What is Gamification? How does it work (Real life case studies)

What is gamification?

What is Gamification? 

Gamification is a method that combines fun gaming elements into non-gaming contexts to entice users and trigger sudden behaviour. Gamification uses game designs like badges, points, rewards, and leaderboards to motivate active participation and make things interesting. 

In simpler words – If you are into social media marketing, you may influence your followers to win rewards against commenting or sharing your posts. 

Adding such elements to your marketing strategy can hold your users’ interest and motivate them to engage themselves in your social media presence. 

History of Gamification

Nick Pelling, a British-born computer programmer, coined the term ‘gamification’ in 2002 to define research and engagements on different concepts of games. Nick Pelling, a game designer, has been assigned the challenge of developing a user interface for vending machines and ATMs with the help of gamified elements. 

Renowned as the mind behind the 1984 game Frak, this British-born inventor and programmer recognized the applicability of in-game mechanics as valuable tools for various industries and businesses. Pelling was motivated by this realization and chose to apply his gaming expertise beyond the realm of traditional games.

The Psychology Behind Gamification

1. Reinforcing Good Behaviour

For example, You give your dog a treat when it behaves well. The dog understands the thing and keeps doing good behaviour. It is the same with gamification. When you finish a level, you win a reward. This reinforces a behaviour or habit.

Facebook is a prime example of subtle gamification. For instance, when you post something on Facebook, you are rewarded with likes. In this situation, a thumbs-up is a psychological reward and hence you do it again and again.

2. Sense of Achievement

Achievement is a powerful psychological factor that makes us feel good about ourselves. If you are on your app or website, you are trying to gain or achieve something. For example, managing money, learning new technology, or getting fit. 

3. Set Goals and Compete with Ourselves

Human beings are competitive by nature. We love to push ourselves harder. Businesses can make us come back and try harder by using previous records and personal bests

Let us understand this by an example – 

Jillian Michaels owns a goal-tracking website that tracks your exercise and eating habits every day. By continuously displaying your older stats and your progress against set goals, you are forced to beat the record the next time. 

4. We Love to Explore and Escape

We play video games to escape from the real world. Getting lost in a virtual world and exploring a new state is the reason why games like World of Warcraft are popular. 

When you have the freedom to explore, it boosts excitement. Of course, this should be carefully put together so you don’t get lost. As an example, Netflix allows you to explore at your own pace. Letting you find rabbit holes feeds your sense of curiosity. 

5. Exclusivity

There is a reason why users pay hundreds of dollars for business-class plane tickets. Indeed, you get champagne and a bed; but you are not paying for this. You are paying for status. 

Exclusivity produces curiosity, jealousy, and intrigue. You work hard to gain that status.  

6. Teamwork and Collaboration

Humans are very social, which is why we love video games with our gang. This connects well to gamification. If you are made a part of the community by businesses, they gain your trust and loyalty. 

7. Rewards

This does not need an explanation. We love rewards. For example, Starbucks offers rewards on a certain number of purchases. 

8. Dopamine and Addiction

Gamification activates a dopamine rush. It is very simple – Level up, gain a reward, and get good feedback. Dopamine is the reason why you do certain things again and again. For example, you use certain apps or websites again and again because you feel good after using them.

Elements of Gamification

There are different elements of gamification that help create a smooth experience for users. Here are the top gamification elements most commonly used by gamification platforms. 

1. Leaderboards

A Leaderboard is a performance-based board that displays the ranks of participants. Because of leaderboards, we try to perform well and come on top. It just gives us a feeling of accomplishment and additionally improves our skills.

What is gamification?


2. Points and badges

These are the most basic rewards for the users. When you achieve something, you win points and badges.

3. Rewards

There are many rewards to encourage users to keep coming back. Things like coupons and discounts are most widely used as a reward. Gamification motivates users to participate in various tasks by offering rewards. 

4. Levels

Levels allow the users to complete different levels of the games and gain points. This element gives a feeling of growth and keeps encouraging users to participate again and again.

5. Avatars

Avatar is just a visual representation of us inside a gamified system. You can create your avatar as per your personality and relate more with the system. The most popular example here is Snapchat. We can create our avatar as per our looks and dress it up as we want. 

6. Role-playing

Things get interesting when there is a storyline or narrative attached to it. Challenges including role-play create a bridge between users and their characters in the game. This enhances the emotional quotient of the gaming experience. 

7. Teammates

It enhances the social interation between users. They can connect and compete with each other in different elements such as collaborative activities and multiplayer challenges. 

Application of Gamification in Different Sectors

1. Education

Gamified elements in the education system make education engaging. It improves student performance and allows them to understand difficult topics via interactive learning. 

Gamified elements create a sense of achievement in students and motivate them to compete.

Gamification in Education

Matematigo is a Turkish startup that addresses education challenges by producing a game that teaches maths in a fun way. With the help of gamification elements in mathematical questions, the game allows students to learn while having fun and improve numerical and algorithmic problem-solving skills. 

2. Healthcare

Healthcare uses gamification to improve patient care. It is difficult for healthcare organisations to make them obey their medicine doses. This is because, they cannot monitor the patients once they are discharged from the hospital.

With different gamification apps, doctors can provide and promote healthy behaviour via daily challenges. For example, fitness tracking apps provide rewards and challenges to exercise regularly. Additionally, clinical trials are using leaderboards to encourage patients to complete the treatment.

Gamification in Health Sector

Elfie is a Singapore-based startup that simplifies chronic disease management. Its app rewards patients for taking care of themselves for hypertension. Moreover, it creates a personalized plan based on your conditions. It also includes plans for BP monitoring and medical treatments. 

Furthermore, Elfie visualizes important records when patients insert data manually to get feedback. With the help of these features, Elfie generates scores and helps doctors to see this information.

3. Business

Here are a few things that businesses do to engage their consumers and employees:

  • Improved learning initiatives

Gamified elements are used to creat effective training programs for employees. For example, businesses produce interesting training materials with badges to encourage employees to learn and finish new modules. They also encourage employees by rewarding them when they complete classes or certifications. 

  • Employee productivity motivators

Businesses boost productivity by implementing gamification systems that reward employees when they complete their goals. For instance, businesses reward their sales staff when they touch or exceed sales goals. 

  • Customer loyalty program

Gamification helps businesses create a loyalty program to build customer trust and loyalty. They work in various ways. But, the simplest loyalty programs benefit customers with badges and points when they spend the desired amount, purchase n number of items, or refer customers. 

  • Reward customers

Businesses reward you with elements like discounts and free shipping for providing feedback about their customer support or feedback. They do this because your feedback is very important for them to upgrade certain aspects of their business. 

  • Include gamified elements in live events

Businesses host events like product demos and use gamified elements like live polling and scavenger hunts to increase engagement and participation.

4. Personal Development

Personal development is a difficult journey that allows you to grow and learn good things. However, you can make it fun and engaging by using gamified elements.

You can turn your personal goals into a game and complete various challenges to win regards. Here are different ways to enhance your personal development experience.

  1. Define your aim clearly and break it down into smaller and achievable goals
  2. Constantly monitor your growth by maintaining a journal or a spreadsheet. It will help you visualize your accomplishments. 
  3. Celebrate even smaller milestones you achieve during this process. It will keep you motivated and reinforce positive habits
  4. Join a community that aligns with your goals and gain encouragement and support. 
  5. Use leaderboards, badges, and points to infuse engagement and enjoyment in this personal development journey. 

Gamification in Personal Development

Benefits, Limitations, and Risks of Gamification

Gamification is a very powerful tool. It has certain benefits, limitations, and risks. 

1. Benefits of gamification

  • Increases user engagement

Gamification elements are used to increase user engagement. For example, certain educational institutes encourage students to study well, top the exam, and gain points and badges. 

  • Encourages competitive nature

Many individuals love competition. They get motivated when they are competing for something. Gamified elements motivate people to perform well. For example, a marketing manager will award the best performer of the team with a bonus. 

  • A way to participate in the learning process

Gamification layers up the learning process and allows you to participate more. Instead of reading a subject, you participate in the learning process. You get feedback on your performance and stay motivated. 

  • Provides prizes

Gamification reward users with real benefits. For example, you can make things interesting in your coffee shop with a customer loyalty program. It can include free goodies, gift cards, and more. Prizes motivate you a lot.

Limitations of gamification

  • Not everyone is tempted by gamified rewards

Gamification strategy can be ineffective if it exaggerates badges, levels, and points with nothing to back it up. For highly invested participants, businesses require a gamification strategy that provides good story and gameplay. A casual gamified element won’t motivate people. 

  • Content must support gamification

World’s best gamification strategy will fail if one’s content is not good. For gamification to work, business offerings should be tough and have a target audience. 

Risks of Gamification

Gamification is effective in tapping human psychology that triggers the wish to win a game and fosters a feeling of fear, dislike, or loss. However, it also has a few drawbacks.

  1. Selecting the appropriate gamified element is very important. Since the users will focus on the challenge, it is important that the gamified element truely promote the desired behavior. 
  2. Poorly implemented gamification can become a distraction from other things. This will make users trying to manipulate the system. This can result in wastage of money and time. 
  3. Sometimes game can be addictive. This risk can be very dangerous when you are using gamification for commercial uses. It can easily exploit or manipulate consumers and workers, rasing ethical concerns.

Types of Gamification Marketing

Gamification is applied widely in marketing. In 2001, Forbes analysed that around 70% of the ‘Global 2000 companies’ list said that they planned to use gamification for marketing and customer retention. With that being said, here are three major types of gamification marketing.

1. Brandification

Brandification consists of in-game ads for real products and services. It could look like images, videos, or messages promoting the business within games. The first one to do this was Counter-Strike. It allows advertisers to advance movies on the walls within the game. 

The most recent example is Tesla. It is using PUBG to market its cars. As we all know, PUBG is one of the most played video games in the world. Tesla in 2020 displayed their cars in the game for players. 

2. Transmedia

Transmedia allows you to take media property and extend it to various mediums to expand the material or bring more attention. Nintendo, in 1997, did this with its ‘007: GoldenEye’. Designed to garner additional interest in the film’s release, this AAA title game not only achieved that goal but also surpassed the film in terms of revenue.

3. Advergames

These are online video games used to prompt products by inserting them into the game. Advergames get a fair share of money to help other brands. Moreover, it enhances the interest of players in the game.

Advergames became famous in the 90s with Pepsi and 7 Up. In 2019, games like Temple Run and Candy Crush started branding to promote their services. Companies such as WIX and Shopify play an important role in making advergames famous all over the world. These games proved that they can surpass traditional advertising methods and bring the most engagement to the table. 

Examples of Gamification

Gamification has been implemented in various industries. Here are a few examples:

1. Customer Engagement

Companies like Nike, Starbucks, and McDonald’s use various gamified elements like point systems, rewards, and badges to motivate customers to stay engaged with the brand.

2. Health and Wellness

Health apps use gamification elements to motivate people to adopt healthy lifestyles. Fitbit is an IoT app that uses gamification elements to track your body activities and reward you for achieving milestones. This approach can surely encourage you to stay motivated and stay active to make healthier life choices. 

3. Workplace Training and Employee Engagement

Improving workplace training and employee engagement is now easy with the help of gamification elements. Companies like IBM and Deloitte used gamification in their training programs to improve knowledge-gaining process and motivate employees to complete their training modules.

4. Education

Game-based learning has helped education to make learning more fun. E-learning platforms such as Khan Academy use gamification elements to engage students in subjects like mathematics and language. It gives immediate feedback, rewards, and progress tracking to motivate students.

5. Productivity

Task management apps like Trello and Asana increase your productivity with the help of gamified elements. They use elements such as leaderboards and process bars to make tasks enjoyable.

5. Crowdsourcing and Fundraising

Crowdsourcing and fundraising campaigns use gamification to encourage people to participate and contribute to a good cause. Gamified elements create a rewarding environment that encourages people to get involved and support causes. 

Best Practices in Gamification

Using gamification is not as difficult as cracking codes, but is not easy, either. Here are a few gamification techniques that can help you do things right:

1. Gamified activities must be captivating and enjoyable

Gamification has proven to be highly effective in encouraging both employees and customers to interact with the brand. The more they engage, the more they invest emotionally in a business. If the activities are boring, people may disagree to participate. This will lead to a disconnect from the whole exercise. 

2. The Gamification strategy must align with the company’s purpose

The fundamental aim of gamification is to push the company toward its ultimate objectives in an enjoyable manner. A gamification approach that fails to do so becomes a set of games lacking a tangible purpose. Therefore, a gamification strategy must be in line with the company’s purpose. For example, if emotional investment is the primary goal, it is better to use badges rather than prizes. Similarly, a research and development-focused company might find milestone prizes more fitting than badges.

3. Define the metrics you expect your employees to attain

Gamification serves as a powerful motivator for employees to achieve specific metrics. It is very important to establish clear objectives for your employees. Once the desired metrics are determined, outline the steps required to achieve them. This clarity ensures that employees understand their goals and the necessary actions to attain them.

4. Provide training for your employees on gamification

The effectiveness of a gamification strategy depends on your employees’ understanding of its actual goal. Offering training not only familiarises employees with the processes but also emphasizes the importance of their roles. If time constraints block in-house training, consider hiring an external company to provide the necessary guidance. Alternatively, explore companies offering gamification platforms that can seamlessly integrate employee training into your overall strategy.

5. Make your efforts measurable

The key criterion for selecting a suitable gamification strategy among various gamification strategies available, such as game-based, digital rewards, and social incentives is ensuring its measurability. A measurable strategy allows you to assess its impact on your business goals.

Top Gamification Experts

  1. Craig Mills: Craig Mills was the Learning Manager at GAME. It is the UK’s largest video game retailer. Craig’s passion for gamification is unmatchable. His expertise in gamification helped GAME deliver training to a lot of employees, winning awards along the way. 
  2. Megha Saraswat: Megha, Product manager at Gamize, Is an expert when it comes to gamification and especially when it is tied with customer retention and engagement.
  3. Vasilis Gkogkidis: Vasilis Gkogkidis is a gamification trainer at GAMIFICATION+ LTD. Moreover, he is an organiser of the Lego Serious Play facilitator. He is a Ph.D. researcher at the University of Sussex where he usually researches gamification, crowdsourcing, and innovation.

Can Gamification really motivate people?

Yes, gamification can really motivate people.

Consider this: Many individuals feel that children have bad work ethics – they do not want to do their school work, they don’t have discipline, and they do not have the guts to face challenges. 

On the other hand, when it comes to playing games, they have great work ethics. Many children wake up early in the morning, just to play games. If you have played role-play games before, If you’re familiar with it, you’d understand that a significant aspect of levelling up involves repetitively defeating the same monsters in the same location for hours on end.

In the real world, this is defined as Grunt Work. It is obvious no one likes to do grunt work. However, these children who do not have discipline are risking their future. This is because they are excited to bring their game character from level 10 to level 11. 

Children do it because they understand why they are doing this and they like that sense of pride and accomplishment. Their desire is so strong that any obstacle, whether it involves mundane tasks or not, is deemed worthwhile to overcome, and they aim to do so swiftly.

So, here is the true potential of Gamification – Imagine if a business suggested their employees not to work late, but the work is so engaging that they want to work late without expecting extra pay. 

Busting The Myths Around Gamification

Gamification does not constantly have the best reputation. Some of the most common myths about gamification include:

  1. Gamification is a distraction: If you attain your business goals, is it really important how you get there? A training workshop can be recognizable as a way to enhance skills, but if gamification touches the right knowledge and skills to the right audience, it is a very powerful tool. 
  2. Gamification is a fancy word: Does it seem like you’re engaging in a game while gathering stars for your morning coffee? Or when your smartwatch nudges you to take a walk? It is not true at all!!
  3. Gamification is a quick fix for low engagement: There is no quick fix for transforming skills, changing behaviours, and capabilities. But, gamification can surely take place in sharp bursts – just 5 min a day may be enough to gain new behaviours and habits into daily activities. 
  4. Gamification is for kids: There are approximately more than 3 billion gamers in the world and a good amount of these are adults. Gamification is a great tool to engage adults and tap into their inherent motivational drivers.
  5. Gamification is just a fad: Established in 2011, Duolingo boasts a global user base exceeding 500 million. When implemented effectively, gamification stands out as one of the most potent tools at your disposal for captivating your audience and maintaining their inspiration.

The Future of Gamification

Megha, Gamification expert with more than 5 years of industry expert says, The future of gamification is composed of exciting advancements driven by emerging trends and technological innovations. AR and VR are likely to play an important role in enhancing the immersive nature of gamified experiences. 

This integration will allow for more interactive and realistic simulations, transforming learning, training, and entertainment. Additionally, using AI frequently will enable more personalised and adaptive gamification. Additionally, it will help people adapt experiences based on individual preferences and skill levels.

Blockchain technology may contribute to the development of decentralised gaming ecosystems, fostering transparency, security, and true ownership of in-game assets. 

The metaverse concept could further revolutionise gamification by creating expansive, interconnected gaming universes where users can seamlessly move between different games and experiences.

Furthermore, the future of gamification is likely to extend beyond traditional gaming domains. It can potentially influence sectors such as healthcare, finance, and productivity tools. Gamified elements may be integrated into various applications to motivate behaviour change, enhance user engagement, and optimise performance in professional and personal settings.

In summary, the future of gamification has a lot of potential. With technology at its core,  innovation, personalization, and the integration of gamified experiences into different aspects of our lives will enhance the overall experience. 


In conclusion, the future of gamification has a lot of potential, allowing people to shape their behaviours and skills to become who they wish to be. Using the latest technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality, gamification users will unfold new opportunities to develop personalised and immersive experiences. 

While gamification’s main focus is on engagement, its role with exend further. Gamification truly has the potential to handle significant environmental, economic, and social challenges. As it matures, there is an increasing need for collaboration between researchers and practitioners to support gamification development. Furthermore, research is very important to enhance gamification, ensuring a tough study that converts its evolution into a powerful resource for positive changes in society.

Gamification is a dynamic force that is shaping modern society, offering personalised experiences through various technologies. From skill development to addressing social challenges, it’s evolving beyond disengagement solutions. Collaborative research is essential for its developent, ensuring a positive impact on behaviour, learning, and problem-solving in various landscapes of real life.

In conclusion, when used strategically, gamification emerges as a strong force, enhancing engagement, inspiration, and success in various industries.


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *