keep up with the increasing difficulty you need to do research and produce your guns, sound logical and excellent to keep the flow going. For this you need researchers, time and money. It all makes sense. But you also need STARS… There is only two ways to gain stars. One is by winning battles, but you need to develop your gear in order to be able to win battles. The other one is buying stars. So this is what we call a ‘catch 22’. You neeed to level up from soldier to sergeant to gain (1 start per level) stars, but you need about stars for every single usefull gameplay element. Whether it be ‘repairing your base’ or ‘replenishing your load out of defensive guns’ or to repair quicker, or to do research, even to buy some decent weaponry you need stars. And the only way to progress in the game – eventually – is to buy more stars….

Now this all would not have been a problem to me if I was able to buy stars for a ‘reasonable price’. You would expect that if you invest 30 dollars in a ‘iOs-game’ you probably bought everything you need. But that’s not the case in this game. You need to buy much more if you want to be able to win more battles with decent guns and amunition. Believe me – I don’t mind waiting for researching items, getting my weapons reloaded over-time, but PLEASE Chillingo and Electronic Arts – let the player choose to play for free (and give a decent play-experience in the game) or let me buy the game in full for 9,95 dollars. Instead of trying to rip off kids. I am an adult and I can pay for hundreds of stars, but that’s not going to improve my playing experience. It will only give me a bad taste in my mouth when I am done playing the game through… rethink the payment structure and do us a righteous proposal a.s.a.p. because I will make sure this message will spread throughout the web… Don’t get me wrong I would even be prepared to ‘pay-per-bullit’ as I proposed to Activision and EA in a previous post, but I don’t want to ‘pay-for-progress’…The hardest part is of course to determine a ‘fair price’ for players… but apparently EA has been giving it some thought – although players do not respond in a positive way (see the comments below).

Below some screenshots of the gameplay elements that I think are not right and righteous for players. If you want to know a good example how ‘F2P’ (free to play) works really well in my opinion: Download MMO Justice for iPad or 99Bricks by Weirbeard.





99 Bricks 'Wizard Academy'

When Tetris meets Jenga… what do you get? Check out this awesome game ’99 Bricks: Wizard Academy’ made by Weirdbeard. Yep the same guys that developed those successful games for BelCompany and the two latest projects we did for Ziggo…

Check out the trailer below and download it soon from the iOs store…

BrandNewGame – Project overview in less than 5 minutes


It's the most playful time… of the year…

As just released by the ESA

Washington, DC – December 11, 2013 – Approximately 79 million Americans intend to purchase video games during the holiday season, according to new market research and analysis released today by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).

The report, “Holiday Purchasing Study 2013,” found that nearly 30 percent of those who said they intend to buy games and game-related items as gifts also plan to spend more on these items than last year. This demand is driven by a strong line-up of video game releases, and the launch of new next generation video game consoles, including the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U.

“With a new generation of consoles and growth in expanding genres such as mobile and social games, video games continue to be among the most sought after holiday purchases this season,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of ESA, the trade association representing U.S. computer and video game publishers. “This new research underscores the industry’s ability to continually innovate and anticipate consumer demand, making it an economic engine, especially during the holidays.”

Other key findings in the report:

  • Video games and related items are among the top five categories of gifts that Americans plan to buy this holiday season;
  • Physical games and next generation consoles are among the top three categories of video game items most likely to be purchased by gamers; and,
  • Consumers aged 25 to 44 are planning to spend an average of $219 on video games and game-related content.

The NPD Group conducted the survey for ESA among a U.S. representative sample of approximately 3,000 individuals over the age of 13. Survey respondents said they currently play video games on at least one system or device, such as a smartphone, video game console, portable game console, computer, or other game system.

Caine's Arcade

I strongly believe that you can achieve anything in life if you go for it, but you have to manage four basic skills:

1. Have / take an idea
2. Know how to make it – and make it…
3. Sell it (tell about it – then sell it)
4. Continuously improve… becoming better and eventually: becoming the best…

Continuously manage these four processes and one day, some day, you will strike gold… and keep improving. This boy’s Arcade is the striking example of ‘passion in play’. From trash to treasure: “Caine’s Arcade” Insert coin!

Translated into the first leading model of my new book ‘Playing on the Job’ (to be launched in 2015 in English), it translates into:

Of course the proces after ‘improve’ is ‘rethink’ – since this model is based on a ‘never ending loop’ of progress… I am still not sure what the name of the model should be… Maybe you can help me out and share your thoughts below?

1. Business Model Loop

2. Progress Loop

3. Cycle of Succes

4. Do-Loop

5. …? Your choice…?

Games are NOT (just) FOR CHILDREN!

Another report – this time from the ESA – tells us that the 50+ generation is a very interesting target group to focus on! They have two things that are essential to making money in the entertainment industry: time & money….

The ESA reports…

Washington, DC – November 18, 2013 – Forty-eight percent of adults age 50 and older say they play video games, according to new research released today by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). The report, “Gamers Over 50 Study: You’re Never Too Old to Play,” found that 80 percent of these gamers play video games on a weekly basis and 45 percent play on a daily basis.

“Video games are enjoyed by millions of consumers of all ages. The popularity of video games is expected given the innovation and sheer entertainment this industry offers,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of ESA, the trade association representing U.S. computer and video game publishers. “Across all game platforms and genres, Americans age 50 and over are exercising their minds and bodies, connecting with family members, and having fun with video games.”

Additional report findings on gamers older than 50 include:

  • They prefer games that mimic traditional forms of play. Card/tile games (56 percent) and puzzle/logic games (52 percent) are the preferred genre among this group, followed by trivia, word, and board games (27 percent);
  • A majority (92 percent) play at home, and most game play is done during the evening hours (55 percent); and,
  • Among those with children living in their household, 63 percent say their children influence which games they buy, and 62 percent say their children help them learn about new games or game technology.

“These are extremely exciting results and really highlight that people of all ages play video games,” said Jason Allaire, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-director of the Gains Through Gaming Lab. “There is no longer a ‘stereotype game player,’ but instead a game player could be your grandparent, your boss, or even your professor. I suspect that the percentage of older adults playing video games will rise as Baby Boomers enter retirement, increasing the focus on positive effects of playing games.”

The NPD Group conducted the survey for ESA among a U.S. representative sample of approximately 1,800 gamers age 50 and older. Survey respondents said they play video games on at least one system or device, such as a smartphone, video game console, portable game console, computer, or other game system.