Hitchhiker’s Guide to… GAMIFICATION

Keep It Simple, Make It Smile!

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.

You find the fun and snap! the job is a game.”

— Mary Poppins


As a matter of perspective, to be able to understand “What is Gamification”, it’s better first to go through what it is not! Then we shall continue talking about this topic in a broader perspective.

Gamification is…

  • Not just for marketing or sales

  • Not just Points, Badges and Leaderboards

  • Not making everything a game

  • Not rocket science! Ha!

What is it then?

There are plenty of experiments going on about this topic, together with the challenge of making a definition for this emerging area. I took the liberty of picking a simplistic definition which was mainly coined by Kevin Werbach.

Gamification is…

“The use of game elements & game design techniques in non-game contexts. ”

The adventure begins when you regard your audience as “players”, not as customers or employees.

Game elements, as per its definition, are: points, resource collection, quests, levels, avatars, etc

Non-game contexts can be summarised as:

  • Some objectives other than success a game

  • Business, school, social impact, etc.

Gamifying any non-game context will require:

  • Learning from game design techniques

  • Appreciating fun..

  • ..and embracing Predictable Irrationality

Gamification, as a term, has entered our world recently. However, the applications of the techniques goes way back in history.


When you are doing something in a playful mood, time flows by. You are so intensely engaged with that activity, even though you have no obligation to do so, no matter what. And the best part is that you are really enjoying every minute of it!

Play, as a way of learning: This is how you can really feel what you do, live the process; understand new things in the most natural ways. Well, that’s the basis of game dynamics!

Let’s elaborate further by describing the player types & designing the player journey.

[1] Describe the Player types:

One of the best works is known as Bartle’s player types.

  • Killers: Focus on winning, rank and direct competition.
    Engaged by: Leaderboards, Ranks

  • Achievers: Focus on attaining status and achieving pre-set goals.
    Engaged by: Achievements

  • Socializers: Focus on socializing and motivated to develop a network of friends and contacts.
    Engaged by: Newsfeeds, Friends lists, Chat

  • Explorers: Focus on exploring and motivated to discover the unknown.
    Engaged by: Surprise achievements, Unexpected badges

Generally speaking, each of us contains characteristics of multiple player types. For instance, you can be 60% socializer and 40% explorer, and so on.

[2] Design the Player journey:

Players should be engaged with the activity through a continuous loop. Notice that the Engagement Loop is perfectly applicable to coaching practice; this can be applied especially onto 1-1 sessions and team meetings.

The engagement loop

The engagement loop

The player journey must clearly identify the continuity of the engagement loops. On top of that, visible progress or rewards motivates the player’s actions. LinkedIn’s profile completeness bar is a nice example of that.

As a complementary aspect comes the Progression Loop. This plays a critical role for the motivation of your players, developing mastery by going through stages of ongoing challenges: Onboarding – Scaffolding – Mastery.


An example of a Progression ladder.

and a sample Badge as reward:

..and a sample Badge as reward.


There are different ways of applying Gamification in your environment (projects, job, and even life matters). There is no ultimate recipe, as usual! It is better to learn from different techniques and experiment continuously.

The generic technique is applying Badges-Points-Leaderboards (BPL) and try to get away with it. The BPL technique is very easy, but it has an artificial structure. If not done properly it may not accomplish anything at all. Instead, it is better to analyse the dynamics of our target business first, try to understand the interactions, and then do continuous experiments.

One of the techniques that are worth to share, and I’ve seen it working well in practice, is the D6 Gamification Design Framework, which has been crafted by Kevin Werbach.

With D6 you start with the objective you want to gamify. Then you elaborate on six segments:

  • [1] DEFINE business objectives
    List & Rank possible objectives & tradeoffs
    Eliminate Means-2-Ends (“Badges” aren’t goals but means)
    Justify the remaining objectives

  • [2] DELINEATE target behaviors
    Specific things you want Players to do
    Success Metrics (“win states”)
    Analytics – Virality, Volume of activity Virality – friend referrals, etc

  • [3] DESCRIBE your players
    Find out what motivates them, apply the Bartle model

  • [4] DEVISE activity loops
    Engagement Loop
    Progression Ladder (Player Journey)

  • [5] DON’T forget the FUN
    It’s easy to forget: “It’s supposed to be fun!”
    Don’t assume that the activity is fun in itself!

  • [6] DEPLOY the appropriate tools
    Not only Points-Badges-Leaderboards! Think broader.
    Tap the emotions with: Relatedness, Social Recognition, Loss Aversion.

I won’t go through the details here, as each item is sufficiently self- explanatory. Though if you want to advance your learning, I recommend you to read that book For the Win written by Kevin Werbach, the designer of the framework.

Remember remember… Designing a Gamified flow requires:

  • Autonomy — it’s all about the Player!

  • Meaningful choices

  • Analytical & Creative

  • Engagement & Progression


There are numerous situations where gamification can be used to achieve better results: Increasing motivational level in teams, product development, changing social behaviour, loyalty programs and well, tons of other fields. As a result of some brilliant crowdsourcing ideas you can even contribute to scientific researches by playing games like EyeWire or Foldit.

Gamification can also play a big part in innovation processes. Gartner says that by 2015 more than 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes.

After seeing how many successful gamified products, services and projects that are out there, the question remain to ask is: why haven’t you tried implementing it yet?


Eager  to learn more?

Very soon we’ll have a seminar & workshop about Gamification, where you can learn to put knowledge into practice. Click here to read more >>.
(the seminar will be partly in Norwegian, partly in English)

This article has been collaboratively crafted by Kim, Rita, Simen and Yilmaz.
+1 goes to Incognito Ninja

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s