There are a great many mechanics and elements when discussing gamification, and many of them can be assigned to purpose. Objectives, goals, challenges, etc. are all worthy mechanics that can be associated with purpose. They do after all target the main purpose of purpose as it were. But the one mechanic that I want to discuss when we look at purpose is the one that creates meaning for it and your player, and that is Narrative. And specifically narrative and theme.
When you design and develop your gamified solution, you can have either narrative or theme, or both. As long as one of them I can pretty much guarantee that your players will be engaged with the experience, so long as you have used them correctly. Saying that I, unfortunately, cannot give you a direct method of how to use it correctly. This will depend entirely upon what product or service you are offering and what the story is that you weave around it.
To help though, I can give you an example of a company that was successful in constructing a worthwhile story around their service.
A few years ago Chipotle, a US Based restaurant chain, made an advertisement that they called Back to the Start. In short, the advert shows a huge industrialised farming compound and a farmer who realises that he should go back to a more sustainable and animal-friendly way of producing his goods.
The advert being a very simple and amusing animation was incredibly successful. And the reason that it resonated so strongly with audiences is that it wasn’t an in-your-face sales pitch about Chipotle. It was an authentic message about what they do and how they go about delivering their product.
The story created a strong connection with their customers because it was a real and authentic one from the company. It was more explaining to the customer what they do rather than what the customer should buy from them or why.
If you use the mechanic of narrative and/or theme, then you must make sure that it is an authentic story, if it is a piece of complete fiction then your players will see through it and you will alienate them. For example, if a car company were to continually state that it’s products are environmentally friendly and the stories that its adverts weave are those of the company and its cars being green, but then it turns out they have been cooking the books and their cars are large polluters. The outcome of something like that I do not need to explain to you.
If you are considering creating a narrative to leverage the full extent of the motivator of purpose then I can recommend that you start with Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. This narrative framework will give you a good basis on what is required to create a story. You cannot get more formulaic than this, as most Hollywood films are based on this framework. And to an extent, you will likely see some success if you start with it.