7 More Gamification Mistakes To Avoid

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Gamification, when approached without any prior knowledge or research can lead to flawed decision-making and disastrous outcomes. Underestimating the value of all the elements that make up an effective gamification initiative is what produces errors and poor results.

In this post, we are going to show you 7 more of the 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. Too many rewards

Rewards are viewed as a positive motivator that helps identify accomplishment, this is a good thing, yet, too much of a good thing can become bad. If users are being rewarded for every little action the clarity and weight of the rewards system become null and void, resulting in users losing interest.

Gamification is geared towards encouraging users to carry out specific actions and specific rewards are an indicator of growth and progression – if users are being rewarded for everything, the gamification pathways and direction becomes muddied, the objectives and intention for the user are unclear.

The best way to avoid this issue is by keeping both the objectives and rewards simple. Choose two or three actions that you want your users to carry out. By rewarding users for carrying out these specific behaviours you can motivate them to do exactly what you want.

2. Overlooking social integration

Whether you’re conducting an engaging initiative for gamified learning, stirring up some friendly competition in the office or marketing a product to consumers, if you’re not offering a social component to your initiative then you are greatly reducing potential numbers of both participation and engagement.

Effective gamification solutions do not confine themself to one point of contact. In fact, it flourishes under the possibilities of social sharing, chatrooms, social media groups and so on. As social creatures, if we do not have the ability to display our achievements, communicate or be a part of a community, the motivation may be lacking in our actions.

It’s for this reason that social components being integrated into an initiative are an important enhancer to the overall results of the initiative.

3. Unclear user objectives

Unfortunately, far too many companies rush into the creation of a gamified initiative, only to completely bypass the planning and goals stage. Most former clients, manage to define what it is they hope to get out of a campaign and even how they intend to get there, but a large number of those clients need to be walked through what the user’s objectives are and how to clearly communicate them.

Defining both the criteria and the expectations is a must, in order to give users a seamless experience. A lot of people that have never tried gamification before, try to jump into it using complex techniques and features. This can easily confuse, and overwhelm users, which results in poor final numbers and clients feeling that gamification is ineffective. Do not fall into this trap, this may seem like a small detail but it carries great weight with it.

4. Hoping Gamification will solve a brand’s problems

This great expectation for gamification to eradicate a company of its preexisting problems, combined with a lack of knowledge as to how to best utilise gamification, almost always leads to disappointment. 

Gamification authority, Andrzej Marczewski, has some thoughts on the matter, “The biggest mistake is thinking that gamification alone will solve long-term issues within a service. If the root issue is not understood then gamification will often only add a novelty boost in activity.”

Andrzej then follows up with a solution, “you need to educate people about why they need to use a specific service first, then start to apply things that make that use feel rewarding and if possible, fun. But they have to understand the real value to them and the company first!”

5. Misuse of game mechanics

Points and Badges need to be informative to the user, full stop. There are motivational undertones present when users are able to visually track their progress, but don’t fall into the trap of trying to stretch game mechanics beyond their sole purpose.

A common Gamification mistake is over-simplifying the strategy to focus simply on points, badges and leaderboards, as there is a lot more to applying gamification than this.

For a gamification effort to be effective from a learning and motivational perspective, achievements must be earned and not given. Use achievements that reward the learner for a certain level of performance, not just for participation.

You’re not going to get people to do something they don’t want to do simply by giving them points and badges throughout their experience. You have to think of Gamification as a way of amplifying an existing signal. When you are creating your Gamification strategy, think about the challenge you are trying to overcome. Points and badges should be looked at as a way to recognise an achievement, not the reason for your users to do something.

6. No clear campaign goals

Without a clear plan in place, you will not be able to manage the game mechanics, keep the game alive, or make improvements to continuously update it. Gamification has had a long road to recovery, from the initial days of hype wherein over 80% of gamified initiatives fell flat. The reason for such high failure rates was and still is due to poor design, which is an outcome of having no clear campaign goals.

Campaign goals are the cornerstone on which the rest of the campaign is built upon. If you do not have defined goals in place, all other campaign efforts are in vain.

In order to have an effective gamification design, you must start with defining and having a clear understanding of what motivates your users and what your main goal is. Some examples could be to achieve higher engagement levels, change user behaviour, stimulate creativity or increase user loyalty just to name a few.

7. No user motivators

Gamification is not a passive form of marketing, it requires users to be engaged and motivated in order to participate and carry out the desired action. This is a higher risk form of marketing compared to most traditional means, yet it reaps a higher reward in both the immediate and long-term.

The hurdle of taking users from passive viewing to an interactive state is the first challenge your campaign needs to overcome, simply to initiate customer engagement. From there you need to be able to sustain user motivation.

A simple way to approach this challenge is by looking at the campaign from a users perspective and ask yourself, “What do I get out of this?”

The strength of your answer usually lies in there being multiple answers to the question, rather than just one.

If you can hit multiple pillars of Psychologist Martin Seligman’s PERMA model (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishments), chances are you will hook your users.


These gamification mistakes can really hurt a campaign, so 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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