Gamification for Dummies Pt. 1

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Being able to use games to influence favorable customer behavior is a skill unto itself. Welcome to Gamification for Dummies.

In one form or another, everybody likes playing games, this is because there are rules and structures in place that tell you whether or not you are reaching your objectives. This is why true Gamification is structurally built around;


The specific outcome users are working towards. The goal provides users with a sense of purpose.


Rules place a limitation on how users can achieve the goal. Limitations unleash creative ways of thinking, fixing a problem or achieving a goal.

Feedback systems

These tell users how close they are to achieving their goal. They can take the form of multiple game mechanics such as points, levels, progress bars, etc.

Voluntary participation

This requires everyone who is using the system to acknowledge the goal, the rules and the feedback systems, in order to buy-in to the experience.

It’s estimated that globally, 3 billion hours a week is dedicated to playing video games. While some may view video games as an escape, the truth is that reality, unfortunately, falls short in providing some of the feedback systems these virtual worlds can provide. These feedback systems link directly into human fulfilment centres that are otherwise left unfulfilled.

Currently, a lot of games are providing rewards that reality isn’t. They are teaching, inspiring and engaging us in ways that reality is not. And unless we do something dramatic in the next few decades, approximately half of the global population will be dedicating a majority of their energy and devotion to these virtual worlds. Successful gamification programs take the mechanics and dynamics out of games and integrate them into non-game areas of life to reward and motivate people into achievement and desired behaviors.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is the process of integrating game mechanics into a pre-existing system, product or service in order to motivate users to achieve a task.

Gamification is performing at its peak when it taps into principles of motivational science to transform tasks into an engaging experience. When you gamify high-value interactions with customers, employees, and partners, you drive more sales, stronger collaboration, better ROI, deeper loyalty, higher customer satisfaction and more.

Getting the basics of Gamification down

What most people who try to implement gamification into a process get wrong, is that it’s not about the surface level components such as points or badges but about the grind and the effort, you put in with an established goal and the progress/reward system in place.

Gamification isn’t a distraction from a task but is rather a tool to help gain traction within the task. Have you ever had to write an essay only to find yourself staring at the blank page wondering where to start, how to structure your essay, and what points to hit?

Now consider a questionnaire on the same topic, each question outlining a specific area within the subject with a word count total that matches the original essay, somehow it becomes a whole lot easier to take down right?

Gamification looks to give you the structures needed to dive into a task. Much like the questionnaire example, gamification helps you to get the ball rolling on tasks that otherwise tend to get pushed aside by making the progress more trackable and achievable.

This is why gamification is an innovative business strategy, as the pile of work you have been ignoring at the office suddenly becomes a lot easier to take down when you incorporate gamification at work. Having a system in place that encourages competition, tracks the progress of tasks, and provides clearly defined goals & rewards suddenly makes the tasks more approachable.

Gamification makes progressing through hard work joyous

Contrary to popular belief people enjoy hard work, they enjoy the release of endorphins that comes with achievement, knowing they are succeeding and bettering themselves. It’s the first steps that are the hardest when doing a task, as there are no motivators to keep you on the path.

Gamification helps track user progress and provides prompts for users to complete the tasks they are on, whether it be a fitness tracker that helps record and encourage a user that hopes to achieve a certain level of fitness or an eLearning platform that documents the quality & quantity of study a user has put into an eLearning course.

Gamification helps people to see beyond the short-term to achieve greater results. Most of us are guilty of choosing instant gratification over long-term goals, for example, you may want to eat healthier but knowing it’ll take more effort than ordering fast food can revert you into taking the quicker and easier option over the more beneficial long-term option.

Gamification helps provide morsels of immediate results to a long-term goal. While it may not be a quick fix, the instant feedback and progress reports help users to cultivate emotional investment in a goal that will not be as easy and as instantaneous as other less-than beneficial alternative options out there.

In the wise words of Mary Poppins, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and - SNAP - the job's a game.” 

Gamification is an opportunity to focus our energy on something better, on something that will make us better, on something that we are good at or getting better at and truly enjoy.

“The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression” — Brian Sutton-Smith, Psychologist.

That’s why so many games are addictive because they are able to boost our positive thinking that we are capable of doing and achieving something. When we’re in a state of cheerful engagement, biologically we begin to think positive thoughts towards our own capabilities. We increase our self-worth and we begin to truly believe that we can achieve something in life. This is why Gamification is essential for many in order to achieve goals.

Intrinsic Motivators

An Intrinsic Motivator is a personal desire to continue mastering and exploring a task, which gamification facilitates. Intrinsic Motivators are rarely explicitly stated, but rather come as a result of the consequences of experimenting with and realising the depth of a system. Intrinsic Motivators are thus often quiet delights and secret joys, but they are rarely expressible as a single known quantity.

Users following Intrinsic Motivators are often engaged with an experience, feeling like they are participating in something worthwhile and uplifting. Often this is closely twinned with creative urges, and so Intrinsically Motivated users could be described as enchanted (positive engagement) rather than retained (negative engagement). They are also the most likely to be a user that evangelises their gamification story.

Extrinsic Motivators

An Extrinsic Motivator is any possible known outcome which motivates the use of a gamified system. Extrinsic Motivators might be internal or external to the experience (called rewards and prizes respectively) such as an award or cash. Extrinsic Motivators can be strong drivers of use but at the expense of creative problem-solving. Users in search of Extrinsic Motivators will often engage in mechanical & habitual gamification use, and so Extrinsic Motivators usually lead to retention (negative engagement) rather than enchantment (positive engagement).

The key is to create a gasified system that strikes a balance of the two forms of motivators. Whether it be building a marketing campaign, business process, workout device or eLearning pathway, the use of Game Mechanics is what helps weave both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

This is the first article of a two-part series, which has explained an overview of Gamification and its purpose. If you would like to know more about Gamification, I highly encourage you to read part two.

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