Gamification I

Gamification is the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts.

Three main areas where gamification adds value :

  • External : Marketing, Sales, Customer Engagement
  • Internal : HR, Productivity enhancement, Crowdsourcing
  • Behaviour change : Health and wellness, Sustainability, Personal Finance

Game Elements :

  • Points, Rewards, Avatars, Leaderboards, Badges, Challenges. Usually used game elements in gamified things. Usually these mechanics work for most areas.
  • Overall traffic on the USA Network site increased 30%
  • Page views increased 130%
  • Online merchandise sales increased 150%

Windows 7 Language Quality Game

Microsoft test group did on windows gamified it. It tested localisation of windows 7. Volunteer microsoft employees were sent the language things. Bugs reported got you a leaderboard. People inside the company started competing and so most bugs were quashed without hiring any other person. Gamification mechanism that encouraged people to take the action. It was internal and was part of their corporate citizenship.

Behaviour Change

People will slow down only when they see a cop out there. And not everywhere can be a cop present to check for speed. Seeing real time feedback causes a behaviour loop. And this causes people to slow down.

Speed Camera Lottery won. Instead of fining people who go too fast. Tracking monitor shows the speed of car and has a camera that clicks the car number. People who haven’t sped up, they get a chance to enter the lottery. And the lottery money was pooled from the people who violated speed. 20% decrease in peoples behavior.


  • Gamification can Motivate
  • Applications in many domains
  • Encompasses many techniques

Gamification in Context

Gamification is NOT

  • making everything a game. You are still on a website to buy a product, you are still in office for work. Find meaningful core of game experiences and make them more rewarding but not pull you out of real work.It is not about changing experience of McDonalds. It is about using a game to make people feel like they are more willing to come into store as they’ll be rewarded.
  • Gamification is NOT simulation. (Although they may constitute serious games)
  • Gamification is NOT just for marketing not just PBL (Points, Badges and Leaderboards)
  • Gamification is NOT game theory.

Gamification IS

  • Listening to what games can teach us.
  • Learnings from game design (and psychology, management, marketing, economics)
  • Appreciating fun.
Sebastian Deterding gamification explanation through matrix.

What is a Game

Every possible game can be defined using three concepts :

  • Pre-Lusory goal – Have a final goal on getting into the play.
  • Constitutive Rules – A set of rules or limitations that define the activity into a game.
  • Lusory Attitude – Game like attitude, player follows the rules and they do so voluntarily. The game means something. Voluntarily overcoming unnecessary obstacles.

Homo Ludens by J Huizinga says something about the magic circle. ⭕️ Game’s boundary separates it from the real world. It may be physical or a conceptual boundary.

Stats on Games

  • Gaming Industry : 66 Billion dollars worldwide.
  • Online game sales to surpass retail in 2013.
  • Virtual Goods : 7.3 billion dollar globally. (over 2 Billion dollar in the US)
  • 44% of people US/UK adults have played games on their smartphones.
  • Time Spent : xbox live – 120,000 million minutes/month, world of warcraft – 50,000 million minutes/month
  • 97% of kids play games. The average age of a gamer is 30 years old. 47% of all players are women.

Real World Building Blocks

People think that while talking about business, games do not hold a place.

  • E-Business 2.0 (Digital)
  • analytics, cloud, mobiles etc.
  • Social Networks and media (Digital)
  • Using social data to take advantage of in Businesses
  • Loyalty Programs (Non-digital)
  • Frequent Flyer miles. 2 billion reward program memberships in US. They provide foundation on how game mechanics have value and can be used in a business context.
  • Management and marketing research
  • Customer segmentation, customer analytics fit into gamification concepts.

Games and Real world

Why Gamify

Dodgeball was one of the first successful web client. Connects people who like to hang around at bars. If there are friends only then you will have an incentive to check in yourself. Classic – Chicken Egg problem.

Foursquare implemented gamification on the same idea. Some aspects of dodgeball are

  1. It had and engagement gap.
  2. Did not have a lot of variety. It was either do something or not do something. 1 choice.
  3. There was no progression. Once you connected with friends there was nothing more you could do.
  4. You have to make it a habit for users to check in. Dodgeball couldn’t make it a habit.

Foursquare an idea of Mayorship. Checked in most times ? You became mayor. sent notifications to friends that you became mayor, who you displaced as mayor. Badges, scores and titles. One act of checking in suddenly becomes more nuanced and meaningful.

Think like a game designer.

View your business problem, just as a game designer views the problem statement of games. Think like a game designer : resolve that you will always look at the problem as a game. An orientation towards the problem like a game. It is different from being a game designer and being a gamer.

Think about the participants of your products as Players. (customers, employees, community, target population).

  1. Players are the centre of the game.
  2. Players feel a sense of autonomy/control.
  3. Players Play.

💡 GOAL : Get your players playing. Keep them playing the game.

Design rules – On-boarding, Scaffolding, Pathways to mastery. Player journey should have a beginning, a midway and and end. Game allows user to reach a point where players feel a real sense of accomplishment.

  1. Guide : Here is what to do. Pick up these things and plant it there. “well done” reinforces that what you did was right !
  2. Highlighting : Where the buttons are
  3. Feedback : Continuous hand holding
  4. Limited options : Not all options can be done used initially
  5. Limited Obstacles : Not a lot of bad decisions can be made
  6. Impossible to fail : Not really easy to fail at level 0

If you are trying to encourage people to do something on the website. It should be balanced for everyone. Should not favour one group/individual over another.

What makes games engaging ?

Games are engaging simply because they are fun. What emotions are fun ?

  1. Winning
  2. Problem-solving
  3. Exploring (Discovering something new)
  4. Chilling out (Relaxing)
  5. Teamwork (Hard wired as species working together to achieve a goal)
  6. Recognition
  7. Triumphing (Similar to winning, but winning over someone else is more rewarding)
  8. Collecting (collecting specific things, assemble things)
  9. Surprise (Surprise factors are usually fun – Dopamine !!)
  10. Imagination (Day dreaming, making custom cars, guns etc)
  11. Sharing (Lending things to someone else)
  12. Role playing (we love playing character of another person)
  13. Customisation (Personal)
  14. Goofing off

Understanding Fun for game designers. Nicole Lazzaro’s 4 Keys : Hard, Easy, Serious, People


  • Fun can (and should be) designed – its not there naturally. It has to be designed.
  • Fun can be challenging !
  • Appeal to different kinds of fun !

Breaking Games Down

Tools that can extracted from all games (present similar elements that all games have). The pyramid of gamification elements

-Dynamics- (Most high level, conceptual elements/grammar of game)

Around these elements is the experience of the game. These elements also construct the aesthetics of the game.

Dynamics : Constraints, emotions, narrative, progression, relationships.

Mechanics : Processes that derive action forward. Challenges, chance, competition, cooperation, feedback, resource acquisition, rewards, transactions, turns, win states.

Components : Specific instantiations of mechanics and dynamics. Achievements, avatars, badges, boss fights, collections, combat, gifting, leaderboards, levels, points, quests, social graph, teams, virtual goods.

💡 The PBL Triad : Points, Badges and Leaderboards.

Limitations of game elements : They are just a starting point but not everything that is necessary to make processes game like. Too much focus on PBK may be bad.

Gamification as Motivational Design

Things that motivate people : Wins, Promotions etc. But there are different reasons as well : May not be doing job just to earn money. They love doing their job. Motivation to engage in sports : As it is pleasurable.

Two major traditions in psychology : Behaviorism, Cognitivism. Behaviorism talks about looking at behaviors. Cognitivism talks bout mental states(what’s going inside people’s head)

Behaviourism talks about influencing behaviour by outside stimulus. Behaviour becomes associated with stimulus. Classic example Pavlov’s Dog. Classical conditioning. More recent is operand conditioning. Behaviour has consequences. Taking an action may lead to a good benefit or might lead to bad consequence. You see consequences of your behaviour and learn from it.

People make “mistakes” consistently.

  • Loss aversion : People tend to prevent losses than think about gains.
  • Power of defaults : People conform to defaults. Defaults are generally thought about as normal.
  • Confirmation bias : People tend to see what they are looking for.

Behaviourism in Gamification

Watch what people do. Cognitive Evaluation Theory – Rewards can be

  • Tangible/intangible
  • Expected/Unexpected
  • Contingency
  • Task non-contingent
  • Engagement-contingent
  • Completion-contingent
  • Performance-contingent

Reward Schedules

Continuous reward – Whenever the activity happens you get that reward. FixedRatio rewards – Every nth time you get the award. Fixed Interval reward – Reward based on time like reward comes every 3 units of time. Variable reward – No fixed schedule.

Variability — Competitive/non-competitive. Certain/Uncertain

Blind spots of behaviourism. Why do people slow down when they see the sign. Is the person becoming aware is enough to slow people down ? Is there a feedback in the mind that person might get punished ?

Manipulation – These are systems that can make people do things that might not be correct.

Better is Cognitivism. What actually goes into the black box, that makes people do things. Different kinds of motivations and different kinds of rewards.

Intrinsic Rewards : Just because you want to you do things. I like job so much, I do it for free. Varies for everyone. Its just the thing that gives me pleasure.

Extrinsic Rewards : Money, Fame and fortune, as a favour. Always about award not about the activity itself.

SAPS Framework

  • Status : The fact that we do something makes me cool. Having better credit cards, better points on leaderboard.
  • Access : Having access to things that other people do not have. Answering a lot of queries might get you into a moderator room.
  • Power : Having enough points, may give you ability to modify posts, create topics which other people cannot do. Power in the structure.
  • Stuff : Actual Tangible rewards.

This is a hierarchy. Its more important for companies to grant things that are higher up. Like status – easier to give and more profitable. Also the list is ranked on what is the preference of people. Might not be always true and might not always be your focus group.

Over-justification Effect

The reward substitutes for the intrinsic motivation. Studies confirm that incentivising always may actually be a negative stimulant and people may not want to do activities for rewards.

Parents were taken a late fee if they picked up children late. They started getting more late and paying dues because they felt being late is now a transaction worth money.

These studies are mostly related to creative tasks. Like drawing, creating some value etc. Types of rewards do matter. Over justification is more influenced by tangible rewards than performance contingent rewards.

Self Determination Theory

The Motivational Spectrum

What does it take to make something intrinsically motivation ?

Competence ——— Autonomy ——— Relatedness

I have some skills to solve problems —— I have the power to take decisions ——— Activity is related to something beyond yourself (maybe company/team)


SST View All →

A graduate from BITS Pilani, class of 2019, I am currently working as a Product Manager at Flipkart. I like to write about things that get stuck in my head. By writing I make sure everyone knows what absurd thoughts I have :P Thanks for visiting.

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