The very first game post I ever wrote was about incorporating game mechanics into museum experiences. A year later, and Amy Jo Kim's presentations about ways that personalization, feedback, collecting, points and exchanges can make all kinds of experiences more engaging and sticky still resonate with me. Amy is the Creative Director of Shufflebrain, a game design firm that has unique expertise in identifying and exploiting behavioral human predilections to make games and game-like experiences compelling in everyday contexts. In other words, Amy is the brain behind how and why we game.
Rather than occupying your attention with my own analysis, I encourage you to go straight to the source and check out her two fascinating slide presentations (from eTech 2006 and GDC 2007 respectively) on how to put "the fun into functional." While her main audience is software and game developers, I think the material translates directly to other experience providers (like museums).
The first presentation explains the five game mechanics and gives examples of how they are used to make Netflix (personalized feedback), MySpace (friending people as social exchange), Ebay (leveling up via those little colored stars!), and other software tools more appealing.
The second presentation focuses on the growth of user-generated and shared content in social media, and talks about how game mechanics are involved both in the applications that support such content (YouTube, Twitter, and others), and how such content sharing can enhance games themselves.
Enjoy, and please share your comments with others.