Game Mechanics & Game Dynamics: Gamification 101

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Gamification is the integration of game mechanics into what can otherwise be considered as non-game activities such as your website, marketing, services, community, content or campaign, in order to drive true engagement and participation.

Article Index:

  1. Participation and Engagement

  2. The Marketing Value of Gamification

  3. Game Mechanics & Game Dynamics

  4. Points

  5. Levels

  6. Challenges

  7. Reward

  8. Status

  9. Achievement

  10. Competition

  11. Trophies and Badges

We all have reasons why we do or do not want to do certain things. Gamification is built with these drivers woven into the experience it’s providing. This Human-Focused Design optimises the user’s overall input, through fulfilling their feelings, motivations, and purpose as the basic foundation for designing the overall system as well as its functions.

Gamification is an important and powerful strategy for influencing and motivating groups of people. Corporate, Marketing and Educational Industries are all starting to tap into the potential power it has to improve customer/user engagement, build brand loyalty, and incentivise employees to perform at higher levels.

Participation and Engagement

This is the overall purpose of gamification being implemented into any task or activity in the first place. To encourage Participation and Engagement through sharing and interacting in an activity or community. This is achieved by offering a uniquely motivating experience, one which can be used to guide users towards the desired goal.

Why Games?

Games have existed within communities since the dawn of time. Games have always been naturally linked to the human condition, as competition, reward and entertainment are deeply ingrained in the human psyche. Looking at today’s technology landscape, we find that people today have ample amounts of free time along with instant access to multiple forms of entertainment. As a result, gaming has become a hugely popular and tremendously profitable industry, pulling in approximately $60 billion a year in sales.

Given this wide acceptance of gaming that has been paralleled with the emergence of the internet, people have become more open to game mechanics in other parts of their lives as well. Gamification has as a result, become a powerful tool to truly get a message across, persuade potential customers, and motivate users. We have seen numerous examples of this through eLearning systems, fitness apps, loyalty cards, branded mini-games and user profile portals.

The Marketing Value of Gamification

The long-term goal of marketing is to fully optimise the value of your customer base. Through Gamification's objective to associate a brand with reward, it can motivate more users to interact with a site, or enter a store location. As a result, this increases the customer's value to a company.

This is a more enhanced version of the traditional "marketing funnel" structure, as it condenses the customer journey (first contact, product consideration, purchase) to a smaller window of time. 

Driving engagement and loyalty

While loyalty programs have been around for some time, the internet age has somewhat removed the appeal these programs once had over customers. They will always have a place and value to an extent, yet the competitive advantage of point system loyalty programs has been washed out due to the connectedness and global commerce that the internet can provide savvy customers.

Loyalty systems seem to not so much be going extinct but rather evolving, as deeper customer engagement seems to be the key focus at this point. The inclusion of more intrinsic motivators by the way of game mechanics & dynamics is how this is achieved.

Game Mechanics & Game Dynamics

While these two terms are closely related and have been known to be used interchangeably, the truth is they are unique properties that work in tandem with each other. To bring some clarity around the difference in these terms, game mechanics are the various actions, behaviours, and control mechanisms that are used to “gamify” an activity — when combined, they create a compelling and engaging user experience.

The addition of game mechanics to a task, site, app, etc, allows you to layer compelling user experiences into existing activities. These gamified activities satisfy basic human desires, creating the addictive user experiences that motivate users to take certain actions. The motivational nature of the gamified experience then results in the game dynamics that surround the interaction with the game mechanics as a by-product.

People have fundamental needs and desires — the desire for reward, status, achievement, self-expression, competition, and altruism among others. These needs are universal, and cross generations, demographics, cultures, and genders.

By wrapping the appropriate set of game mechanics around your website, application, or community, you can create an experience that drives behaviour by satisfying one or more of these human needs.

Game Mechanics


Points are measurable displays of accomplishment. Points help participants monitor their progress, both keeping score and establishing status. Points are awarded for completing activities, sharing, or contributing.


Levels are indicators that a user has reached a milestone. Levels are often defined as point thresholds so that users can automatically level up based on their participation, or use levels to indicate status and control access to content on the site.

Levels indicate that an individual has reached a point of achievement and progression that has elevated them into a more advanced ring of goals and objectives they are now deemed capable of achieving.

Levelling up is used to identify status within a community and to unlock new objectives, badges, activities, and rewards. Levels and goals help to map a user’s progression through a system. It can be as important to see where you can go next as it is to see where you have been.


Challenges help keep people interested, just when participants may feel like they have mastered all that there is to master, when interest is starting to drop off, that is when you test their knowledge and provoke them into applying it. Overcoming challenges will make people feel they have earned their achievement.

Gamification is all about user engagement and challenges are a way of making the process less robotic, forcing individuals to get off autopilot and actually get involved in what they’re doing.


One of the best ways to motivate a user into giving the task at hand, all that they’ve got, is to show them how they compare to others, as an individual or in a team. The use of leaderboards helps users see where they rank amongst others.

Leaderboards cultivate the social aspect of points and badges. The sense of competition that is built around a leaderboard, gives people a chance to prove themselves against others. It can be a way to win rewards, but can also be a place where new relationships are formed.

Game Dynamics


Rewards are viewed as a positive motivator that helps identify accomplishment. The reward structure of any game plays a significant role in its success. If you constantly throw points, badges, and rewards at your users then they won’t take them seriously. It will suddenly become easy, the rewards won’t feel special.

Gamification is geared towards encouraging users to carry out specific actions, rewards are an indicator of growth and progression, whether it be tangible or intangible. By rewarding users for carrying out specific behaviours you can motivate them to carry out your desired results.


The social aspect of Humans innately brings forth a desire for people to achieve and retain the respect of others, social status, and attention. All elements of game mechanics drive the status dynamic, but having achieved a higher level is the primary motivator.


A large percentage of people in the world are completionists. They have an in-built desire to achieve, to fully complete, and to accomplish something difficult that others have previously failed at through prolonged and repeated efforts, and ultimately to win.


Competition is often strongly tied to the rewards allocated, yet this isn't the only motivating factor. The status and achievement dynamics are well and truly interlaced within the competitive motivations of people.

We gain a certain amount of satisfaction by comparing our performance to that of others, resulting in higher levels of performance from users. 

All elements of game mechanics tap into this desire, but the use of leaderboards is central to display competitive results and celebrate winners.

Trophies and Badges

Badges are often used to identify skills and expertise within a group.

Once the participants have collected a certain number of points, they may be awarded badges. Badges are a form of virtual achievement by the participants. They provide positive reinforcement for the targeted behaviour. 

Unlike Leaderboards, that consistently update who is placed upon them. Badges are awarded to individuals as a landmark of their own personal achievements.

Badges have a social aspect to them, as we humans often crave outward recognition for our accomplishments; gamification understands this and utilises this driver within initiatives to get the most out of participants.


Gamification is a strategy for influencing and motivating the behaviour of targeted people.

The potential uses of gamification run deep and wide across a multitude of industries, companies, divisions within those companies, and individuals inside those divisions. 

Gamification can be applied across a broad spectrum of situations where individuals need to be motivated or incentivised to pursue specific actions or activities. If you’d like to know more about gamification and how it can benefit you, contact Gamify today.

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