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What Is Gamification Everything You Need To Know To Get Started

Boost user engagement
What Is
Everything You Need
To Know To Get
How to use
Gamification to
Maximize User
The future
trends of
programs –
diverse and
The term ‘Gamification’ was coined
back in 2002 by Nick Pelling, a Britishborn computer programmer and
inventor, and hit the mainstream thanks
to Foursquare in 2009.
By 2011, it officially became a buzzword
when Gartner added it to its ‘Hype
Cycle’ list.
Now, in 2015, Gamification is hotter
than ever.
Retention is up
engagement is
going down:
who you gonna
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People are looking to implement
Gamification in almost every aspect of
their lives.
More and more business are looking to
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gamify different aspects of their work:
Either to increase user engagement or
better motivate their employees.
Gamification is everywhere!
6 Surprising
Incentives to
Motivate Your
What do you really know about
After searching for a thorough
beginners guide to Gamification,
listening to dozens of TED talks about
engagement, and diving deep into the
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gaming community, we found that there
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seems to be a lack of articles that
Studies ::
simply cover the Gamification
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So we’ve created this short but
coherent guide for anyone who wants to
easily grasp the basics of Gamification.
(Now would be a good time to
bookmark this article as your go-to 101
about what Gamification is all about!)
What is Gamification?
Before we dive into the elements,
motivations and psychology, let’s start
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with a simple definition. Back in 2002,
Nick Pelling, defined the term as:
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“Applying game-like accelerated user
interface design to make electronic
transactions both enjoyable and fast.”
These days, the commonly used
definition of Gamification is:
“The application of typical elements of
game playing (such as point scoring
and competition) to other areas of
Yu-Kai Chou, a leading gamification
expert and author of ‘Actionable
Gamification’, defines gamification as:
“The craft of deriving all the fun and
addicting elements found in games and
applying them to real-world or
productive activities”
Typically it is used as an online
marketing technique to encourage
engagement with a product or service.
You can see gamification elements in
almost every field: Education, business,
life coaching, apps, and more.
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It has the power to transform a user
experience by surrounding users with a
gamified system that both stimulates
and entertains them.
Why has Gamification become
so popular?
Because it is such a great solution to
one of today’s most painful challenges
– user retention.
Offering incentives to users and
encouraging them to accumulate
rewards throughout their journey can
instantly boost their involvement with
your service.
We tend to think of Gamification as a
loyalty program on steroids.
The longer users spend interacting with
your brand or product, the longer their
lifetime value for your business will be
But…why do we love gamification?
It might sound simple, obvious and
perhaps even too plain, but gamification
is FUN!
There is often a common
misunderstanding between
Gamification and Games. They are not
the same thing.
Games are a form of competitive play in
which there are rules in place to
determine skill.
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Gamification takes the best parts of
games (being the game-like mechanics
that motivate us) and applies them to
non-game entities to encourage us to
carry out certain behaviors.
It engages us and allows us to leverage
several of our natural human desires:
socializing, learning, mastery,
achievement, and status.
Gamification is light-hearted. Certain
behaviors which initially seem difficult,
boring and tedious can be made fun.
We are motivated to perform certain
actions and engage in certain behaviors
in return for rewards.
Rewards trigger the release of
dopamine in our brain. Endorphins and
dopamine are responsible for feelings
of pleasure and these chemicals come
out during positive game-playing
Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp said that
dopamine is “the brain circuitry which
propels us to explore new avenues for
reward in our environment.”
Therefore, Gamification is a source of
happiness in which we are fulfilling our
human motivations.
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Applying gamification to your product
can actually affect your users’
physicality and make them happier and
3 Key Ingredients Of
Gamification: Motivation,
Mastery, and Triggers
Game mechanics are based on three
main components:
1. Motivation
2. Mastery
3. Triggers
Motivation is the “Why?”
Motivation is what makes a user care
about what they do. It is the reason or
reasons that one has for acting or
behaving in a particular way.
Wherever there are people, there are
people to be motivated, hether it be
employees motivated to take part in
additional training programs, sales
people motivated to grow revenues, or
patients motivated to adopt healthy
lifestyle choices to prolong their lives.
No matter what the circumstance,
Gamification can be applied to motivate
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B.F. Skinner’s Radical Behaviorism
claimed that human behavior is a result
of the effects of environmental
reinforcements and learning. A lot of
Skinner’s research on reinforcement
and operant conditioning can be applied
to understand motivation.
However, Skinner’s theory disregards
innate needs and uses only external
conditions to motivate people to carry
out particular behaviors.
Intrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic motivation “drives behaviors
that result in internal rewards, like
enjoyment, positive feelings and
It refers to behavior driven by internal
motivations. Yu-Kai Chou explains that
it is derived from the Right Brain Core
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One way to add intrinsic motivation into
a user’s experience is by making the
experience social.
This can be done by adding in-group
tasks that require teamwork, and
encouraging community interactions
between players.
Another way to add intrinsic motivation
into an experience is by adding
unpredictability. Unpredictability adds
thrill to a user’s experience and
prevents them from getting bored and
leaving the game.
Nir Eyal confirms in his book “Hooked”
that “variable rewards are one of the
most powerful tools companies
implement to hook users”. Obtaining a
reward is extrinsic, however when you
make the reward variable, you add a
layer of intrinsic excitement.
Another tip by Yu-Kai Chou regarding
intrinsic motivation is adding more
meaningful choices and feedback.
You want to make sure game players
have the freedom to make as many
meaningful choices as possible. You
want to allow them to reflect their style
and their preferences.
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If there is only one path to reach the
win-state then there are no meaningful
choices present for the user to express
his or her creativity. This will demotivate
players as our brains hate it when we
have no choices.
Mastery is the “How?”
Mastery is the set of rules and the
knowledge/skill needed to accomplish a
specific task.
Game mechanics should be based on
skill and persistence not just on random
The path to mastery is an important
concept of successful Gamification. We
want to feel as though we are mastering
a skill as we progress through a game.
As humans our brain wants to be
challenged – as we increase in level,
the difficulty of the game should
increase too.
If the Gamification strategy does not
lead to a sense of mastery in a
particular context, then it is not an
effective strategy.
Triggers are the “When?” and
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This is the actual implementation of
recurring opportunities for users to win
and fulfil their motivation.
The actions you designate will act as
triggers for a positive feedback
mechanism. When we do something
and our actions lead to positive
outcomes we form a habit and repeat
this action.
Good and effective triggers are a crucial
part of a successful gamification
Often people are motivated and have
the ability to carry out particular actions
but something is stopping them. Users
may be distracted, they may doubt their
motivation to continue or perhaps they
don’t think they can achieve the end
Good triggers are designed to solve all
of these problems.
Professor B.J. Fogg outlined three
types of triggers: Facilitator, signal and
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Spark as a trigger: Sparks can come
in various channel forms. The important
thing is that the trigger is associated
with a target behavior and is presented
to users at an exact moment that they
can take action.
Facilitator as a trigger: This is the
type of trigger appropriate for users that
have high motivation but lack ability.
The aim of a facilitator is to trigger a
behavior while making the behavior
easier to carry out.
Signal as a trigger: This trigger works
best when people have the motivation
and ability to perform the target
behavior. It does not seek to motivate,
just serves as a reminder.
To learn more from BJ Fogg, this paper
presents a new model for
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understanding human behavior: A
Behavior Model for Persuasive Design.
Loyalty Programs
One crucial aspect of Gamification is
loyalty programs, such as frequent flyer
cards, club cards, punch cards and
The goal of these loyalty programs is to
strengthen the connection between the
client and the product or brand. This
connection is created because of
behavioral psychology.
It happens in 3 simple steps:
1. The loyalty card is presented
to the customer.
2. The customer performs the
action (usually the purchase).
3. The customer receives the
compensation/reward (in form
of discount, coupon etc).
This process repeats itself again and
Every time customers go through this
process they invest time and money,
binding themselves more strongly to the
product or brand
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This process sounds well and good –
but in reality most loyalty programs fail.
This is where Gamification rolls in!
Gamification does not only offer value
but provides an exhilarating experience
for users, full of surprises.
Brian Burke from Gartner Research
said “Sustainable gamification can
convert customers into fans” and he
sure is right.
In today’s world, people are not
satisfied with just the bottom line,
savings, they want more, they want fun.
There are 7 essential ways to keep your
core group of customers happy:
1. Communicate with your
2. Give customers a
personalized service
3. Make customer care a key
part of your business strategy
4. Develop a brand around your
company, products or
5. Provide customer incentives
6. Give your top customers
‘special treatment’
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7. Have fun!
Check out this post to read more about
these 7 ways to build customer loyalty
using Gamification.
Leaderboards: A little
competition never hurt
Leaderboards are designed to
encourage players to stay in the game.
The idea of rising up a leaderboard can
act as a powerful motivator.
It is important that the leaderboards
never discourage players. An effective
way to avoid discouraging the low
achievers is by refreshing leaderboards
This gives players the chance to start
again, without feeling that they are
slipping so low down the ranks they
have no chance of winning. Once they
have lost their motivation to succeed
they will stop trying.
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Naturally we all love a little competition
right?! Leaderboards are the perfect
way for players to show off their
achievements and encourage
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“Our customers leverage Leaderboards
to challenge users to be more active
and engaged. To make sure as many
users as possible are motivated, we
recommend using Leaderboards either
to show top users for a given time
period, or top users for specific types of
actions.” -Uri Admon, CEO, Captain Up
Read more about Captain Up’s
Progress Bars
Informing users of how close they are to
completing a set of tasks will encourage
them to keep going.
Dr. Brad Myers from the University of
Toronto found people prefer to have
progress indicators. As human beings
we are naturally driven when we have
clear goals in mind to accomplish.
Knowing how far away that end goal is
will keep your users playing.
LinkedIn have really nailed the progress
bar. Showing the profile completeness
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percentage drives people to take steps
to level up
towards 100% completion. They also
encourage people to do so with a
simple one-liner: “Users with complete
profiles are 40 times more likely to
receive opportunities through LinkedIn.”
Captain Up customers have also had
great success with our progress bars,
affecting their sales and bottom lines,
user retention, and user lifetime value.
It is so effective, many of our customers
choose to present the progress bar
throughout users’ visits to their sites.
Apps Using Gamification
In today’s era there seems to be an
emerging trend between the Internet
and gaming. Gamification is now a
powerful tool to teach, persuade and
motivate people to carry out certain
You would be surprised by the extent
that game mechanics are intertwined
with your daily life. From grabbing your
coffee on the way to work to going for a
run, Gamification is everywhere.
In “Changing the Game,” David Edery
and Ethan Mollick wrote “Companies of
all shapes and sizes have begun to use
games to revolutionize the way they
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interact with customers and employees,
becoming more competitive and more
profitable as a result.”
Let’s take a look at a few apps that are
using Gamification to motivate their
Starbucks app
Starbucks know exactly how to please
us coffee addicts – and they do it oh so
well! The more coffee you buy, the
more stars you get rewarded.
With every coffee purchase you make,
stars fill up your cup. You can see how
many stars you have earned as well as
how many stars you still need, to earn
your free drink.
Perhaps Starbucks doesn’t serve the
best coffee in the city but they have
definitely hit the nail on the head with
their rewards program. They know how
to prevent their customers from buying
their coffee elsewhere!
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Nike+ logs your physical activity and
helps users reach running goals. The
more you run, the more rewards,
trophies, and surprise gifts you earn.
The application allows your to track
your runs and challenge friends while
pushing you to reach a new personal
Let’s be honest – if it manages to
motivate us to put our trainers on after a
long day of work, it must be doing
something right!
Looking to quit smoking, cut out junk
food or stop drinking profusely?
This app will help you kick out that bad
It manages to do so by increasing your
personal resilience physically, mentally,
emotionally, and socially. SuperBetter
tracks your progress and gives you
daily and weekly tasks that will help you
succeed in giving up that bad habit or
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Looking To Learn More?
If you liked what you read so far, this is
only the beginning!
There are many ways to implement
Gamification and we’ve gathered some
resources that will help you learn more
about it.
To learn more about the importance of
Gamification and why it is so critical for
your business, here are 10 resources to
help you start your journey :
1. Game Over: Common
Gamification Mistakes To
2. How To Use Personalization
To Crush Your Competitors
3. Top 20 Gamification Experts
To Follow
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4. Gamification Course With
Expert Yu-Kai Chou
5. An introduction to
gamification (Video)
6. The Gamified Blog
7. Yu-Kai Chou’s blog
8. Seven Core Concepts for
Creating Compelling
Experiences (Video)
9. Nir Eyal – Hooked (Book)
10. Best TED talk about
Gamification and education
Posted under: Case Studies, Engagement
and Loyalty, gamification, Gamification 101,
Gamification Apps, Gamification definitions,
Gamification essentials, Gamification guide,
loyalty, Nike+ Gamification, Starbucks App
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