Intro to Gamification

Have you ever been on a website or app that seems to be able to capture more and more of your time? Chances are they have been using Gamification techniques to keep you engaged and wanting to come back time and time again. These experiences are using techniques found in game design to create a more engaging and rewarding experience, this aids in feeding your motivation verses just shoving the information down your throat.

As a quick example, take a government website. I don’t know about you, but whenever I have to look at one of these I want to get off it as soon as possible. Not only does this mean non of the information is absorbed, but it leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth wanting to never come back. It is a little unfair to judge a government website but I think we can all agree, they would be heaps better if they focused on the human element a bit more.

Why do it

The why of it depends on your use case however, generally speaking, you’d implement Gamification techniques to create a elevated experience. One where users feel compelled to come back to experience more of what you are offering. If you are running a blog, e-commerce site, app, etc. The goal is to keep users coming back, the best way to do that is to play into some basic human behaviours. A game I have been playing a lot recently is Stardew Valley, amazing game by the way. Something the game does is it only saves when you go to bed. This is subtle but what it does is play into that “just one more go” mentality, before you know it, it is 1am on a Sunday before work.

Why mention this? Well that is the type of behaviour we want to envoke with Gamification. Not only is the game really good, but it uses some clever techniques to keep you playing. Lets take the app Duolingo as an example. Not only does it keep you engaged while using the app, it this employs various techniques to get you coming back daily. Using Streaks, Leaderboards, Badges, and threating notifications. Each of these will be appealing to different people, meaning, you may not care about being a “completionist”, so the badges doesn’t mean much but, you might be super competitive, so that leaderboard will keep you coming back to make sure you keep that #1 spot.

Octalysis Framework

The Octalysis Framework outlines 8 core drives that motivates us to keep engaging with certain activities. This is a excellent resource for understanding what you can use to keep your users on your platform. Targeting a specific drive or focusing on multiple to capture as many people’s attention as possible.

Below is a very brief description of each.

Epic meaning and calling

Allows the user to feel like they are apart of a community, think of something like Dribbble, Reddit or Wikipedia. Here users interact and share ideas with like minded users. They are able to share their experience and knowledge on a subject, allowing them to feel empowered when they inspire or inform other users. Giving them a sense of community contribution.

Development and acomplishment

This is allowing the user to see their progression towards something. Allowing them to feel a sense of accomplishment and drive them to explore further. These progression indicators usually take shape in the form of points, badges, levels or a progress bar. It is important to make these challenges have some difficulty attached, achieving something that isn’t difficult isn’t that rewarding to a user.

Empowerment of creativity and feedback

This is all about allowing the user to unleash their creativity and try out different things. While also receiving feedback based on their work. This is definitely why I have a Lego addiction, it allows for expression and an endless amount of fun even if I am stuck with the same bucket of Lego.

Ownership and possession

We all like owning things and using this technique we allow users to own certain things in the experience. We can then go a step further by allowing the user to customise/personalise these assets to have a sense of pride in their digitial assets. This can take the form of a profile avatar that can be customised to better represent how they look.

Social influence and relatedness

This is seen heavily on social media platforms. The idea is, users can be influenced by others on the platform. For example, seeing someone famous wearing a specific brand can make others want that as well. However, this can also backfire and bring up negative human emotions like envy, judgement or jealousy.

Scarcity and impatience

You always want what you can’t have. If something is labelled as “limited time only” or “exclusive club members only”, there is a desire to either buy the product or sign up to get access to these fancy exclusive items. This technique is used heavily in ecommerce websites to help convert users to purchase.

Unpredictability and curiosity

Not knowing what happens next on a TV show or the show ending on a cliffhanger is guaranteed to get you hooked and come back when the show airs next. Making something predictable and surrounding it in a sense of unknown can really get people curious and invest in the product/platform.

Loss and avoidance

Baiting users back to your platform by having a system where they can “lose progress” is a good way to get users coming back almost every day. A good example of this is something like Snapchat with their daily streaks

Next I wanted to do something a bit different, I wanted to go over a fictional idea to implement some Gamification techniques to this website.

Welcome to the house of pain

For this idea I wanted to build off the concept of “houses” in Harry Potter by applying that to my personal website. The idea is; when a user enters the site they’ll be assigned to a team. Based on the actions they take on the website, they will be earning points for their team. This could include; liking the post, spending more than x amount of time on a post, reading multiple posts in a row, etc.

Since there will be other teams, the user will be able to view a leaderboard to show the ranking. Creating that sense of community and competitiveness and enticing the user to stick around the website for a little longer in the hopes of scoring their teams some more points.

At first, this will be done anonymously, however, some users will probably want to stick to their team, especially if they are winning. To solve it, there will be an option for the user to sign up to my newsletter, creating a user record and locking them into their team for good. Each time the user enters the website, they can login to keep earning points for their team.

Now, what will be the ultimate goal? Other than winning, I could introduce the concepts of seasons, where, for x number of months the teams will compete against each other and at the end of the season the winning team recieves a discount on a product or a digital badge. This will hopefully allow users to become more invested.

I can also introduce an avatar for users who have chosen to sign up, allowing them to personalise their avatar, which will be displayed as their profile picture on comment sections, etc.

So, quite a few features in there, lets bring it back to the Octalysis Framework. Which pillars am I targeting here?

  1. Epic meaning and calling - users will get a sense of belonging and community when they earn more points for the team as a whole.
  2. Development and accomplishment - users will be able to see how many points they’ve personally contributed to their team allowing for a sense of accomplishment.
  3. Ownership and possession - the profile avatar with personalisation will give the user a sense of ownership allowing them to become more attached.
  4. Scarcity and impatience - users will have the option to receive further rewards by providing their email to lock in their team and personalising their avatars.
  5. Loss and avoidance - although users won’t be losing anything personally, if they don’t contribute to their team, they will lose out on the community they could create and the special rewards that they may receive.


To wrap up, Gamification is a really interesting topic in the development space, at least for myself. I’ve wanted to become a game developer for years, so being able to introduce some of these underlying techniques to what I build almost everyday is really cool. Definitely keep an eye out for some of these techniques, I think you’ll be suprised what you find. Especially when you realise even LinkedIn applies some of this… Surely recruiters gain points when they message developers, it is never ending. Anyway… I hope this was an interesting article, maybe some day I will implement the “House” idea above or something else completely.

👋 until next time!

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