School of Game Design Students Bring Gamification to Beckon


(L–R) Paolo Trelles, Luis Parra, Andrew Rieger, Beckon employee Erin Korogodsky, Beckon employee Shawn Smith, Hunter Hemingway, John Kwag and Pryce Jones. Courtesy of the School of Game Design.

San Mateo software start-up Beckon specializes in optimizing analytics for marketing in the modern world. Founded in 2011, it skyrocketed to the top of the tech world’s watch list after raising $10 million in Series A funding this past spring. Beckon’s sleek dashboard lets businesses read data and customer feedback in ways that make improvements easy to identify as brands establish a community and build their base.

Earlier this month, Academy of Art University’s School of Game Design visited Beckon’s offices to conduct a presentation on building gamification tools into the company’s existing marketing platform. Every student participated in the pitch and gained immediate feedback from working developers at a leading Bay Area start-up.

M.F.A. Director of the School of Game Design Pryce Jones is longtime friends with Erin Korogodsky who works in Strategic Accounts at Beckon. The idea of “gamifying” Beckon’s current platform came up at a company party and evolved into an innovative collaborative class with the Academy.

“They were excited about the possibility of working with students from AAU and having an external team bring a set of fresh eyes to the work they are doing and propose fun new features,” Jones said.

The game design class created a professional Prezi presentation that included screen mock-ups of the game mechanic ideas learned at the start of the semester. The students learned how to improvise and propose solutions when they weren’t dictated by the client and gained real-world insight into the intricacies of Business-to-Business platforms.

“Afterwards, the Beckon team acknowledged the class’ hard work and the quality of the presentation,” Jones said. “They liked all of our ideas, but the game mechanic Beckon was most into was a newsfeed we pitched, similar to Facebook’s.”

The class’ mockups involved introducing a social factor to Beckon’s platform, allowing companies to share successful presentations with the rest of the Beckon marketing community and develop a “reputation” similar to a Klout score. Marketing tasks can be tracked and rewarded with “achievement” badges that add to an organization’s profile page and “reputation.” Companies can even follow the work of other successful marketers on their “newsfeed,” viewing the information in a reactive, customizable skin.

“Beckon’s tool makes sense of a lot of complex information and allows marketing teams to communicate that information in easier and more effective ways,” Jones said. “By our students adding gamification, we helped Beckon achieve an organizational goal, to increase their clients’ enjoyment in learning to use the app, and making them want to use it daily, because the experience of the information and sharing the info will be more accessible and fun.”

Future gamification collaborations are already in the works for upcoming classes in the School of Game Design. In the past, students have worked on everything from kid-oriented psychotherapy games to research and development classes exploring contemporary video game devices and platforms.  

“We are also discussing potential collaborations with the Architecture and Landscape Architecture departments,” Jones said, “where their students and ours would work together to create exciting three-dimensional worlds and walk through them in real-time game engines.”