Gamification to make story sharing impactful and fun

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By Louise Cooper, Senior Service Designer

Some people have a knack for sharing a story. They’ll draw you into their world and captivate you with their narrative. It’s a gift that doesn’t come quite so easily to all of us.

Telling your story to a complete stranger

It can be a daunting encounter. Knowing where to start. Building a well-flowing narrative. Or even feeling like your story is worthy of telling – “why would anyone want to hear about my life?” This is what we heard time and time again when we did on-the-ground research with local communities across the US and UK.

But we couldn’t let this stop us. We know the power that stories have to build tolerance and empathy, therefore helping two people find common ground. This is the impact we’re aiming for, so it was a hurdle we had to get over when designing our new program, Historypin’s Storybox.

The formula to a good story

We know from our deep dive research into the social literature that for tolerance and empathy to emerge, the listener must become absorbed in the narrator’s story. And we know that, for those of us who aren’t such gifted storytellers, there’s a simple formula that can be applied that will do a decent job of engaging a listener.

Our ‘good story formula’:

story facts (plot, characters, setting, structure) + emotional experience = good story.

That’s great, we could design something around a formula. But formulas are boring (and there are as many). We want the people coming to our Storybox events to have fun. So we’re injecting elements of gamification into our design process. Here are some of the things we’re prototyping to put into our story sharing event kit.

Prototyping gamification

  1. Rapid fire story sharing rounds. Lots of good games have a timer. And the benefits of a timer in story sharing is that people stick more to the point. As we’ve prototyped our events across the world, we’ve seen that rapid fire rounds lead to engaging anecdotes.
  2. Story starter cards. People love decks of cards. They’re a nostalgic throwback to youthful game play. Whatmore, when you add story prompts to game cards, they enable focussed story sharing. We’ve developed and tested a series of questions that are universal and broad in nature (so anyone can contribute), but also focussed enough that one can conjure up an anecdote quickly.
  3. Dice to round out stories. Rapid fire story sharing lends to engaging anecdotes, but we heard from participants during testing that they wanted to ask more questions, getting deeper into a story they heard from their partner. This is something we’ve recently added and tested in our co-creation workshops. We tested more cards, big coloured story blocks with deeper, categorised prompts and a simple dice with a mix of more general prompts. Our favourite was the big coloured blocks, but it was the dice that are test participants loved, so we’ll iterate on that to go into the next version of our kit.

We’re really excited to share our new Storybox kits with you. We’ll be launching at the ALA annual conference in New Orleans June 2018. If you’re interested in hearing more or taking part in a pilot version in the meantime, do get in touch – and be sure to follow @historypin