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How To Make Parking Fun: Gamification in the Parking Industry

July 31, 2017


How to Gamify Parking


First and foremost – what the heck is gamification? Great question. It’s the process of taking something that already exists (an app, or a website, for example), and integrating game mechanics to it, so that you end up with an augmented version that people are more motivated to use[i]. It’s not building a new game – it’s making whatever you’re already doing into a game.


To better understand the concept, consider a few common elements that almost every gamified system has: points, levels, achievements, a leaderboard, and rewards[ii]. No matter what app or online games you’ve played, consider how these elements add up to pique your curiosity.


Let me give you a quick example. I’ve used a customer relationship management tool that utilizes gamification. As a new user, I log in and have a grand total of 0 points. As I click on different tabs and features, the system awards me points. There’s a progress bar for how many tutorials I’ve watched, so I plug away at that because I can see exactly how far I’ve come and what’s left to be done. It’s satisfying to get that kind of feedback. I build up my understanding of the application’s functionality and learn to update customer information and make notes in profiles. After I do this a couple of times, I earn enough points to move from level 1 to level 2. With that level up, I’ve unlocked a new task and can send email to customers, earning me a badge! A badge! Yes! What a great reward!


And imagine if the rewards that you get keep getting more appealing. It starts off with some trinkets or badges, moves up to earning power, access to locked content, and finally culminates in an elevated status in the game[iii]. I’m not even in sales, but I definitely compared my badge count to that of my coworkers’ more than once. And that, my friends, is gamification in action.


But why does gamification work?

Psychology. It takes our desire for social contact, community, acceptance, and achievement and turns it into an achievable target. There are two main psychological theories in play here:

  1. Theory of 16 basic desires: basically a list of what factors motivate people and make them happy. It includes saving, social status, idealism, order, social contact, vengeance, and curiosity[iv] (to name a few) – and most of these integrate easily into an online game you share with others.

  2. Self-determination theory: motivation to act is both intrinsic and extrinsic, and hinges on social circumstances and task characteristics[v]. So if gamification of something promotes socially valued tasks like caring for the environment (intrinsic motivation), is easy to do, plus offers rewards for completing it (extrinsic motivation), logically people will be motivated to use it.

So now that the psychology is all laid out, what’s needed to successfully gamify something? Well, the first step is game mechanics.


What are game mechanics?

Game mechanics are the rules of the game, the nuts and bolts of development, and instructions on how things work and what happens next after each action you take. There are 10 fundamental game mechanics, and using two or more of them in combination is what takes that regular app and makes it gamified. The fundamentals are:

  • Fast feedback

  • Transparency

  • Short and long term goals

  • Badges

  • Levelling up

  • Onboarding (a way to learn something new)

  • Competition

  • Collaboration (working in teams)

  • Community (how is everyone else doing?)

  • Points[vi]

This matters, as any attempt at gamification that doesn’t involve at least some of the above won’t work. I’ll come back to this a bit later when going over how gamification can be applied to parking.


The Kaleidoscope of Effective Gamification

Another way to look at an effective use of gamification is that it has several layers, building on top of each other. Check out the diagram below for a visual on what I’m about to describe[vii]. The core and first layer, critical to the success of any attempt at gamification, is building objectives you’re looking to achieve. From there, both intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation are required to get people to play along. This goes back to the beginning of the article, when I talked about self-determination theory (remember?) and the need to motivate people to participate and reward them for doing so.


The next layer is integrating actions, challenges, and achievements into an actual experience. And once you build the actual app or site or whatever virtual experience you’re creating, it’s important to have a good design. It’s the user’s lens with which they see the end goal, so make sure you’re not just putting lipstick on a pig here.


Finally, gamification really does mean making something into a game. And games should be fun. So you’ve got the outer shell as the perceived layer of fun, which includes things like audio, visuals, and an overall experience. If the game isn’t fun, and users don’t like interacting with it, they sure aren’t going to use it. And that’s definitely not the point of putting all the effort into gamifying something.



This is all well and good, but makes a lot more sense with some examples. Let’s look at some ways that ga