What happened at Gamification Europe 2017 – Day 1

Stories and backstage from the international gamification conference of 2017

Written by Vasilis Gkogkidis


This is hard! It’s very hard trying to write about one of the most intense and fulfilling experiences of your professional life! Gamification Europe has been extremely stressful for me but fulfilling at the same time.

Goal of this blog post is to give an overview of what happened during the 28th and 29th of November at the i360 in Brighton, UK. I will share some of my own thoughts on how the conference went, along with some tweets and blog posts that attendees of the conference wrote. Inspired by Jeff Gomez’s keynote on collective storytelling I will try and incorporate as many of our attendees’ voices as possible!

 GAMIFICATION+ which is Pete Jenkins and myself, had not organised any events before Gamification Europe. Pete wanted to do a conference for some time now and I think he was waiting for the right chance. As you all know, that chance came when GWC announced that they will not organise Gamification World Conference 2017. We caught wind of this sometime in early September and Pete immediately called me on Skype to announce that we are doing a conference called Gamification Europe and it’s going to be fantastic! I took a good look at our calendar and I just asked, how on earth will we do this if half the days up to the conference we are booked to work and most of these dates are abroad in countries like Malaysia or Russia? Pete being Pete of course told me that everything will be fine and I worry too much. Ok I said, let’s see where this thing takes us!

There is no reason to get into details but the period up to the conference was intense! I knew that curating this conference was our strong point and I think that our audience agreed at the end. Everyone was happy with the variety of subjects discussed at the conference and the different viewpoints as we covered, industry, academia and practical experience with the workshops.

27th of November – Pre- Conference Dinner

27 of November is a day that I have blurry memories of! I had come from Malaysia on Friday the 24th and I think I got a cold just from the change in climate and temperature. On the 27th I spent my day at the office trying to finish a lot of details about the conference and then went down to the Hilton with all my things plus banners and everything needed for the conference. I had arranged to meet with some of the speakers and go out for dinner to a pub near the Hilton that proved to be a great idea!

We had a great time chatting about our travels, gamification, the conference and of course food! After a couple of beers and after everyone was stuffed with food we went back to get some rest and get ready for Day 1 of Gamification Europe!

28th of November - Day 1

Got up early, downed some medicine and off I go! Trying to get everything ready for our first couple of sessions and welcome everyone to the venue.

Time for the first talk of the day and I want to quote An Coppens talking about the keynote of day one, Jeff Gomez that talked about collaborative storytelling: 

“I thoroughly enjoyed the dispelling of the hero’s journey by Jeff Gomez. The whole idea that we are effectively all in several versions of a multi-player online role playing game with all of our social media persona’s is quite a fun analogy. He also mentioned the whole concept of collaboration in a journey for the greater good of the community, where one winner is no longer the be and end all, but exponentially better if the community also benefits.”

Could not agree more with An, very inspiring talk by Jeff Gomez on a subject that we sometimes forget is an integral part of being human. 

You can check out An's blog post here and Jeff's talk on the video below.

Moving on to Joris Beerda the managing director of Octalysis Group that shared their experience improving the motivation in a sales team in Procter and Gamble Poland.

 Joris talked about the burn out that a lot of sales teams experience and how they kept them fresh with a game. Social interaction was extremely important and As Altug Yilmaz put it “Joris also shared very important KPI details so we should not only focus the behaviour also we need to target social interaction at our projects.”

Toby Beresford gave a very interesting talk as he talked about his tool rise.global and the journey to working with the United Nations. Looking back at our Twitter feed, I realised that most people were talking about his initial failure with a tool called Pailz:

Obviously failure is something that we need to learn from and we need to be open about it and try to fix what went wrong. He also talked about the gamification gurus list and how that came to be! His humble beginnings also engaged and moved people!

Next in line was Jans Storgards, an academic from the University of Anglia that runs the project Reactor, working with startups in helping them add value to their products and services.

Jans talked about how we need to be careful how we explain gamification to people that have no idea what it is:

He also talked about people and businesses that think that gamification will solve all their problems. I really like this tweet with the quote:

After Jans it was time for the lunch break!

I think that everyone enjoyed the food throughout the whole event. That was another big question mark for us, as we trusted the i360 and their chef to provide all the food during these 2 days. They did a great job and both lunches were light and with choices for everyone. Eating a big lunch at a conference is a big mistake and I think we managed to not do that! Of course there was a lot of networking during lunch break and I had a lot of great conversations with a lot of the attendees.

Afternoon Tracks Workshops

Track 1

Time for me to facilitate a workshop! After lunch I took my organiser hat off and put my facilitator hat on to run the How to Design Your Gamification Project with Sabrina Bruehwiler. First of all I did not expect that our room would be filled with so many people! A very pleasant surprise but also a challenge for us as the more people you have in a room the harder it is to facilitate a very interactive workshop as ours. The basic premise for those that missed it, is that we have people working in teams in their tables and after they choose a problem they would like to solve, they build a prototype of a gamification solution that solves that problem.

All the teams chose very interesting projects and worked on them with great enthusiasm! At some point the room got so loud we had to shout to hear each other! The prototyping phase is always interesting and you see a lot of great prototypes and ideas.

Track 2

I haven’t figured out how to clone myself yet so it was a bit difficult to go to the other workshop that was happening at the same time! It was a pop up escape room designed by Michiel Van Eunen and his colleague Jeroen Van Der Schenk. One thing I know is that the theme was connected to Brighton and the Brighton Palace Pier and everyone loved the session!

Altug Yilmaz says in his blogpost “It was so much fun and I learned a lot from that game!” which is basically the feedback that everyone game me about the Escape Room! I am so sad to have missed it! Hoping to do one of Michiel’s Escape Rooms in the future.

You can read Altug's blog post about the conference here

Afternoon Tracks Talks

Track 1

We started Track 1 with Pedro Crespo and his project Novabase. I love how Pedro describes himself as a 45-year-old that loves working with millennials. He was also a formidable opponent in the after party where we played Super Mario Kart! In his talk he explained to us why they created Novabase and how it motivates employees to self-improve without their managers monitoring them at all times. Very interesting talk!

Then came Ahmed Hossam in his Naruto outfit! That was a surprise that made everyone laugh and pay closer attention to Ahmed-Naruto! Ahmed talked about employee engagement and 3 different case studies that he has been part of. The one that really stayed with me and Pete is where the manager of the project totally abused the system and people actually quit their jobs because they got negative points! That goes to show how wrong gamification can go If not designed carefully.

Mac Karlekar had the hard task of doing the last talk of the day where everyone is a bit tired from a long day. He did a great job though and I noticed quite a few people approaching him at the end of his talk to chat more. Mac works with big clients in transformation projects where gamification can be a valuable tool and his experience was more than welcomed by our audience.

Track 2

Like I said before, cloning is not there yet so for track 2 I will rely on collective storytelling and gather pictures and tweets from other people! First up was Sylvester Arnab, an academic from Coventry University. He works with a lot of schools all over the world to improve education. Sylvester talked about combining gamification with other methodologies to create more engaging results.

Sylvester was followed by Alex Chalkias. Alex works for Nokia Athens and he was part of a big learning project they called Ready4Tomorrow. It was a very successful case of gamification but as always it took a lot of effort to get there. I knew his case study was great and a lot of people really enjoyed how he shared their mistakes and things they could do better.

Last speaker of this track was An Coppens. An is very well known for her experience in learning and her insights on the subject are always valuable. She spoke about how it’s impossible to get your gamification design right on the first go and how we need to be ready to iterate and correct our mistakes and come up with something that works in the end.

Networking Drinks

This was a session we built into the schedule to give the opportunity to everyone to have a drink relax and meet all the people they did not have time to meet yet. Worked out really well I think and as it gave the i360 staff time to prepare the main room for dinner and us a chance to talk more in depth about future and past projects and ideas.

Awards Dinner

The awards dinner also went fantastic! Toby and Pete were the presenters of the awards as Toby and Rise basically organised and run the awards. Again, great food from the chef of the i360 and great nominations for this year’s awards!

You can check all the winners in this page!

This was day one from my perspective! You have to wait a bit for a blog post about day 2 but not too long I hope! 

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