Gamify's Review on Brian Burke's Book on Gamification

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Being both avid readers and big believers in Gamification enhancing menial tasks, of course we had to read Brian Burke’s “Gamify - How gamification motivates people to do extraordinary things”, I mean, his book title is our name how could we not?

After completing the book, my initial assessment is that it’s a digestible read with some big ideas that are easy-to-follow. There’s nothing worse than a lengthy piece of comprehension that is awash with unnecessary jargon and complexities in an effort to make the material or writer seem more sophisticated.

Brian Burke, with his employment at the global research and advisory firm, Gartner, Inc. Could have well and truly taken the route of spewing out study figures and insights until the reader is inundated with data, but instead Burke has opted for more of a personal and human approach in order to have the reader truly connect with the points being conveyed. It’s rather evident that Burke has something important to say and he wants to make sure that the reader truly grasps the weight of what he is saying.

Gamify is a quick 162 page read that is broken up into two main parts;

  • The Value of Gamification

  • Designing a Gamified Player Experience

Both parts of the book are broken-down into 5 chapters that span roughly between 10 to 15 pages each, meaning every topic is succinct and to the point.

The first part of the book sheds light on the importance of gamification and how its true value is found in an age where organisations are facing an engagement crisis, while the second part provides practical steps in how to structure and incorporate gamified initiatives into any organisation.

Burke builds on his experience as an industry analyst in the field of information technology for enterprises, where he covered everything from enterprise architecture to gamification. In the book he gives his view of what gamification is really about, what’s the right way to go about it, and some of the common mistakes to avoid when trying to implement gamification mechanics.

As Burke’s 2012 Gartner report on the topic of Gamification was on the money when it came to forecasting the present landscape of Gamification initiatives, it became clear that Burke would become a leading authority when it comes to breaking-down the inner-workings of Gamification into layman’s terms.

Gamification is intentional

As with many new technological trends within organisations, gamification is often misunderstood or overhyped. The key to seeing real change within Gamification initiatives is by understanding that proper use does not mean turning work processes into video games. What gamification can accomplish, is to motivate people to change their behaviours or to develop their skills, and drive innovation.

In the first part of the book, Burke talks about how many employers think that gamification is about making work fun, or alternatively, about making employees more productive. In his eyes, all these attitudes are wrong. What gamification is really about is motivating players to achieve their goals. To put it in his words:

“If the player’s goals are aligned with the organisation’s goals, then the organisational goals will be realised as a consequence of the player achieving their goals”.

While this may sound like a standard reward program, there are some major distinctions to point out. While games aim to entertain the users and reward programs aim to compensate the users, gamification aims to motivate. As Burke states, another interesting way to look at this difference is by examining the role of money in the respective processes. While both reward programs and games include a transaction of money (you either pay for games or get a reward for performance or loyalty), gamification doesn’t include any such transaction. The organisation paying for the service and the user have similar goals.

Three Elements of Motivation

Within Gamify, Burke addresses Gamification’s success being rooted in three motivational elements. These motivators avoid extrinsic values such as monetary rewards but rather tap into intrinsic values, such as social and self-esteem building rewards.

These motivators are;

Autonomy: People can choose whether they want to opt in or not and then make their own choices as they proceed through the game.

Mastery: As players master the game, they receive constant positive feedback, motivating them to try even harder. This moves the player past a traditional evidence-based rewards program and into the realm of the emotional checkmate.

Purpose: Unlike typical games, gamification has an overriding purpose. “Gamification engages players on an emotional level to help them achieve a goal that is meaningful to them.” writes Burke.

Catering to the right audience

Burke provides three audiences that gamified solutions should be targeted towards; Employees, Customers and Communities of interest, along with many examples as he illustrates the wide variety of situations in which gamification can be used. In the second half of the book, Burke offers a detailed, step-by-step process for gamification, starting with defining the business outcomes and success metrics, through to testing and iteration.


By the end of Gamify, the reader has gained an understanding of why gamification is so valuable and how they can practically incorporate it into their organisations. Burke then reiterates in his closing statements that, “We have always been motivated by the same things. What has changed is the world we live in, and how we interact with it”.

In an age when technology has advanced man’s reach and connectivity, it only seems fitting that Gamification becomes more prevalent as time marches on. Burke notes, “Gamification is not new. Game mechanics and design have been used to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals throughout recorded history. Gamification is about rethinking motivation in a world where we are more often connected digitally than physically.”

For anyone who wants a more in-depth look at Gamification, the team here at Gamify highly recommend you read Brian Burke’s “Gamify”. For a more immediate understanding of Gamification, checkout

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