What is

What is

What is

Gamification with Dr Zachary Fitz Walter

Gamification with Dr Zachary Fitz Walter

Gamification with Dr Zachary Fitz Walter

Gamification is the addition of game elements to non-game activities

How Does Gamification Work?

How Does Gamification Work?

Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. It can also be defined as a set of activities and processes to solve problems by using or applying the characteristics of game elements.

Games and game-like elements have been used to Educate, Entertain and Engage for thousands of years. Some classic game elements are; Points, Badges, and Leaderboards.

Points are used as visual identifiers of progress in sports, reward cards and video games

Badges display achievement, whether from service in the military or a gold star on school report card

Leaderboards are used across sports, sales teams, and in general life to present competitive placement

For more information on these gamification fundamentals check out the 8 Core Human Drives Of Gamification. There are many different definitions for the term 'Gamification'. One of the most popular gamification definitions can be found in an academic paper from 2011 where gamification was defined as "the addition of game elements to non-game activities".

What's interesting is that gamification is not a new concept. While the term may have been coined in more recent times, the concept has existed in many areas of life for as long as civilisation has existed. If you remember watching Mary Poppins, she sums up gamification quite nicely with the quote "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and SNAP! the job's a game."

She was onto something here. Mary Poppins knew all the way back in the 1960s that anything could be turned into a fun activity by making it into a game. There were prominent examples of gamification existing even earlier than Mary Poppins however.

Back in the early 1900s, if you were a Boy Scout you could obtain real badges and ranks, a tradition that is still carried out today. However as video games started to take off, we saw educational video games then become popular in the 1970s and 80s. You may remember such games as 'Where in the World is Carmen San Diego', ‘Reader Rabbit' and 'Math Blaster’. These games were forms of entertainment that were built for serious purposes, to educate players.

Foursquare is an example of social gamification. If you checked into a location, you would receive points. Check in to a new location, you hadn't visited before and you would receive even more points. You could then compare the number of points you had on a leaderboard with friends and you could also receive badges for doing special things like checking in on a boat or checking in with more than 50 people in one place. 

If you checked into a place more than anyone else, you became the “Foursquare mayor” of that location. This user experience felt like a game, and it was a lot of fun to use. Foursquare became a popular example of an app increasing user engagement through loyalty program gamification. 

What's interesting, though, was that the game elements they used started to appear in many different other applications and websites. This may have contributed to these game elements becoming a popular way to add gamification.

These days we’re seeing more and more serious games in gamification, partly because video games have become mainstream and, as well, smartphones have made it incredibly easy to play games anywhere at any time.

Gamification Examples

Gamification Examples

Gamification has been widely applied in marketing. Forbes, in 2013 estimated that over 70% of their 'Global 2000 Companies' list were recorded saying on a survey that they planned to use gamification for the purposes of marketing and customer retention. With that being said here are the 3 Major types of Gamification Marketing.

1. Transmedia: 007: GoldenEye

Transmedia is the practice of taking a media property and extending it into a different medium to either expand upon the material or bring greater attention to it. In 1997 Nintendo did this with its N64 release '007: GoldenEye'. This was a AAA Title Game that was created to bring more attention to the film of the same title's release but actually ended up making more money than the film itself.

Not surprising then that 20 years later the video game industry is now 4x larger than the movie industry. Perhaps we will soon start seeing advertisements for video games in movies?

2. Brandification: Tesla + PUBG

Brandification in its simplest form consists of in-game advertising for real-world products & services. This could look like messages, images or videos promoting a brand, product or service within a video games' world. One of the first to do it well was Counter-Strike. One of the most popular first shooter games in history, Counter-Strike allowed advertisers to promote movie posters on the walls within the game itself like "Smokin' Aces" back in 2006 among other films.

The most recent example of Brandification? Tesla is using Player Unknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) as a platform to market their cars. PUBG is one of the most played and viewed (Twitch) video games in the world right now. Tesla as of July 2020 placed their cars within the game as drivable vehicles for players.

If marketing is all about "being where the attention is" Tesla may go down in history as having the best Video Game Marketing Campaign of all time.

3. Advergame: Pepsi Man

Advergames are online video games that promote a particular brand, product, or marketing message by integrating it into the game template, created expressly for promotional purposes. Advergames are often commissioned to support other media, not replace them. The idea is that the more interaction with the property through the form of the game the stronger it leads to better associations.

Advergames first became popular with Pepsi's "Pepsi Man" and 7 Up's 'Spot' in the late 90s. in 2019, snackable mobile games like 'Candy Crush' & 'Temple Run' have begun to be 're-skinned' with company branding and themes to promote their products and services. These are done through companies like Gamify or popular DIY website platforms like WIX or Shopify. Advergames have been proven to get higher levels of engagement & redemption than more traditional advertisements.

Gamification in Health

1. Physical Health: Nike

Nike launched Nike+Run in 2010 as a gamification platform that tracks and gamifies your run time, distance covered, health levels and compares yourself to your previous recordings and others within your social field. They have a leaderboard, points, and badges. This is a classic example of live feedback and micro-measuring progress to helping runners to improve and progress in their personal goals.

For a more in-depth look at some of the best Gamified Health Apps on the market, check out Gamify's Top Fitness Apps.

2. Mental Health: Headspace

Headspace comes in the form of an app that uses gamification to increase user completion and mastery of a level of meditation before moving on to a more advanced section. Each session is about ten minutes long and usually in audio format. Gamifying the process helps users to track their progress in bettering their mental state and in truly seeing the strides they've taken towards being better balanced.

3. Group Workouts: Les Mills

Other organisations like CrossFit have done well with their group connection and leaderboards but Les Mills 'Be Moved' utilises gamification to another level. They do group classes on stationary bikes with a computer screen in front of them, simulating a futuristic roller coaster. Once you log in, it tracks your scores, provides leaderboards and if you don't show up to class it gives you a warning (an example of loss aversion). 7/8 of our gamification core drives are displayed within Les Mills' 'Be Moved'.

Gamification in Education

1. Computer Games: Minecraft - Education Edition

Math Blaster and Treasure Mountain are some of the earliest examples of popular educational games, however, one of the best and most current examples of Game-based Learning is Minecraft: Education Edition. This game teaches students how to code through one of the most popular game formats in the world. If you're a teacher you already know a lot of your students love this game and the game mechanics that come with it.

2. Apps: Google's Read Along

Another app-based learning game is “Read Along” by Google. The app uses Google's voice technology to encourage kids to read and follow along with stories. It has great reviews and is used around the world. The only drawback at the moment is it only being compatible with Android at the moment.

3. Classroom: Kahoot

Kahoot allows you to create a multiple choice quiz through a quick website link share. This allows for students to use their phones in a productive manner, participating in selecting or typing their answers to in-class quizzes in real-time. Kahoot is one of the most straightforward and interactive examples of gamification motivating people in the classroom.

4. eLearning Platforms: Archy Learning

Archy Learning is a simple gamified eLearning platform. Teachers can cut and paste YouTube links and classroom notes into a learning pathway. Where it gets really fun is with the addition of gamification strategy in the form of class quizzes, educational video games, mixed media exams, and awarded certificates upon completed courses for an all-around gamification learning experience.

For more examples see our video and blog Gamification Examples in Education

Gamification in Websites

1. Physical & Online Locations: Foursquare

Previously mentioned, Foursquare was the original website and brand which not only built their company around the premise of gamification but grew 10x in size in just five years of implementing game elements into customer onboarding. Bringing both real life and online elements to their brand, store and website. Watch the video at the top of this page to learn more about Foursquare.

2. Website: DevHub

In August 2010 Devhub announced an increase in the number of users who completed their online tasks from 10% to 80% after adding gamification elements. Social websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin now have implemented game elements into their sign-up & account processes as a result of DevHub's success. The easiest tool to Gamify your site is through the largest DIY website engines in the world; Wix & Shopify allow users to add games to eCommerce stores in order to encourage engagement and email subscriptions.

3. Social: Reddit

The most well-executed example of gamification within a social site can be found on Reddit. Using badges, points, leaderboards, personalisation/avatars, coins, and many other elements and mechanics to increase engagement, Reddit took a basic blog website and transformed it into one of the top 10 most visited sites in the world through gamification. By gaining points for the amount of time you write, interact, and have simply been a member on the site, you can buy "coins" and “gift” them to article writers. This is a great example of intrinsic motivators building up a website’s following.

4. Online Portfolio: Bruno Simon

One of the most engaging online portfolios you will ever 'experience'. Bruno Simon is a Creative Developer who is just showing off at this point with his fully interactive online portfolio. Control a 3D model truck as you literally drive around his past projects, social links, and added playground to ensure that viewers truly take their time to soak in and enjoy what Bruno has achieved (click on the link and go for a spin).

Gamification Influencers

1. The Original: Yu-Kai Chou

Yu-Kai was one of the first prominent figures in gamification. First, truly rising in popularity around the topic of gamification with his TED talk in 2014, and soon followed up by awarded "Gamification Guru of the Year" - Gamification Europe Conference in 2017.

His book 'Octalysis' is the framework I mentioned in 8 Core Drives in Gamification.

2. The Consultant: Gabe Zicherman

Gabe has written three major books on gamification and done numerous live videos and events, including major gamification conferences. His talks, workshops, books, and courses have helped train marketers, customer loyalty experts, HR professionals, strategists, and product designers to make the world a more fun and engaging place.

He can be seen here consulting Samantha Bee on how to 'Gamify voting'.

3. The Face: Jane McGonigal

Game designer, author of SuperBetter, and public speaker. Jane's TED Talk on 'How Gaming can Make a Better World' has established her as "the face of Gamification".

4. The Doctor: Dr. Zac Fitz-Walter

Dr. Zac earned one of the world’s first PhDs in gamification design and has since lectured and developed a curriculum on gamification for universities. He speaks and educates governments, conferences, and companies around the world on effective gamification and engagement design including Gamification Europe.


What actions do you want your audience to take? Whether they are students, customers or employees - Can you think of any way of measuring and rewarding them for doing certain actions? The old saying is true "whatever gets measured, improves".

This is why loyalty cards and Airpoints have done so well. They acknowledge and reward customers for behaviours the company wants them to continue doing. In the next article, we'll be going through more examples of how individuals and companies have utilised gamification to their benefit, titled: "5 Best Gamification Examples".

Can you think of other companies which have gamified their products or services?

What other industries have done well with gamification?

This is the first of a three-part series. Click on the "Next Article" tab in the bottom right to go to the next page where we look at other "Top Gamification Examples" within a video presentation.


• OwlTail Podcast on - Gamification

• Smart Insights Gamification - What is it and why is it important?

• Smallbiz Technology - What is Gamification and What does it mean to you?

• UX Mag - A Gamification frame work for interaction designers