The Art of Gamification

What is Gamification?

Gamification has been confusing people for years, in part because the term has a lot of different definitions. At its core, though, gamification is about one thing: taking game-design thinking and applying it to non-game contexts in order to make them more fun and engaging. Another part of what makes gamification confusing is that there is no single formula for how games work. That means there’s no set of rules you can follow if you want your application or website to be fun and engaging; each game has its own unique style and structure. So if there isn’t any reliable formula for creating great games—or what kind of games you should create—how do you decide which aspects of traditional game design will work best in the context you want to apply them?

Winning video games

Game design and gamification are different

There are many misconceptions about gamification, but in truth, it’s not that complicated. Gamification is simply: Applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging. The goal is to make something that people want to use by making it more like a game.

Incentives to play a game

An incentive is a reason why people play games. There are two types of incentives: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic incentives are things that are inherently rewarding, such as trying something new, learning about yourself and your abilities, or feeling connected to others who play the game with you. The reward for completing a task or winning is the experience itself—it’s not given to you by anyone else.

Extrinsic rewards come from outside forces; they’re given in exchange for completing a task or winning a game, but they don’t have any inherent value on their own (like money or gold coins).

How do mobile games use rewards?

Rewards are the bread and butter of game design. They’re what makes us want to keep playing and they’re one of the reasons we get so addicted to games like Candy Crush.

The reason they work so well is because of something called operant conditioning, which is a psychological theory that describes how people learn from rewards or punishments. Basically, it means that humans learn by being rewarded for actions we do and repeated exposure to certain stimuli leads us to associate it with those pleasant feelings of happiness, joy, or satisfaction (rewards). This can be especially effective in getting people who don’t normally do things that would be good for them or their health (like exercising) into doing them more often by adding a bit of fun into their lives!

But wait – why does this matter?

Rewards should be immediately available to the player who successfully completes a task

A reward is a prize that a player receives for completing a task. Rewards should be immediately available for the player who successfully completes a task.

For example, if you are playing an app and win coins as your reward, you should see those coins appear in your account immediately after you complete the winning task. The longer it takes for players to receive their rewards, the more likely they are to lose interest and stop playing altogether.

Girl eating burger

Don’t make rewards too valuable

  • A reward should be relevant to the task. The point of a reward is to motivate people to do something, so it has to be something that motivates them. If you give out $20 to your users doing their chores, and your users are all teenagers with no jobs, they won’t care that much about $20—in fact, it might even seem like an annoyance! But if you give out a coupon for free food at McDonald’s (or whatever lingers in the back of their minds as “cool”) they’ll feel motivated by that more than anything else because it’s something they’re interested in.
  • A reward should be achievable and have meaning for players. You don’t want someone getting frustrated by a task because they keep falling short of what needs doing when there isn’t any way for them to win other than luck or chance; this can lead players away from your game altogether! Instead: offer clear ways for players to earn rewards while playing through specific types of tasks over time (e.g., completing multiple levels). This way everyone who plays gets rewarded eventually without needing extra effort beyond simply playing the game normally which means everyone stays engaged throughout gameplay instead of being bored halfway through because nothing was happening fast enough for them!

Types of points and rewards

Points and rewards are two of the most important ingredients for gamification. Together, they create a feedback loop that helps players understand what they’re doing right and how to improve.

Points can be used in several different ways:

  • They can track progress—both individual and collective—as players go from one level to another.
  • They can be accumulated over time so that players know how far along they are on their journey toward a goal. For example, in an app with daily quests, you might see how much closer you are to unlocking something new by looking at your point total for the day (and remember that there’s always tomorrow).
  • Points can be used as currency (or tokens) for purchasing virtual goods or unlocking new features within an app or game. This is similar to earning airline miles when traveling; once you’ve earned enough miles, you can redeem them for free flights or other perks like hotel stays or event tickets.
Gift certificate

Attach a prestige to rewards

Once you decide which rewards to give your players, give them the opportunity to earn them quickly. The more time it takes to get a reward, the less desirable it is. If you make getting a badge or status difficult, then it will have less value for your players.

Also, try to make the rewards valuable both in the game world and out of it. A good example of this badge: if someone wants an achievement but doesn’t want to grind for hours on end (or even pay) just so they can achieve something in-game, attaching a badge that shows off how awesome they are at playing video games may be enough incentive for them to stick around longer than they otherwise would have chosen too.”

Badges are a great way to reward players for their achievements. They can be used in any game or app, and they’re very easy to implement.

  • Use badges as rewards for completing challenges or missions within a game (i.e., getting the “gold” medal).
  • Use badges as awards for accomplishing special tasks or reaching certain milestones. This is great if you want people who play your game often enough to feel like they’ve become an expert!
  • Use badges as rewards for collecting items in games with lots of different things to collect — think Pokemon cards and Beanie Babies! Badges are also really fun because they allow you to show off your status on social media platforms like Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram.


You can use gamification to design your own learning systems, or you can use it to motivate people to work harder in their day-to-day jobs. You may also notice that the principles of game design are already at work in your life – for example, if you’ve ever been rewarded with a sticker for completing a task or bought something from Amazon because you have enough points on your rewards card. Now that you understand more about how games work, think about which elements might be useful for whatever area of life you want them applied to! And remember, there isn’t one way to do it; depending on what type of game we play and what its purpose is, different strategies will appeal more than others.

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