SuperBanker: The making of a gamified conference experience

Compared with traditional training and marketing strategies, gamification – the application of social gaming theories and techniques in commercial contexts – can dramatically increase audience involvement and the degree to which communications actually change audience behavior. Firms across all industries are becoming increasingly aware of the power of gamification for business objectives, such as motivating and training a sales force or connecting with customers.

This week, EMI launched SuperBanker, an online mobile game, at SourceMedia’s 17th Annual Best Practices in Retail Financial Services Symposium. SuperBanker demonstrates the use of gamification for business purposes, and was designed to enhance attendees’ conference experience. Players could create their own superhero alter ego, and earned points for answering questions about the session presentations, networking with other players, or visiting the exhibitors at the conference.

Almost 200 top-level banking executives and service providers played the game, which culminated in an exciting fight for first place in the final hours of play. It wasn’t easy to make SuperBanker the success that it was – a delicate and detailed strategy lies behind the colorful graphics of the game.  Here’s a peek behind the curtain:

  • Fitting the imagery and tone to the audience – can a game be too fun? The theme for the game had to balance fun with seriousness, because conference-goers would be in a professional mindset while playing the game.  Rather than the traditional superhero tights, the game avatars were dressed in business suits; rather than playing through an animated world of villains and crises, players answered conference-related trivia challenges.
  • Walking the thin tightrope between engaging and too involved: A game that is too demanding will discourage participation; too easy, and it won’t be fun to play.  In a conference setting, there is an additional layer to setting the difficulty of a game: the goal of the game is not to engross players, but instead, to allow them to engage with the game and the conference itself simultaneously.  SuperBanker play was designed to be accomplished in between conference  activities; what’s more, it rewarded active participation in the conference with game points.
  •  Bringing the game into the physical world: Because a conference audience is physically located in the same place, it was important to bring the game into the physical setting in which the players were interacting via stickers, life-sized cutouts, and other things, in order to connect the game experience with the conference itself and generate continued participation.  Perhaps the most important example was a large leaderboard screen that displayed the top ten players’ scores – even though players could instantly access the leaderboard from their own devices, many walked back over to the screen to see it displayed there.
  • Creating a sense of progress and the attainability of winning: At the conference, one player pulled ahead early and maintained a solid lead throughout.  This could have discouraged others from signing up or continuing to play, but SuperBanker was designed to create a sense of accomplishment for everyone playing the game.  Players could win smaller prizes throughout the conference; every member of the team with the best average score was awarded a prize; and for the highly engaged group, there were also prizes for second and third up for grabs.  And indeed, attendees played the game to the bitter end – resulting in a last minute upset!