Gamification Introduction

Gamification is the process of using game mechanics and game thinking in non-gaming businesses. The method can be used to engage users and get feedback to improve or innovate services and products. For the end user is a way to challenge, maintain interest, have recognition and fun. Commercially is a way to achieve attractiveness for some subjects that don’t have large-scale of interest, can be used to recognize most active users, encourage sharing, change behaviors and get feedback to improve or innovate services and products.

Gamification widespread because of the mobile devices revolution, bringing behind numerous possibilities for the implementation of Gamification systems, but it is also consider in part the growth and popularization related to the familiarization of the elements by the use of social games. Many systems were implemented before the Gamification phenomena, however people just didn’t call Gamification.

Gamification is a method that involves many studies: games, statistics, psychology, economics, philosophy, anthropology, sociology and many others. Anthropology for example takes in count cultural aspects and should be useful when the game design needs to understand if the rules are not offensive, complex or why people should play this game and how.

The categories of Gamification are External, Internal and Behaviour change. External includes the B2C experience, when a business want to use Gamification to increase sales, engagement, fan loyalty, get users feedback, users collaboration, etc. Internal is the use of Gamification to improve worker efficiency and satisfaction in the workplace. And Behaviour change is the use of Gamification to motivate users to improve skills or change habits; as study better, lose weight, among others.

Gamification Elements

Games and gamified applications are built around patterns and there are many tools, which could be used for concept and development in their design processes. However the aim of the Gamification is to reach the business goals by engaging users in certain tasks and Games have mainly the aim of making the player to have fun.

In a Social game usually users are approached by the following elements: points, quests, resource collection, progression, avatars and social graph.  In games like Tic Tac Toe different ones, like:  the board, tokens (x and 0), two players, competitive, turns, win and draw states and there isn’t progression or scoring.

The game is a combination of experiences (feelings), game (role, structures) and the elements (pieces). Following the MDA framework (Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics- Hunicke, LeBlanc and Zubek – 2004)[1] the main elements of game are:

  • Dynamics – big-picture aspects, “grammar”- includes: Constrains, Emotions, Narrative, Progression and Relationships.
  • Mechanics – Processes that drive action forward, “verbs” - includes: Challenges, Chance, Competition, Cooperation, Feedback, Resource Acquisition, Rewards, Transactions (exchanging  - between players, buy), Turns and Win states.
  • Aesthetics – Specific instantiations of mechanics and dynamics, “nouns”- includes: Achievements, Avatars, Badges, Boss Fights, Collections, Combat, Content Unlocking, Gifting, Leaderboards, Levels, Points, Quests, Social Graph, Teams and Virtual Goods

However what elements from games could be implemented in Gamification?  There are a variety of options, and the PBL Triad[2] is on those most followed, which have Points, Badges and Leaderboards as the core elements.

On the PBL approach “Points” are used to keep score, determine win states, connect to rewards, provide feedback, display of progress, are data for the game designer, are fungible.

The Badges are the representations of achievements; they are flexible, needs style, have signalling of importance, are credentials (, can be part of a collections and are for social display (status symbols).

The Leaderboards give the feedback on the competition, however a certain attention it is need when the difference between the first place to others are high, because it can cause de-motivation and game abandon, leaderboards are personalized and could shows the middle of the leaderboard, i.e. 10 positions before and 10 after or only friends.

Limitations of elements

Many business thinks that Gamification is just to put the game elements, but it isn’t. Not all rewards are fun; not all fun is rewarding. Gamification systems need to be related to the business value, reach the business goals and provide fun for the end-users.

The same questions about what makes the game fun are also used for Gamification systems. Do the user have meaningful choices (Freedom)? Are they challenged? Are they in control (Mastery? Who is playing, collaborating, for whom the users will show their status (Social)? It’s also important to remember about the different kinds of users.

Gamification in business

Every leader should understand Gamification. The method helps understanding people’s motivations it’s not only about win the game or get a high score, but it’s also about increasing engagement.  Gamification is a tool for inspirations, communications, and positive scores. Helps to be effective with customers and employees. Possibilities tangible feedback and brings competitive advantages.

Gamification as a Motivational Design

Motivation is what makes people to do something, make people move in direction of something. The good Gamification system starts from setting the goals and thinking in why and how people could be motivate to reach it.

There are two different kinds of motivation Intrinsic and Extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation refers to self-motivation, when people do things because they want to. Extrinsic motivation is related with the benefit for doing something, but not for the thing itself. One example of intrinsic motivation is when someone says: “I love to play this game, because I have the experience of flying”. And extrinsic motivation is when someone says: “I’m playing this game because I can expend more time with my boyfriend.”

Gabe Zichermann built a theory around SAPS[3] – Status, Access, Power and Stuff as the rewards for motivation in Gamification. STATUS rewards offer users an opportunity to level up against others, make people cool, brings respect between others, e.g. badges, titles. ACCESS rewards give users something they couldn’t otherwise get, e.g. backstage passes, contents unlocking. POWER rewards give users control over others, like a forum moderator or team leader role. STUFF rewards give users free things, cash or discounts.

Some examples of Gamification

Empire Avenue

It is a game integrated with social media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flicker...), the user is subsidized through its social interactivity. It connects several of his personal accounts and uses them as you accumulate points. The aim of Empire Avenue is to increase the value of their shares and others invest. It is almost a stock exchange, where the capital is its reputation.



Foursquare is a free app that helps you and your friends make the most of where you are. When you're out and about, use Foursquare to share and save the places you visit. And, when you're looking for inspiration for what to do next, we'll give you personalized recommendations and deals based on where you, your friends, and people with your tastes have been.


Campaign Middle Interior Unimed

Unimed (Brazilian health insurance company) has created a campaign for Internet users showing the importance of maintaining health. With the data obtained it is possible to understand how the population is regarding this awareness and improve their services. How it works: The user makes participates in gamified survey to find out her mental and physical age. The questions involve matters as food, health and lifestyle. After answering the questions users get as a result their real age. User can share the status at Twitter and Facebook, encouraging their friends to participate. Today (22/04/2013) I went on the website of campaigns and they were already 5,012,573 participants.


[1] MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research – Robin Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc & Robert Zubek -