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Why your business needs to consider using gamification

The reasons why gamification, gameful design and learning are already some of the most engaging tools in business today

Whether you own a business, are part of one, are a marketer, HR professional or work in an educational institution, you will have come across gamification or gameful design at some point in your career. And you will likely have gone through the usual journey that accompanies the discovery of gamification; someone in the organisation has read something about it, thinks it’s a great new idea and starts to promote it with others in the organisation.

Naturally, this initial impetus gets some traction and to get quick results there are a few early adopters and there will likely be some successes. But as with many quick gamification attempts, it’ll be superficial and short term, leading to people getting bored with it and eventually dropping the initiative as something fun for a little while but not sustainable.

In the last 20 years, this sequence of events has probably been seen, and likely repeated, by many in a large number of businesses. It’s not uncommon, it happens all the time, a new trend comes in, people use it, it gets overused and we move on to the next new thing. As business owners, we are all looking for the next method that will ensure our success and survival. And gamification can be seen as another one of these.

But that isn’t completely correct. The core of gamification and what it is essentially a methodology based on how we behave and the actions we take to enforce or avoid those behaviours and their outcomes.

Many have likely dismissed gamification as just a process of adding in-game elements and mechanics for getting increased engagement in the short term and then leaving it at that. The reality is that many organisations across almost every industry are already using a form of gamification, or probably better to call it gameful design techniques. And those who use it are some of the most successful businesses in the world.

How successful is or will gamification be?

As of March 2020, the gamification market size is projected to grow from 9.1 billion USD in 2020 to a size of 30.7 billion USD by 2025. This is a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 27.4%. Simply put in gaming vernacular, that’s epic.

As you can see in the graph below, the various global markets have an increase in gamification usage across the board for the next five years.

Despite the popular viewpoint that gamification is just a surface level addition or augmentation to something, the industry itself is alive and well, if not thriving. We need to simply look at the Google Trends for the last five years to see that the interest for gamification has not waned but remained fairly stable.

The reasons for this are numerous, the increase in mobile phone and mobile learning, machine learning, AI, big data and the IoT are all factors that have contributed to this. And of course the continuing rise of gaming and the latest generation entering the workplace, one who has fully grown up knowing only the total access of technology, are also responsible.

So, what is gamification currently then?

If you’re reading this, you likely have an idea of what gamification is or was. For the average individual, it’s probably a handful of tools and elements, like badges and points, that help gets people hooked and engaged when they do something. And to an extent, yes this is part of it, but only a small part.

Gamification describes a way of doing something and it has become a catch-all term for anything that adds game elements and techniques to something that isn’t a game. The concept of gamification was probably cemented a decade ago, where various companies who sold themselves as gamifiers and guru’s popped up and just offered these simple techniques as services. Naturally, these didn’t work, as they weren’t well thought out, they weren’t holistic and they were too short-term in their requirements and strategies.

So gamification was dismissed as a fad, a momentary trend. But gamification currently is a different animal. What I want to get across is that there is a methodology known that uses gameful design techniques, behavioural psychology, learning and marketing techniques. For lack of a better term or description we will continue to use ‘Gamification’ as the descriptor for that methodology, but do not confuse it with the ‘quick-fix’ or ‘obsession-machine’ that it had become at one point in the past.

Gamification is a way of understanding the psychology that motivates us and engages us to do certain actions with certain outcomes. It then uses the knowledge and principles of this and applies them to an organisation’s strategies, be they learning & development, marketing or others. Adding game elements and mechanics are only secondary to this process, it happens after you’ve figured out what drives the consumer or the employee, and then you help them to move with you to the desired goal.

So, what does this current form of gamification look like then? Well, the surface visage of a gamified experience will likely look unchanged or be so subtle that you don’t even see it. If it’s the latter, then it’s probably a very successful gamification initiative. A good analogy is with film editing, if you start to notice the cuts then it probably wasn’t done very well and it’s bad editing. But if you don’t see or notice the cuts in the edit, then its probably a very good editor and the editing was done well.

Let’s have a look at a few examples of gamification in action, some are clear and others are less obvious but still effective.

Examples of gamification

Domino’s Pie Pass

Domino’s, as you probably know and have experienced, is a famous pizza delivery company. And its goal naturally is to get you to buy more pizza’s. To make this easier for you, the customer, they have a mobile app called the Pie Pass.

The Pie Pass is designed to help you get through your order and delivery experience as quickly as possible. In essence, it helps you skip, or pass, the waiting line. When you order online to pick up you can check-in at your local Domino’s and this alerts the staff to get the order ready and tailor the experience to you, the customer.

Domino’s have taken this concept of personalisation a step further by adding the visuals and essential experience from the famous US TV show ‘Cheers’, with the well-known catch line of ‘everyone knows who you are at Cheers’.

Just from this short description, we can see a few gamification elements that Domino’s uses:

  • Customisation: With the check-in function in the Pie Pass, Domino’s can personalise the experience for its customers. You choose your pizza order, but now the staff can address you by name and ensure that you, and only you, have a specific experience with the service that they provide. This creates an emotional connection and a sense of belonging with the customers.
  • Efficiency: Being able to order everything online and thus having the ability to ‘skip’ the waiting line as it were, gives the customer a great sense of control, proficiency and efficiency. People enjoy having things move smoothly and well, and being good at that, even if it is simple. This gives the customer a good feeling, perhaps even one of accomplishment.
  • Sunk-cost: The final aspect that brings all of the above together is the investment of the customer versus what they get out of it. For a little bit of time investment and effort to go to their local Domino’s, they are met with a quick, easy and personalised service. This leaves a lasting positive memory for them and creates a solid sense of loyalty for the brand.

Lego Braille Bricks

Lego Braille Bricks is a pretty straight-forward concept, people and specifically children enjoy playing and building with Lego. It’s a very versatile ‘toy’ and the tactile nature of it is very satisfying. And due to its tactile nature, you receive a lot of feedback through your fingers. So what better way to teach children braille, than through the various bricks and the inherent tactile experience.

  • Accessibility: Lego is incredibly simple to use and the divots and protrusions on the bricks are already there. Therefore it’s a very easy delivery method for people to learn braille with.
  • Exploration & Curiosity: As each brick is different, the combinations are varied, random and near-infinite. Learning the various letters and the combinations then becomes an explorative experience. As they build with the brick they learn the possible letter and word combinations. And in the end, they have a structure that represents a journey for them
  • Purpose: For the blind and visually impaired there is a clear purpose to learn braille so that they can become fully functioning adults in the world. Being able to do this while doing something fun and tactile is the added bonus, and will likely help them to learn at a greater pace than through traditional educational models.

Duolingo, a language learning app

Duolingo is a language learning app that allows it’s users to learn any language in a fun, efficient and engaging way. Instead of just releasing all of their lesson’s upfront to the user, they’ve created a gamified environment where the user needs to work through challenges as they learn their language of choice.

  • Challenges: Challenges have inherent difficulty levels for them. Many games have difficulty settings and Duolingo uses a similar system. Users have to pass certain tests, or gates before they are allowed to progress. They can skip entire modules, but the test, or challenge rather, is compulsory. Having this type of gated experience allows for the more advanced users to jump ahead and keeps the less advanced working at a steady pace to their development. This mechanic is called the ‘Boss Battle’, as the user needs to overcome the boss at the end of the level so that they can unlock the next level and continue their progress.
  • Achievements: When the user completes a lesson in Duolingo, they are awarded an achievement, this takes the form of a badge. The badge, in this case, has inherent value as it is proof to the user that they have completed the required challenges and gained the knowledge to progress. The badges also have a sunk-cost element to them, as they will ‘degrade’ slowly if the user does not regularly keep up their learning of the language. Thus if the user skips on their progress, they won’t have anything to show for it after a while.

KLM Take-off Tips

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines developed a concept where they built a bar which they called the Take-Off Tips Bar. Passengers could go to the bar and through augmented reality and hologram technology, interact and chat with other passengers around the world to exchange travel tips and more.

  • Community: By connecting various individuals around the world through a very visual medium and with new technology, KLM added a ‘wow-factor’ to what is essentially a community-building initiative. Allowing people to connect, share stories and bond despite distances adds a level belonging to any community and to the brand.
  • Esteem: The added benefit of creating a system where people can connect is that they share information. Each person’s story has value and is valuable to someone else. Gifting and sharing is a game mechanic, but the effect of it is that people then feel good about themselves for either having shared knowledge or learned new knowledge. A few other motivational levers do come into play here, adding to the overall effectiveness of the experience.

Final Thoughts

As you can see from the few examples given here, the use of gamification is not overt. It’s often very subtle, and perhaps the companies aren’t even aware that what they are doing is essentially gamification. Usually, it’s more businesses using gameful design techniques to make their products, services or campaigns more engaging for their customers. And the most successful gamification initiatives are those that align their goals with those of their customers and their customer’s needs.

If you are interested in exploring more of what gamification and gameful design has to offer, there are various resources, books and websites that you can explore.

Here is a short list of some:


Gamification Academy

Octalysis Group


Press Start: Using Gamification to Power-up Your Marketing

Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges and Leaderboards

Gamify: How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things

The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook: Ideas into Practice

And thus I will leave you with this quote from Nir Eyal:

“It’s easy to underestimate the power of games. However, challenges and rewards are effective tools for driving consumer loyalty and engagement. Press Start not only provides fascinating insights into this process, but it also functions as an accessible and engaging guide to success.”
— Nir Eyal, bestselling author of ‘Hooked’ and ‘Indistractable’

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.

Do check out the other posts on æ, and 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.

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