Gamification is the New Cool

Jotsimran Bains
4 min readDec 14, 2021


Gamification is the use of game-like elements such as leaderboards, trophies, game points, and badges to increase the engagement of different stakeholders. Now, if we look at the history of the word Gamification, it is not very old. The term ‘Gamification’ was coined in 2002 by Nick Pelling while designing a game-like interface for commercial electronic devices (such as ATMs, vending machines). But the application of gamification roots from as far as 1908 with the introduction of the boy scout movement, where badges were awarded to recognize members’ achievements. Since then gamification was used at multiple events but it was not recognized as a gamification concept until 2002.

Since the inception of the gamification concept, a plethora of companies have tried to incorporate gamification to increase customer or user engagement. There have been a lot of success and failure stories while experimenting with gamification but it is imperative for product managers and companies to understand the user psyche before adding gamification elements to their products. Gamification element designed that focuses on certain user psyche can have extraordinary engagement results as compared to introducing gaming elements without a specific purpose. Based on the articles and resources I have come across by Yu-Kai Chou, there are 8 core drivers that motivate us to engage with the concept more. I have tried to explain in a concise way and tried to cite unique examples corresponding to each factor.

8 Core Motivation Drivers

The factors that drive users' motivation could be divided into two parts — intrinsic and extrinsic. I will discuss these elements while discussing each factor. The following 8 factors drive the motivation for users to engage and participate.

  1. Epic Meaning & Calling
  2. Development & Accomplishment
  3. Creativity & Feedback
  4. Ownership & Possession
  5. Social Influence & Relatedness
  6. Scarcity & Impatience
  7. Unpredictability & Curiosity
  8. Loss & Avoidance

Now, I will describe and explain all the factors along with the examples of products corresponding to each factor.

Epic Meaning & Calling — Designing the gamification element with the objective of activating one’s epic meaning and calling can show promising results. Epic meaning and calling element is about bringing a change or adding value for the greater good. It shows that a person is contributing to something big. Pain Squad App is the best example of Epic Meaning and calling. It is designed for children with cancer and to protect them from the negative effects of pian on their minds.

Development & Accomplishment — Notifying a user of a product about the progress he or she has made using the product can create a positive impact. It provides short-term gratification and a nudge to keep going. A lot of fitness apps like Nike Run Club, Step Set Go, etc. use this factor for users to keep coming back.

Creativity & Feedback — The power of creativity and feedback is generally undermined but it could actually resolve a lot of complex problems. A game called Phylo is a classic example of how powerful gamification based on creativity and feedback can be. It allows gamers to play the game which helps genetic researchers to solve complex genetic problems.

Ownership & Possession — The sense of owning something creates an emotional bond which is the primary focus of this factor. A lot of applications use ownership and possession to make users come back by mentioning that ignoring it could make them lose something which they own. Dragonbox Maths App based on ownership factor is a classic example of how gamification could be used to make mathematics super interesting and fun.

Social Influence & Relatedness — Humans are social creatures and finding out that you are doing better than others really makes you feel elevated. The same principle was used by one of the utility companies to control the utility consumption of an area. The results were astonishing as the residents were trying their best not to be the top consumer of electricity or any other utility. Check out this article for more details.

Scarcity & Impatience — The desire to have something that you don’t have increases and can be used as an gamification element. This element is utilized by a lot of different apps, the most common being time scarcity. The time for which the prices are down is shown by a countdown timer which creates a sense of urgency and scarcity among users.

Unpredictibity & Curiosity — The urge to know what will happen next keep users motivated to continue doing a particular activity. An experiment done called Swedish Speed Camera Lottery where lottery was intoduced for the drivers who drove within the speed limit as recorded by the cameras at different places. It was a creative way to introduce gamification to discipline the drivers while maintaining an element of who will win the lottery.

Loss & Avoidance — Now-a-days people have a big FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) if they miss on a great opportunity. The main core driver that is into play here is loss and avoidance. The games like Clash of Clan ensures that a user visit the game frequently as there are some elements of the game indicating that the user might loose something that was their. The feeling of loosing something is what makes people come back and keep engaging.

All the core drivers mentioned above triggers either external or internal motivation. The drivers like Development & Accomplishment, Ownership & Possession, and Sacrcity & Impatience falls under extrinsic motivation segment whereas drivers like Creativity & Feedback, Social Infuence, and Unpredictibity & Curiosity are intrinsic factors. Gamification element introduced based on the core drivers can showcase rewarding results and could increase user engagement.



Jotsimran Bains

An aspiring product manager who is interested in finding out really cool things in the field of product management.