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A brief overview of the gamification process

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

author: @aestranger

Reading time: 9 minutes

Creating gamified systems: a peek behind the curtains

People like knowing how things work. They enjoy taking something apart and looking at what the internal workings are of something. This can be something, I’m sure many of you remember the Kinder-Surprise eggs and having a great time putting it together and taking it apart again. And for some of us, we really want to know what the inner workings are of various processes. How do they work and maybe figure out why they work.

As I’ve recently been redoing and reviewing some of my own methodologies and processes for creating playful experiences and gamification solutions, I felt that perhaps it might be worthwhile for you, my readers, to have a peek behind the curtains as it were. Though it won’t be everything, because just like with magic, you don’t want to give away the whole trick.

It needs to be said though that every gamification specialist, consultant, guru, etc. have their own version of what the correct process is for creating a gamified solution. We all have the same basic building blocks and for many of us you can fully research these processes on the various websites and books that we have floating about in the world.

For those interested, a small selection of the various specialists out there are (and in no particular order):

The primary goal of any gamification methodology and process is to achieve your business objective And your target audiences objective. Unlike some endeavours, gamification is about interaction, and therefore the best results come from those interactions that are based on an equal footing of ‘give and take’ between the business and the audience.

Before I give a bullet point outline of the methodological steps that go into developing a gamification solution, I do want to cover two things. Firstly, that the steps I outline are based roughly on how I and my co-author Daniel Griffin have placed them in our book Press Start, and that this is one of our views of the process. It is a slightly altered version of Marketing Gamification to a general Gamification version. If you would like specifics on the process around Marketing Gamification, then do have a look at Press Start.

Secondly, I would like to stress that every specialist in the field has their own version of which steps come first or which are omitted or extra ones that are added. The above websites will show you their own processes for your reference.

But in our humble opinion, we believe that to have a successful gamification solution, you must follow at least these 6 steps:

  1. Defining Objectives
  2. Determining Players
  3. Defining Desired Actions
  4. Creating an Experience Journey
  5. Defining Motivations
  6. Determining Metrics & Feedback

A fairly straightforward outline, and we feel that it is the simplest outline that can be effective over the majority of projects we and you may come across. And if you are working with a gamification consultant, then you will now have a base understanding of the methodology used to work through a project.

Gamification process outline


Defining Objectives

This is where the business objectives and the target audience objectives are defined. This is the unavoidable first step in the process. Without this, you will not have an idea of what you are aiming and striving for.

Some of the basic questions to explore with this first step are asking who you are as a company. What do you offer? What resources do you have? What are your goals with your employees, customers, products or services?

And from there you move on to why you want to use gamification. Is it to improve employee/team collaboration, increase customer interaction and so forth? After that we move on to brainstorming the how. How would we implement a gamification solution based on the previous answers?

Though one disclaimer, if you cannot answer the questions effectively, especially the final one, then you should likely reconsider whether the gamification solution that is being presented is the correct one.

On top of your own objectives, you will also need to consider your target audiences goals. As they will differ from your own. Your audience will want to engage with you for very personal reasons, for example, you may wish to sell televisions which make you money, which allows you to make more tv’s and so on. Your target audience does not want to buy a television, they can get a television anywhere. What they want is a viewing experience that they cannot get anywhere else. So consider it from their point of view when developing ideas around and for your audience.


Determining Players

Step two is where you explore your target audience in greater detail, beyond than just their likely overall goal. What they want is still important, but with this step, you want to refine who they are, what they specifically want/need and why they want/need it.

The popular term for this part of the process is known as creating personas. Persona’s define a cluster of like-minded individuals into a specific, easy to comprehend group. You could see this as stereotyping, profiling, or any other synonym for grouping.

This step requires a fair amount of work to research and develop the various persona’s that you may target. However do not create an infinite number of groups, have a handful of groups that you can be easily identified and that everyone in your team can understand. If you are having difficulty then there are some persona models that many gamification experts use as a starting point, for example Andrzej Marczewski’s Player Type Hexad.


Defining Desired Actions

This step is really a catch-all for a few aspects that are required in a gamification solution. First, it’s having an idea of what the specific desired behaviours and actions are that you wish your target audience would take to achieve yours and their objectives.

After you have a rough idea of this, you next determine what the Win and Fail conditions for those objectives and the actions/behaviours associated with them are. These conditions can be elaborate or simple, it is entirely up to the project and the level of detail and comprehension required. To use the television example from earlier, the Win condition is selling a tv that offers a unique viewing experience. The Fail condition is then either not selling the tv or selling it and having a disappointed customer because it did not offer a unique viewing experience.

Once you know your win state and/or fail state, you can start considering which game elements, game mechanics and associated gameplay will best suit what you want to achieve.

Creating an Experience Journey

Your fourth step will be the meat of the gamification solution and will put most of the focus on how you want your target audience to undergo the experience you are putting together.

You will be using your business objectives and audience objectives to map out a path of how to get your target audience from zero to achieving the objectives that you have determined in the previous steps. The most popular method of doing this is by outlining the four basic stages that each “player” experiences in every gamified solution:

  1. Discovery
  2. Onboarding
  3. Scaffolding
  4. Mastery/Endgame – for us we have decided to rename it to Adeptness as this has a more open-ended feel to it than finiteness of something like “Endgame”.

In each stage, you will revisit the previous steps and determine which actions, elements and goals can be used and achieved in them.

You may also want to consider what the overall theme is in your experience in this step, as well as what type of platform you wish to use, be it digital or analogue.


Defining Motivators

Here we will check that the appropriate motivational levers are in place in each stage and that the gameplay and game elements are hitting the correct intrinsic motivations within the target audience. This step may require some (re-)iteration with and/for the previous steps.

For us, we have based the motivational levers on those that appear in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Deci’s Self-Determination Theory and Daniel Pink’s Drive. If you would like to explore them a bit more, we have dedicated a chapter to each motivational lever in our book Press Start.


Determining Metrics & Feedback

In the final step, we will determine and ensure that the correct feedback is being given to the target audience with the mechanics, elements and gameplay that the gamification solution is delivering.

This is done firstly through playtesting and targeted interactive observation, and secondly through implementing the correct metrics. The use of effective metrics not only allows you to determine the success of each aspect of the experience but will also allow to gauge the overall success of the experience.

Example metric systems that we explore in our book are: before versus after testing, A/B testing methods, comparative analytics for user engagement, as well as using well known metric frameworks such as Googles HEART framework.

Additionally, every gamified experience requires direct feedback from the player. Using survey’s and interviews is a good way to get a holistic emotional view of how the player felt the experience was and whether they are likely to continue. Receiving this kind of feedback can be useful.

Alternatively, if the solution is more based around learning and leans towards a playful experience, then the feedback may take the shape of you as a facilitator giving feedback to players/participants. This may be feedback on how they were observed to interact in the experience, what learning objectives were achieved and what critical points they may want to consider.

Final Thoughts

Well, that is a fairly brief overview of the various steps that are in the process of creating a gamification solution. Bear in mind that this is simply one of the versions of the process. For each individual, there will be a different form of the process.

For reference, other specialists will swap steps two and three, others will combine step six with step three and others will omit or add steps. Some may even have additional steps for prototyping, playtesting and production. Our version essentially assumes that the process from ideation to creation to prototyping and launch is all inherent to the overall project that the process is being implemented in.

I would like to reiterate that step one, defining objectives, is always the same, no matter who you speak to or work with. As without it, there is no project and no start. Therefore, remember that if you are working with someone and this isn’t there step one, then you should likely revaluate who they are and what you will likely be able to achieve with them.

Beyond that dire possibility, the variations among steps may even change from business to business, client to client and project to project. Not every experience is created equal and the process of development should, therefore, remain fluid and flexible in order to achieve the best and most successful possible outcome for you and your players.

If you are interested in learning more about the process of creating a Marketing Gamification experience within your company then do check out our book Press Start: Using Gamification to Power-up Your Marketing. 

Also do have a browse through the website and blog, æStranger has a great many gamification solutions and gameful experiences that will suit you and your company.

I hope that this piece has given you some food for thought and helped improve your own methods or at least offered a different viewpoint to consider.

Please do check out the other posts on æ, and please do leave a comment or contact us if you have some ideas of your own that you wish to discuss or if you would like to see other topics discussed.

Please do Share if you found it helpful and know of someone who would it find it helpful as well. And if you are feeling generous then you can support us through PayPal or on our Ko-fi page.


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