We have interviewed a lot of unique personalities that have contributed to the global gamification market but none had a career journey quite like Horst Streck.
After changing his student life for a working career, Horst Streck worked as an information expert within the Amsterdam local authorities for over 15 years. During this period he managed to expand his knowledge about ICT by attending college classes in the evenings. Those were the productive years in which he developed several information systems for a highly respected healthcare organization.
In 2001 Horst Streck founded I Sioux Media Productions with two partners. This company was engaged in the entertainment industry from the start. Among the list of respectable firms that hired their services were: RTL, Endemol, SBS, Eyeworks, Two Way Traffic, and Pioneer.
In 2002 the company made its first step as a game developer. This led to a joint venture in which a skill gaming platform named Zigiz.com was created in 2004. The platform was successfully sold after a couple of years.
In 2007 the company entered the casual games arena, with the brand Youdagames. Within two years this brand was known all over the world. Youdagames won the Dutch Game award in 2008, with two games, and became the best “up-and-coming developer” in 2009 in Seattle.
Youdagames turned into an important player in the casual games industry in a relatively short period of time. As CEO, Horst Streck was executive producer and responsible for building strong relations with important partners and distributors within the industry. This has been one of the important reasons that the games of Youdagames are now played by a broad audience worldwide.
Now he is advising large companies as a Gamifier (a gamification expert) on a strategic level to implement the right game elements within their organization.
Without further ado, let’s start the interview.
Before we start the interview, we want to tell our audience all about your Gamification journey. Can you please write a little on what intrigued you about gamification and what your personal experience has been so far?
This could take a while because I am of a certain age, so I have a lot to talk about. Although, I’ll try my best to keep it short. My career took off as a software engineer/information expert at a municipal health service in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. A project that I am still very proud of is a sophisticated system that control room dispatchers use to guide ambulances through the city of Amsterdam to provide appropriate aid the fastest way possible. After about 14 years, I decided to start my own multimedia company with two partners and left my job. In time, that company turned into a successful award-winning game company, named Youdagames, with around 60 employees that produced 25 games in total. A few of those games won awards as well.
I led the company as a CEO for around 10 years. After that period, I lost a bit of passion because my role changed dramatically, and the market wasn’t the same anymore. At that moment in my life, I saw a TED talk from Gabe Zichermann, which made me think: “Horst, this is right up your alley, maybe you should take that route!”
With my experience in both ICT and Games together, it felt like a match to explore the world of Gamification. That insight was the final push I needed to leave my company and start a new adventure, charged with newly found passion.
It became clear that I already knew almost everything you need to know about game mechanics and what they do, without really comprehending how convenient that was for this life-changing switch. From that moment on, things happened very fast. I consulted a lot of companies, provided many lectures, worked over two years on the renewal of the educational system, and wrote a book named “Gamification, the power of an experience” in Dutch.
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I chose to do it on my own, therefore creating a high level of freedom that worked like a turbo on my creativity.
This period provided me a lot of insights and knowledge, which led to great projects and an ever-growing network with interesting people. Felt like I found my purpose. I firmly believe that game developers have the key to better ICT products; in time, all software will more or less be gamified and not only to engage people!
We can and must do way better than focus on engagement only to make a real difference. This is a real challenge because things will change a lot by adding gamification, and in general, people don’t like change.
1- What does the term “Gamification” mean to you?
Gamification could lead to the next generation of software products, and if it were up to me: it should! With it, we could turn things that are boring and repetitive into an experience that is challenging, fun, and “YES” more effective. Sometimes even beyond the product itself. We can trigger emotions so the total experience can create the desired behavior, preferable from the user’s perspective because that works best!
2- What was your key driving force behind Noctua?
First of all, we have a great team, people are essential for any business, always. For me, a great team is a must! Secondly, we build a fascinating product that can do a lot of good, which has great business potential.
Last but certainly not least, I’m eager to prove the value of Gamification through our product.
3- What are your day-to-day job responsibilities as the CEO of Noctua? Walk us through your daily routine.
First of all, I work with people that are real professionals in their field and therefore are capable of doing the job without being managed. This turns Noctua into a self-managed company. Due to Covid19, some things changed. We all work from home and have a standup on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The rest of the week, we mostly do the work and communicate only when needed. For example, when a problem needs to be solved. Firstly, my role is to help the development team create a viable product that fulfills our customers’ needs in the most pleasant way possible. Secondly, create attention for our product, create a business around it through opportunities and sales. Make sure the process works within a happy and appealing atmosphere. Every team member feels responsible for the success of the company, in that perspective, I am a team member, no more, no less. That’s the essence of success, in my humble opinion. By the way, Noctua is an investigation platform against fraud and crime.
4- Traditional bank organizations are increasingly challenged by more agile and flexible offerings from new entrants. How does gamification play a role in keeping customers engaged and loyal?
How? There are many ways to engage people and to create loyalty. To me, it’s more important that our potential clients understand that Gamification “is the way!” Focus on improving the experience. What we shouldn’t do is create a behavior against the will of people that use it. It is less powerful, and more importantly, there are ethics involved here that we should respect.
5- Do you think gamification can help customers make an emotional investment that lays the crucial foundation required to learn and tackle financial systems and patterns?
Not sure what you mean, but I can tell you this. Gamification can be very powerful, and as an industry, we need to act very responsibly. We can do a lot of good, and that is what we should be aiming for always! “Are good financial decisions the emotional ones?” is what pops up in my head immediately. When a rational mind is needed, we shouldn’t interfere.
6- Gamification has helped financial services firms re-imagine the way they do business to elevate both employee and customer engagement. Apart from improved customer retention rates, cost reductions, and increased profits, what are some of the most commonly known advantages of using gamification in financial services?
Probably reward systems that in the end improve loyalty that boosts profit in the end. A more durable approach would, in my opinion, be to create a great experience that makes clients feel at ease and comfortable or really challenge them, depending on the goal. That’s what popular games have: intriguing environments. Believe me; it’s the experience that counts.
7- What goals are you currently working on achieving with your organization?
My personal goal is to create a cutting-edge software product of great importance that is gamified. When we look at the ICT sector, there are not a lot of projects that contain Gamification. We can gamify our own product Noctua. The goal would be to motivate researchers to do a better job enjoyably.
With our software huge financial institutes, the government and healthcare will be capable of fighting crime better. We want to provide a fun, cutting edge, effective and efficient digital research product to make that happen.
8- What changes do you want to see in the next 5 years? Any predictions about the future of this industry?
Simple, using game knowledge to create ICT software that is enjoyable and easy to work in a way that builds user confidence. This will positively affect the absenteeism rate, increase happiness on the work floor, and motivate the users.
9- Name a few of your mentors, influencers, or friends that you think have helped you understand or increase your knowledge about gamification.
At YoudaGames, we learned how to build games by ourselves. In those days, there weren’t many schools that lectured game design. The company got the skills the hard way, by firstly producing games that didn’t sell enough, we had to learn fast to survive.
You can learn something from almost anyone if you open up for the lesson (sometimes accidentally) being taught. Everyone that worked with me has taught me something, and I hope I did the same in return.
Next to that, I have been inspired by Gabe Zichermann (for his great TED talk at the beginning of his career), Angela Duckworth, of course, late Sir Ken Robinson, Simon Sinek, Ricardo Semler, Rutger Bregman, Russel Brand, and Mohammed Ali, all for very different reasons.
10- If you could give one piece of advice to the people starting in the gamification industry, what would it be?
This is general advice. How can you make a difference if you use the same tools, thoughts, knowledge, and rules as everybody? Experiment, build new mechanics, bend the rules, just try the things YOU believe in.
The worst thing that could happen is that you learn something. I am challenged when people say it’s impossible. Step into your Nikes and just do it!
11- Could you share a picture of your workspace with our readers?
So, here we end up again a great interview with a master of gamification. As you know that we have already conducted lots of gamification experts interviews and counting.
Stay tuned for more news, updates and interviews!