How to get started with Gamification.


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As you have made it to this step I want to share with you how to create Gamification that works.

In this section, you will find a step-by-step approach to get to know Gamification and a foolproof, guide to starting your own Gamification application.

Creating your own Gamification concept for your organization, product, or service is easy to start with and hard to master. But that is the case with most of the good stuff, right?

I’m here to guide you through all of that. No matter if you are here to get started with the topic of Gamification in general or if you are already familiar with it and want to master it in depth. I have created these materials, insights, and tools for you so that you don’t have to spend almost a decade in learning what works and what does not like I did.

Read the guidelines I’ve compiled for you, and feel free to take all the advice I am sharing.

“Creating your own Gamification concept for your organization, product, or service is easy to start with and hard to master. But that is the case with most of the good stuff, right?”

The Story begins

When I was a kid in school my teachers knew me as the one unable to sit still, not capable of learning vocabulary, unwilling to stay focused, and always looking for the easiest way. And they were right.

But what they were wrong about was their conclusion that I, as a person, was just not able to perform all of these demands. In fact, it was especially in school where I had all these difficulties. Let me explain.

When I performed my hobbies like modeling or during my sessions of playing games, I could easily sit still for hours. When I performed in the theater I could easily learn a ton of text by memory. In situations like being active in hobbies or sports, it was always easy to stay focused and to challenge me more than the day before. So there I wasn’t looking for the easiest way to go.

I bet that you can rely on this experience too, right? Most of us do. So the question is why are we able to show that kind of motivation in one situation but are not able to perform of only an approximate caliber somewhere else? You can call it context, conditions, whatever. It seems to be that the context and the situation around us plays a main part in how we behave.

But now comes the really interesting question: Why is it especially during activities like sports, games, and hobbies that we can show such behaviors. We are not even being paid for doing that. In contrary, we are playing games just because of the sake of playing. We get our motivation and our satisfaction out of the activity itself (intrinsic motivation) instead of some reward offered extrinsically by someone.

You have probably never said before: “Let’s play Risk or Chess or World of Warcraft or Tetris because I want to have a reward like points or badges.” You never did a hobby, like I did modeling, because of some points that were offered at the end.

So, if we never experienced a reward-driven motivation to do sports, games, and hobbies, but it was only for the sake of doing it, why should it be about points, badges, and leaderboards that Gamification works? That just doesn’t make sense, right?

You’re going to be amazed how Gamification is changing what you always took for granted. Plus, I bet, you’re going to experience a sense of achievement and satisfaction when you really get going.

I’m going to walk you through the natural train of thought that most people will have when researching this topic and participating in our workshops or being part of our Gamification consultancy in organizations for the 1st time.

Mastery is something that is built into our brain. It is a learning engine. Even its neurochemistry works this way.

Let's go

Gamification is a broadly used term. Often this makes it really difficult to see how it could be used for individual purposes. When people talk about Gamification you never know if they are really talking about Gamification or if they rather think about Serious Games, Game-Based-Learning or even Simulations.

As every approach has its individual disadvantages and advantages you need to know how to separate them. This is how we define them and what served us and our clients very well over the last years:

Gamification is the application of game design elements and game principles in non-game contexts.
E.g. Marketing, human resource, knowledge management, sales, project management, software, or education.

It is not about creating real games but to enhance reality with a design that can be found as compelling and intrinsic motivation like games, sports, and hobbies.

In general, created as a video game, these games are solving a problem in reality while being played by its users.

It works by creating a game around a real challenge and, by doing this, make something complex much easier to understand and interactive. It adds a narrative to it that can be connected directly with the real challenge ( or it separates the story from the real problem that needs to be solved (Play to Cure).

Sometimes, also called ‘Educational games’, these are games explicitly designed with educational purposes, or which have incidental or secondary educational value. Educational games are games that are designed to help people to learn about certain subjects or assist them in learning a skill (similar to simulations) as they play.

Simulation is the imitation of the operation of a real-world process or system. Simulation is used in many contexts, such as simulation of technology for performance optimisation, safety engineering, testing, training, education. Simulation is also used when the real system cannot be engaged, because it may not be accessible, or it may be dangerous or unacceptable to engage, or it is being designed but not yet built, or it may simply not exist.

The underlying secrets of Gamification

"A boring activity incentivised is still boring. By offering points and badges as a tool to persuade, you simply created a bribery system. That didn't fix anything."

No matter which approach – of the four named above – would serve your individual challenges best, they are all sharing the same basis that we can see every day while looking at people that just love what they are doing. No, I’m not talking about the stuff that you can easily recognise by looking at the screen of a video game. This is probably the biggest and most dangerous misconception when it comes to the topic of Gamification.

Please stay with me at this point as knowing what I’m going to explain to you now, will already help you to outperform more than 90% of all Gamification approaches out there. Why? Because what is called Gamification, most often is nothing else as a reward system with points or badges, often earned by a competition or simply by performing repetitive tasks (click through, buying something, and so on). But why should that be Gamification? Have you ever thought about playing a game because you want to have points? Do you really need a reward offered to you to start playing a board game, a card game or a video game? What about doing sports or performing your lovely hobby?

I bet that this is not the case. You are playing a game because of the sake of playing. Of course, normally you can earn points and badges and resources, and much more inside the game. But there, these elements are some kind of feedback for you, proving your personal progress. They are not the reason why you are playing at all. You don’t need an extrinsic reward to stay motivated to go ahead. And this is where 90% of all Gamification approaches are broken. They are designed to offer you extrinsic rewards for an activity that you are less likely to do without them.” But a boring activity incentivised is still boring. By offering points and badges as a tool to persuade, you simply created a bribery system. That didn’t fix anything.

But what...?

So, what is it that makes games, sports & hobbies so engaging and intrinsic motivating if it is not because of some rewards offered at the end? A partial answer can be found in how the activities themselves are organised and structured. By looking at three of the (probably) most successful activities in the world like games, sports, and hobbies over the last ten years we have found that they are not designed to motivate you directly but indirectly. What this means is that it is about the conditions and the context that they are creating for us humans, that makes it easier for us to develop an intrinsic motivation. And there is a least common denominator, connecting all of these intrinsic motivating activities that can be found.

Now, by looking at this Slideshare where I show you THE five elements that – together – create the successful conditions of intrinsically motivated activities, please try to compare them with the situations that you like to do just because of the sake of doing it:

You have learned about the five main Pillars of Gamification. You need to know them to be able to prepare the ‘field’ in order to implement game-mechanics successfully. If you would add game-mechanics e.g. just to the context of a classic working environment, these mechanics would trail off all of their potentials by crushing simply into already established rules and structures on site. So, by taking the Pillars of Gamification and use them to prepare the ground for the upcoming Gamification Design, you already improved the probability of success big time.

Congrats. You have made it through the first step!

As you can imagine, this is not the end of how to design for Gamification. It is not even close to really getting your hands dirty on Gamification Design. But now I have shown you the material you need to be able to avoid these expensive failures as people want to design for intrinsic motivation but by relying on simple extrinsic reward system they are just aiming for the same old stuff that we know already for the last two centuries.

Back to the start

Step 2:

Roman Rackwitz

Roman Rackwitz

is the Enterprise Gaming Pioneer at Centigrade GmbH and the founder of Engaginglab GmbH, Europe's 1st Gamification agency. He is leading the Gamification movement in Europe for more than a decade and fighting for its real potential for enterprises, educational institutions and public organisations.

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About Me

I’m passionated about engagement. This is why I reverse-engineer the science of fun in order to fix what is wrong in most business activities. I call this: Enjoyneering.

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