Gamification II

Following are the notes I took in the Gamification class conducted by Prof. Kevin Werbach at The Wharton School

The Design Process

Design is a process of attacking problems. Its not always something that is used in creative pursuits (be it advertising, graphic, UI/UX etc) Design is a general approach to address challenges. Design thinking is

  • Purposive : It has goal.
  • Human Centred – It is the experience. A player is not a customer, user or a consumer. People are going to use the stuff, hence the experience needs to be seamlessly offered. Real people, real lives who encounter these design artefacts are going to be affected by it.
  • Balance of analytical and creative – Abductive reasoning : inference from best available explanation. Focusing on what we do when there is some data but not enough to judge what needs to be done.
  • Iterative – Prototyping and play testing. Design needs to evolve using feedback. Put in basic structural elements. People should play with these and give their feedbacks on the experience they want to feel within the rules.

6 steps of Design framework :

  1. DEFINE business objectives
  2. DELINEATE target behaviors
  3. DESCRIBE your players
  4. DEVISE activity loops
  5. DON’T forget the fun
  6. DEPLOY the appropriate tools

Define Business Objectives

For foursquare – Social sharing (making a habit of checking in) Influencer marketing. If you are the mayor of a place then you get exclusive coupons.

  • List and rank possible objectives
  • Eliminate means to ends
  • Justify Objectives

Eliminate Target Behaviour

  • Specific
  • Success metrics (“Win states”) : what metrics would tell you gamification project was a success.
  • Analytics : DAU/MAU, viral-ity, volume of activity

Describe Players

What do you know about players who will play the games or gamified activity. What kinds of things do they buy/like to do. Biggest things – WHAT MOTIVATES YOUR PLAYERS ?

Bartle MMOG Player Type Model (take it with a grain of salt)

Variations in behaviour and personality

Devise Activity Loops

Engagement Loops (Micro level) and Progression Loops (Macro level). Circular cycle of Motivation — Action — Feedback.

Engagement loops ultimately join to progression loops.

Difficulty variation to keep user interested

Fun and Tools

Although more abstract than some of the other elements, ensuring that gamified system is fun remains as important as the other aspects. In order to fully explore this aspect of the design process, consider how your game would function without any extrinsic rewards. Would you say it was fun? Identify which aspects of the game could continue to motivate players to participate even without rewards.

Two Approaches to Gamification

About doing or About Feeling

Is gamification right for me ? [Answer 4 basic questions]

  1. Motivation – where would you derive value from encouraging behaviour ?
  2. Meaningful choices – Are your target activities sufficiently interesting ?
  3. Structure – Can the desired behaviours be modelled through algorithms ?
  4. Potential Conflicts – Can the game avoid tension with other motivational structures ?

Case Study : Designing for Collective Good


Design For Happiness

Positive Psychology – Psychology is generally about pathology, what went wrong etc. Why don’t we look at what makes people happy and fulfilled. What makes people think they have flourishing happy lives. This is what positive psychology looks at. PERMA guidelines.

Sometimes we get involved in a flow where time loses its meaning and we feel that we are completely away from the normal world. What it takes to get into flow state ? It happens organically when an activity has certain characteristics.

Csikczentmihalyi’s Flow. Challenge ramps up as we move along but flow remains. Hence game designers need to think a lot about how the process can be tuned to keep flow intact. Conditions for Flow :

  • Clear Goals
  • Balance between perceived challenges and skills
  • Clear and immediate feedback

Applications of Gamification

Enterprise Application

Intranet Engagement, Extranet Engagement. Stack overflow like application of most useful contributors, leaderboards for engagement etc.

Call centres have Gamified portals for Productivity enhancement – Startup Arcaris. Ranks call centre executives are ranked with different levels based on evaluation criteria of customer service executives.

Gamified systems may sometimes be a tool to oppress call centre executives as well. hence be wary of pitfalls. Productivity vs Efficiency.

Extensively used in HR – Hiring, Onboarding, Acculturation – Culture of organisation (games can make people ease into new cultures), Corporate training, Employee recognition (Informal employee rewards), Travel and Entertainment (Google gives fixed amount to people which can be creatively used as a currency – donated, cashed out, accumulate etc)

Innovation in systems. Department for Work and Pensions in the UK gamified idea portal – a stock market like marketplace for ideas of people working in the organisation. People can bid on ideas etc.

Siemens has created a Serious game, a game around their manufacturing plant where people can try out ideas and run those simulations to see how manufacturing plant’s outputs are affected etc. Can incorporate practices that yield better results in real life.

Motivations Of People at Work

Most are extrinsic (Pay, Bonus, Stock Options, Praise, Promotions, Responsibility) — Compensation.

Beyond these external rewards, gamification has a real opportunity.

  1. Skill Development – Continuous Skill development can be gamified. L&D can be rewarded.
  2. Information – Feedback is usually delayed and people do not really have a view of how they are doing. Clueless. Objective logistics has created a gamified system to tell users how they did on various metrics.
  3. Corporate Citizenship – Microsoft got employees to debug stuff. (Happens inside Flipkart as well) Gamify bug bashing.
  4. Fun – (collaborative teamwork enhancement)

Citizenship Behaviours

  • Altruism
  • Conscientiousness
  • Civic Virtue
  • Courtesy
  • Sportsmanship

Where gamification and productivity go hand in hand (ross smith Microsoft)


“Taking the thing that is least essential to games and representing as the core of the experience.” — This is not the part of the game that motivates people to play. She goes on to say “Gamification is an inadvertent con. It tricks people into believing that there is a simple way to imbue their thing with the psychological, emotional and social power of a great game” : Margaret Robertson

Does it actually work ?

As a game designer, they are concerned whether if gamification reduces to pointsification then it won’t hold a lot of meaning in the long run.

If it gets reduced to pointsification then it upticks engagement initially but ultimately dies out.

“Gamification is the high fructose corn syrup of engagement” . — Kathy Sierra


Gamification is too effective psychologically and can be used to exploit game players. Ian bogost says Games make people believe that their jobs don’t such when they fundamentally do. Gamification proposes to replace real incentives with fictional ones. Real incentives come at a cost but provide value for both parties based on a relationship of trust.

Gaming the Game

Gamification may lead to situations which you never really intended to. Negative feedback can be used to cheat the system. Part of the game is players voluntarily accepting rules of the game. In a gamified system, its often easy for people to feel like its okay to bend the rules. Games with social elements have less of such incidents.


Sometimes, games may simulate things that go beyond the ethical values of human life. They might be fun for certain kind of people but the behavioural change they lead to can be questionable at many levels.

Beyond Gamification

Inducement Prizes

Inducement prizes are a motivational technique that’s got a great deal of attention in recent years. In 1919, Orteig promised a prize of $25,000 which was a lot of money at the time to the first person or team to successful fly nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris. Lindbergh was competing successfully as it turned out to win the Orteig prize. So, prizes are a way to either reward certain behaviour. We give out prizes like the Nobel Prize based on something that people have done in the past, but they can also be a way to induce behaviour, to encourage people to do something in the future.

What’s the benefit of giving an inducement prize?

  1. Efficiency : While people trying to fly non stop spent a cumulative of $400,000 on the projects, the prize was only of $25,000. Similarly
  2. Out of Box Solutions : Inducement prizes have encouraged interest and out of box thinking for solutions. By not specifying the means, just specifying the end, the objectives are able to sweep in great out of the box solutions. example : Exxon mobil Valdez oil tanker spill solution.

How are Inducement prizes and Gamification related ?

  • A contest to motivate a result
  • Fun ! Extrinsic rewards !
  • The SDT factors – Competence – Autonomy – Relatedness

Some popular inducement prize initiatives :

  • Private : X Prize foundation, Innocentive, Kaggle, Top Coder
  • Government (US) : OSTP initiative (Office of science & technology policy), America competes Act etc.

Virtual Economies

What happens when we add money, or things that work like money, to a gamified system? Then we’re in the realm of virtual economics.

If the system is designed in a way that gives them some scarcity value, some of them are harder to get than others. Some of them are less widely available than others. Then those virtual goods can appear to have value to the players, just like a real world physical good does.

The second way to bring in virtual economics, is to have point systems that involve points that are trade-able or redeemable.

Worldwide virtual asset market:

  • $7 billion in 2010
  • Nearly $13 billion in 2016
  • Loyalty Programs (Points to currency manifestation)

The issue with a lot of these virtual currencies though, as with many other examples of gamification, and many other examples of loyalty programs, is that they’re typically not built today with a focus on fun. If designed well, these systems can have the attributes of both gamification and economics.

Economics still works

  • Dynamics driven by scarcity, not money : The designer has to constantly balance, to ensure that there’s not too much money, which leads to inflation and effectively devalues the currency, or too little, in which case, it’s too hard to get
  • Faucets & Drains : Faucets are things that put money into the economy. And drains are things that take it out of the economy. – Remember “passing Go” in Monopoly



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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