What Game Mechanics are used in Gamification?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Gamification is built upon game mechanics, proven to motivate and engage users. While I know that sole reliance upon game mechanics is not enough to ensure a fully engaging experience, game mechanics in gamification is paramount within a campaign, if it’s to be seen as gamification at all.

Using the following game mechanics will set you up for successful gamification use, here are 10 prime examples of Game Mechanics;

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 “Zombies, Run!” uses story elements to motivate users to run faster and longer, creating a world in which zombies are pursuing them. 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 engaging user 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 individual 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, the fear of losing status, friends, points, achievements, possessions, progress etc, 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? 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 into the progressive momentum and achieve further results.

Progress and feedback come in many forms for many different user types, as they all need some sort of measure of progress or feedback, yet 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 or encourage the next steps towards a milestone.

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 gathered 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. A physical reminder of what one has accomplished. Badges address the motivating 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 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.

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 progress bars 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.

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.

Game goals are a powerful 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 greater 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 games, 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, 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.

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.


To learn more about brands that have applied gamification to their marketing, see a wide range of case studies here.

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