Gamification for Dummies Pt. 2

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Welcome back for Part 2 of Gamification for Dummies, where we will continue on with some of the structural elements that make up a strong gamification system.

What Is Gamification?

Before we press on to a list of examples and gamification building blocks, let’s backtrack a second to fill in those late comers as to what gamification is. The elevator explanation of gamification is, the process of the addition of game-like elements into non-game environments, like a website, online community, fitness app, learning management system, marketing strategy or user profile to increase participation. The goal of gamification is to engage with consumers, employees and partners to inspire collaborate, share and interact with a process more thoroughly.

One of the most basic forms of gamification is the act of simply getting a stamp every time you buy a coffee from your local cafe. The simple progress system that gives the card owner instant feedback on their activity as well as an update as to how far off they are from receiving a free coffee as a reward for their loyalty. It’s almost as if completing a level and getting a reward.

With the rise of gamification use across several industries, the border between real life and gaming has blurred somewhat. Gamification’s ability to make real-life actions more game-like only serves to draw more engagement from users. You may have already seen examples of this in your daily life through fitness, banking and social media apps as a way of you completing tasks and prompts.

The point of gamification is to appeal to or exploit our natural affinity for achievement, competition and showing off. Games are fun because they incorporate these elements that our brains really are quite receptive too, so it's hardly a surprise that people, places and things have utilised these findings in order to help users make things that seem more mundane feel more game-like.

Gamification examples

If you’re feeling like Gamification is a little too gimmicky for your taste, if you’re wondering who really utilises gamification anyway, well, it turns out that almost everyone does in fact utilise gamification to some varying degree. In fact, 50% of startups polled said they were integrating gaming elements into their strategy this year. This goes beyond startups though, with many reputable companies have researched and acknowledged the potential behind gamification, brands such as;


McDonalds has been implementing gamification within their annual McDonalds Monopoly competition for decades now. Before technology could even catch up to optimise the process, McDonalds had been utilising game mechanics & dynamics in order to encourage customers to make repeat purchases, upgrade their meal options, and increase the amount of times they visit a McDonalds, all so that they can potentially have the chance at winning one of many big ticket prizes.

This example was so effective from initial launch that what was supposed to by a one-off marketing initiative has turned into an annual event at their stores.


If the easy accessibility to rides and meals from Uber wasn’t already enough, Uber has now implemented Uber Rewards. A loyalty program that allows for users to earn points for every eligible dollar spent with either Uber or Uber Eats. These points then go towards unlock able rewards & benefits.

With tiered member rankings ranging from Blue, Gold, Platinum and Diamond, Uber users can see within their app where they sit within the ranking system and how far off they are from reaching the next tier of benefits and status. This is a perfect example of both incentive structures and loss aversion working in tandem with each other, as the ability to lose status is also a possibility that motivates users to continue diligently using Uber’s services.


Nike’s running app, Nike+ is one of the biggest standout examples of a gamified product.

An app that is built around tracking and motivating users on their run progress was always going to be a success, especially from such a reputable brand. It taps into our natural competitive spirit, tracking user’s running statistics and measures their progress towards goals. It compels users to go out and beat out their own personal bests, while also providing a social aspect to the app that facilitates recognition in achievement and another stream of competition.

The advantage for Nike is that the app gets more people out and running which simultaneously builds positive brand association for users that are making positive life choices while also driving Nike sales due to encouraged wear and tear on runners.


It has always been the goal of the founders of Duolingo to create the very best language learning experience in the world. How they set out to achieve that goal is by identifying the problems people wanting to learn a new language face, and they are; a) Self-motivation & b) Knowledge retention.

Duolingo then after much research and AB testing formulated a four-point gamification strategy;

  1. Enable users to set personal daily goals

  2. Regularly motivate users to continue adding to their progress with visual aids

  3. Notifications and streak updates to encourage return usage

  4. Introduce in-game currency as rewards for user progress

The app approaches language learning with multiple choice questions and mapped out stages to keep users interested. You can also set goals, pick up badges, and earn points to buy power-ups along the way.

Game Mechanics

So we’ve covered a general overview of what Gamification is and what its purpose is, now lets take a look under the hood at the structures and details that make for a strong Gamification structure.

Gamification is built upon Game Mechanics, which is proven to motivate and engage users. Whilst a sole reliance upon Game Mechanics is not enough to ensure a fully engaging experience, they are paramount within an initiative, if it’s to be seen as Gamification at all.

Using any combination of the following game mechanics, sets a precedent for a successful gamification initiative, 10 prime examples of Game Mechanics are as follows;

1. Meaning & Purpose

The simple use of narrative in the lead up to a task, helps draw in the participants and creates a sense of direction and purpose moving forward with whatever task has been Gamified. An example of this can be found within the area of Gamified health. The fitness app Zombie Run, uses story to motivate the participants to run faster and longer, creating a world in which zombies are pursuing them. The activity helps distract participants from the otherwise monotonous task of jogging (sometimes you just need to “run for your life” in order to run).

Some people just need to understand the meaning or the purpose of what they are doing. For others they need to feel they are part of something greater than themselves. Whether you have a full-scale story or just a simple notification before beginning a Gamified initiative, that can be the difference between a task being a chore or an experience.

2. Leaderboards

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 time-based, team and individualised 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.

3. Loss Aversion

No one likes to lose things. Fear of losing status, friends, points, achievements, possessions, progress, and so on, can be a powerful reason for people to maintain and move ahead with a task.

Think of it this way. What motivates you more, earning $5 or not losing $5? Did you feel that instinctual need to check your pockets? It’s funny how having something within your possession, gives you an unspoken responsibility to care for it.

When you start a game of FarmVille, you’re gifted with a piece of digital farmland, filled with crops and livestock. The sense that you must care for your land and all that is within it has managed to keep some players still to this day logging on to Facebook, to see how they’re progressing.

4. Feedback

When participants in a Gamified initiative are regularly notified of goals and achievements, this feedback allows for them to feel a sense of progression, which then encourages participants to lean in to the progressive momentum and achieve further results.

Progress and feedback come in many different forms for many different user types, particularly as they all need some sort of measure of progress or feedback, however, some types work better than others. A few examples include, onscreen notifications, text messages, word of mouth or emails. Feedback can be used to congratulate a user for reaching a goal, encourage the next step to a milestone or promote a new reward.

5. Badges

An indicator of accomplishment or mastery of a skill is especially meaningful within a community that understands its value. Badges are often used to identify skills and expertise within a group.

Once the participants have accumulated a certain number of points, they may be awarded badges. Badges are a form of virtual achievement for the participants. They provide positive reinforcement for the targeted behaviour. Unlike Leaderboards, that are consistently updated, badges are awarded to individuals as a landmark of their own personal achievements. A physical reminder of what one has accomplished, badges address the motivational driver of collection and achievement.

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.

6. Points

If Badges are landmarks in accomplishment, then Points are the pathway unto those landmarks. Points are tangible, measurable evidence of accomplishment.

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

Points are the granular units of measurement in Gamification. They are single count metrics. This is the way the system keeps count of the player's actions pertaining to the targeted behaviours in the overall Gamification strategy.

7. Levelling Up

Creating tiers of achievement, helps build an overall sense of where a participant sits within a line of progression. By having levels in place, you’ve created an indicator of long-term or sustained achievement for participants in an initiative. 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 users 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.

8. Goals

Goals are the objectives that points, badges and challenges all stem from. The direction of the narrative will lead participants to pursue these goals and, as a result, unlock rewards and recognition.

Missions or challenges give users a purpose for interaction, and educate users about what is valued and possible within the experience.

Goals are a powerful Game Mechanic to motivate people to action. If the narrative gives a sense of purpose, then goals give a sense of direction. Goals are most effective when they lead individuals to believe they are working to achieve something great, something awe-inspiring, and something bigger than themselves.

Challenges help keep people interested, testing their knowledge and allowing them to apply it. Overcoming challenges will make people feel they have earned their achievement.

9. Social Network

When you think of Game Mechanics, and just games in general, you think of the social aspect that comes with engaging in an activity. Having a community within a Gamified initiative is where it will derive its meaning for goals, badges, competitions, and other mechanics. We are social beings and relationships have a powerful effect on how we feel and what we do.

Having an opportunity to share participant achievements creates energy. Others learn about goals, badges, and rewards that they may want to pursue. Status can lead to greater visibility for people, creating opportunities to form new relationships. You can also make use of feedback mechanics such as leaderboards and certificates.

10. Challenges

Challenges help keep people interested - just when participants may feel like they have mastered all that there is to master, and interest begins 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.

Keeping individuals on their toes with strategically placed challenges means the longevity of participant attention goes further than if it were simply left in the hands of the originally outlined goals. 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.


If gaining virtual XP points will help you lose weight or save you money on your next trip, imagine what other tasks you can be motivated into accomplishing with the assistance of gamification.

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