7 Gamification mistakes and how to avoid them

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Unfortunately, gamification isn’t as simple as throwing some game mechanics at a task and hoping for the best. It is becoming abundantly clear that there are some glaring gamification mistakes that even the biggest companies are making right now.

The 7 Gamification mistakes in this article include:

  1. Prioritising Rewards over Results

  2. Complicated Game Mechanics

  3. Inspiring too much Competition

  4. Lacking Aesthetic Appeal

  5. Allocating the Wrong Rewards for the Task

  6. Applying Short-Term Strategies to Long-Term Problems

  7. Having no defined Strategy in Place

Effective gamification requires careful research and clear learning objectives. Engagement and entertainment are just part of the equation.

In this post, we are going to show you the 7 most common mistakes made during the process of creating a gamified experience, so you can be aware of and avoid them at all costs.

1. Prioritising Rewards over Results

Quite often, here at Gamify, we’ll find a lot of clients get caught up in the excitement of planning a gamification campaign that they often get lost in the details and forget the overarching purpose of the entire initiative.

Rewards are not the centrepiece of your gamification strategy. They are merely there as one of many motivators to help your users achieve the desired outcome. One of the most common gamification mistakes is placing rewards above results.

Badges, points and rewards are simple game mechanics

that are used to motivate and improve user morale along the journey. For this reason, you need to start with clear campaign objectives and then determine how game mechanics fit into the picture, not the other way around.

When you advertise a very attractive reward, people will do whatever it takes to win (even cheat), so instead of the “achievement” being the most important factor, the prize itself becomes the main focus.

2. Complicated Game Mechanics

Since the primary purpose of gamification is to achieve desired outcomes through a designated pathway, game mechanics should be simple and straightforward. You don’t want to complicate matters with point systems that are hard to comprehend or leaderboards that involve a complex set of rules and criteria.

Keep it as basic as possible so that users know how to earn the rewards and why they’re important. Gamification doesn’t need to be complicated in order for it to work, in fact, gamification experts have advocated for the simplicity of gamification.

Gamification is designed to increase engagement and desired results if your game mechanics are getting in the way and hindering the outcome you may need to look at how you can simplify the process.

3. Inspiring too much Competition

Like most things in this world, balance is the key and in the example of your gamification initiative, if it inspires too much or not enough competition, you simply will not get the desired results you hoped for.

There’s only so much competition that a user can take before they get discouraged or disengage from your campaign. Friendly competition can fuel users to perform at their best, but you can’t push the limits too far by making them feel uncomfortable or alienated.

This occurs mostly when a game design has no real cap on what is achievable. For example, if there is no certain amount of right answers or no time-limit in place. Certain users can far excel beyond the other competitors. While this may sound like a positive, all those users that are left in the wake of their superior competition may lose interest and disengage.

Of course, competition can add excitement, but it can also divert people’s attention from the main point. If suddenly everyone is preoccupied with reaching the top of the leaderboard they might not pay attention or care at all about engaging with the content.

Competition is often strongly tied to the rewards allocated. As mentioned earlier, sometimes the rewards can be too grand, resulting in competition that is blinded by the messaging and fixated on the prize, this can be treated through smaller rewards and more of them.

4. Lacking Aesthetic Appeal

It seems strange that I even have to talk about this but a surprising amount of people create gamified initiatives that are hard just to look at. Their game mechanics and objectives are all well planned and laid out, yet unfortunately, sometimes it comes at the cost of the game not being visually appealing, when it should not and does not have to be the case.

Your gamified experience needs to grab the users’ attention and reflect the subject matter, not to mention your brand image.

Templates, Themes, Sounds, Sprite sheets, Icons and other designs elements, all need to be laboured over and not just be an afterthought. This might sound overwhelming but the details really do carry a lot of weight in whether or not a campaign is successful. Fortunately, Gamify offers you options in both onboarding users in our software or having our team create an entire gamification campaign on your behalf.

Remember, every image, character, and multimedia element should convey the core theme.

5. Allocating the Wrong Rewards for the Task

Wow, it seems like rewards are a root issue for a lot of gamification pitfalls. In this case, choosing the wrong reward is on par with putting rewards above results.

If you’ve given the users a challenge that requires them to really rollup their sleeves, only to meet them with an underwhelming reward, be prepared for a mass exodus. Likewise, if you give the users an easily accomplished task and offer a reward that far exceeds the task’s value, you will have the results mentioned earlier regarding negative competitive outcomes.

For gamification to work, your reward process needs to be effective, as this is what keeps your users engaged and motivated. It may be worth asking your customers what kinds of rewards they would like to have; their answers may surprise you.

6. Applying Short-Term Strategies to Long-Term Problems

Often we’ll find that clients will approach us with a problem they want to solve through a gamification campaign, however, what they want out of the campaign often doesn’t align as an effective solution to their original problem.

One of the biggest mistakes in applying gamification to address long-term behaviour change is that people often use short-term gamification solutions.

Re-shape your approach to gamification, think of it as a program rather than a stand-alone project. Implementing long-term gamification can be achieved through strategy and thorough planning, variable-interval rewards, and adding new elements over time.

Plan, think out an in-depth strategic design and ensure your rewards are carefully considered and well-integrated.

7. Having no defined Strategy in Place

Gamification works best when it is married to a preexisting strategy or campaign. If there is no predetermined strategy or even worse a preexisting strategy that is showing no real value. You run the risk of having a gamification campaign that has no defined course in which to run, floating aimlessly in the hopes of reaching open-ended goals such as “increase sales”.

A gamification effort needs to be carefully combined with an understanding of the overall goals. You need to map out events, efforts and behaviours to specific rewards, not just to the overall goal of “selling more”. Enabling internal goals or milestones like, "the ratio of data entries to next step activity", will put you on a defined course and will eventually lead to larger goals.

An organisation needs to clearly have identified steps and activities that lead to success before going off and half-heartedly gamifying a campaign. The organisation needs to set clear goals, milestones and trigger events and then weave the gamification solution into the comprehensive effort.

Gamification is not new it has been for some time now, there are many case studies, books, examples, and best practices you can reference to ensure your success. Take time to do your homework so that you can strategise first and then work on the gamification second.



These gamification mistakes can really hurt a campaign, so be sure to avoid these pitfalls and create a winning gamification strategy that suits both your brand and the user.

For further reading to help you understand and plan out a gamification campaign, check out What are Game Mechanics?, 10 things to consider before you commission a game & 8 Pillars Of Successful Marketing Campaigns.

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