ASIA-PACIFIC: Researchers often use gamification techniques to improve user engagement and improve data quality, but research across Asia-Pacific shows they also need to consider how cultural differences can affect results.

In an ESOMAR paper, The Rules of the Game: A cross-cultural study of gamification techniques in Asia, two SSI executives, Jennifer Serrano, Knowledge Manager APAC, and Pete Cape, Global Knowledge Director, noted that any game is only as good as its rules and how well these are followed.

"What is unclear is whether all people, in different countries and cultures, react in the same way to a set of stimuli or rules," they added, before outlining their research with 3,000 participants across five countries – China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Australia – each with different levels of individualism and toleration of uncertainty.

They reported that gamification drove all participants, regardless of age or gender, to overcome the "satisficing" behaviour commonly observed by researchers – the tendency to give what they feel is enough of an answer to a researcher before moving on to the next question.

But not all countries "play" to the same degree. Thus, people in collectivist and "uncertainty avoiding" countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Japan were more likely to conform to the rules of a game than those in an individualistic country like Australia.

Faced with a conditional rule such as "You need to get at least five [brands]", respondents in collectivist countries typically wrote down five and then stopped. But those in an individualistic society tended to go on and 'win' the game, writing down as many as they could.

"The rules that we set can dramatically change the way people play the game," the authors said.

And how those rules are communicated are also important. Asking people to use exactly five or seven or ten words to describe their favourite brand works in an English-speaking country like Australia, but not in China where the concept of words does not exist in the language: "All the rule has done is to make the task difficult".

Such considerations are vital if researchers are to help participants overcome a tendency to satisfice, according to Serrano and Cape.

"Having a clear defined goal is paramount in setting the right rules that will make people focus on the task and want to win the game that we want them to play."

Data sourced from ESOMAR; additional content by WARC staff