Here’s a common mistake we help people cover in our Psychology of Community Course.
Imagine you design a gamification system which allows newcomers to earn points for simple actions and move up the first few levels relatively quickly.
(e.g. 1 point per post, 3 points per response, 5 points for an accepted solution with new levels on 4, 10, and 20 points).
However, since levels are usually linked to perks (i.e. every 5th level unlocks a new benefit), this can’t be a straight linear process (i.e. members move up a level for every 10 points gained).
That would result in members reaching the highest levels too quickly and you would have to create hundreds (probably thousands) of perks which would condemn your community to a short lifespan.
Instead, you might design a system where members require exponentially more points to reach the next level. This would look like the curves below.
On their own, neither chart seems too extreme an increase. But when you combine them you can see the problem:
Soon top members reach a point where (as one member pointed out last week) they would need “50,000 responses to progress to the next level”.
Now the same motivational forces which were driving members to reach the highest level begin to work against them. If they can’t feasibly progress any further, why bother?
Plenty of video games have a similar exponential curve but with one critical difference. As you progress through the game you’re also provided with the tools to earn more points than beginners.
(i.e the baddies you kill on level 1 might be worth 1 point each, but on level 10 they’re worth 10 points each!)
This means while it does become more difficult to reach a new level, it doesn’t become impossibly more difficult. You don’t want the time to progress to each new level to have a similar exponential curve as your gamification system.
An exponential curve in a gamification system only works if the perks you offer members also enable them to sustainably earn more points too.
(i.e. members at level 10 can create blog posts, submit knowledge-based articles, earn new badges, and complete new missions which earn them hundreds, even thousands, of points.)
If you don’t do this, you’re not getting the most out of your gamification efforts.
(To learn more about designing the community experience, sign up for our Psychology of Community course. The course begins on January 28th).