What is Gamification and how it works?

Sushant Ardent
7 min readJan 2, 2022


Gamification is simply the application of game design elements like points, badges, leaderboards, performance graphs, etc in non-gaming contexts like business, education, work etc, to increase user engagement, happiness and loyalty. Although, this is not a scientific definition but is accepted by a wider section of people across industries. Let’s dive into the principles of gamification and how it all started.

The concept of gamification dates back to the year 1908 when the Boy Scouts awarded their members with badges to recognise their achievements. Subsequently in the year 1973, Charles A Coonradt released a book The Game of Work to address the issue of decreasing productivity in the US. Coonradt suggested that fun-and-games might be the answer to the barbed problem of employee engagement. With sceptical progress in following years, it was in 1981 when the academic research dug into game mechanics and two articles were released by Thomas W. Malone Toward a Theory of Intrinsically Motivating Instruction and Heuristics for Designing Enjoyable User Interfaces which outlined the learnings from computer game design for applications in areas other than games. And in year 1999 Stephen W. Draper published a paper that emphasised the importance of the use of fun of gaming as a major software design requirement. However, the term “gamification” was officially used by Bret Terrill in a blog post for the first time in 2008 and he says:

“In conversations, one of the biggest topics … is the gamification of the web. The basic idea is taking game mechanics and applying to other web properties to increase engagement.”

Also, in the same year, Sony started gifting trophies for playstation3.

Rise of Gamification- Gamification exploded in the subsequent decade, have a look at the major events which led to the rise of gamification which eventually made gamification invisible and enabled everyday users to interact with gamified platforms without even knowing it.

At the 2010 DICE Conference, Jesse Schell predicts that gamification will wind up all over the place, from your toothbrush to your assessment forms. Gabe Zichermann discharges ‘Game-Based Marketing: Inspire Customer Loyalty’ looking at how game mechanics can be utilized to connect with clients. As the term ‘gamification’ gains footing, it’s embraced by Bunchball and Badgeville to depict their administrations. By 2011, apple added achievements to the game centre with the release of iOS5. Amazon released GameCirle service to track achievements and leaderboards in 2013 and so and so forth a flood of game design implementations were seen in industries that were not even closely related to gaming. Snapchat later introduced streaks taking gamification to a new high. Perhaps, gamification proved itself to be an effective way to increase user engagement and loyalty and retention in non-gaming environments.

Today gamification is almost everywhere. You interact with game design elements without even knowing about them. Big tech corporations like Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, SAP, IBM etc leverage principles of gamification both internally to drive employee motivation and externally to drive customer growth, engagement and retention. Here are a few metrics to assess the effectiveness of gamification in real-world use-cases:

  1. SAP: The SAP Community Network regamied its already-mature reputation system, increasing usage by 400% and community feedback by 96%”
  2. SAP Streamwork: added gamication in brainstorming groups and grew generated ideas by 58%
  3. Onmicare: introduces gamication to its IT service desk, getting a 100% participation rate from teams members
  4. Astra Zeneca: gamied medicine training gets 97% of their large network of agents to participate, with a 99% Completion Rate
  5. CaLLogix: reduces attrition by 50% and absenteeism by 80%. The company saves $380,000 per year
  6. Autodesk: gamified the free trial, incentivizing users to learn how to use the program and offering both in-game and real-world prizes, increasing trial usage by 54%, buy clicks by 15% and channel revenue by 29%
  7. Galderma: pharmaceutical company, uses gamification to train their sales division regarding new products. Despite the voluntary participation, nearly 92% of targeted employees ended up playing
  8. Deloitte: leverages mobile SDK along with a mobile social rewards program with Yammer to bring on 50K of their 200K Consultants to socialize and share knowledge with each other
  9. Spotify and Living Social: replaced annual reviews with a mobile, gamied solution with over 90% of employees participating voluntarily
  10. Objective Logistics: the company motivates the employees through behavioural rewards and increases their prot margin by 40%
  11. Inside view: Gamifies their employee social media usage and increased Twitter updates by 312%
  12. Domino’s Pizza: created the gaming app Pizza Hero and increased sales revenue by 30% by letting customers create their own pizza with an app
  13. Danske Statsbaner: through their “Engaged” platform, employees share their actions that support the value and strategy of the company, resulting in 92% positive ratings in content

The industry-wide data establishes a strong case for gamification to be effective in driving multiple growth metrics in a platform, business, app or game. However, a lot of scientific research is still undergoing to study the role of gamification and game mechanics and their effectiveness. One such study establishes a relation between major game design elements and human behaviour, paving a way for us to understand how actually gamification works?

Before we dive deep into the mechanics of gamification let’s first understand the major game design elements which essentially are the building blocks of gamification as a discipline.

  • Points are basic elements of a multitude of games and gamified applications. They are typically rewarded for the successful accomplishment of specified activities within the gamified environment, and they serve to numerically represent a player’s progress.
  • Badges are defined as visual representations of achievements and can be earned and collected within the gamification environment. They confirm the players’ achievements, symbolize their merits and visibly show their accomplishment of levels or goals.
  • Leaderboards rank players according to their relative success, measuring them against a certain success criterion. Leaderboards can help determine who performs best in a certain activity and are thus competitive indicators of progress that relate the player’s own performance to the performance of others.
  • Performance graphs provide information about the players’ performance compared to their preceding performance during a game. Thus, in contrast to leaderboards, performance graphs do not compare the player’s performance to other players, but instead, evaluate the player’s own performance over time.
  • Meaningful stories are game design elements that do not relate to the player’s performance. The narrative context in which a gamified application can be embedded contextualizes activities and characters in the game and gives them meaning beyond the mere quest for points and achievements
  • Avatars are visual representations of players within the game or gamification environment. Usually, they are chosen or even created by the player.
  • Teammates, whether they are other real players or virtual non-player characters (NPCs), can induce conflict, competition or cooperation. The latter can be fostered particularly by introducing teams, i.e. by creating defined groups of players that work together towards a shared objective.

All the above-mentioned elements are primarily to serve the purpose of psychological need satisfaction which are mainly derived from self-determination theory and cater to three basic psychological and intrinsic needs.

  • The need for competence refers to feelings of efficiency and success while interacting with the environment.
  • The need for autonomy refers to psychological freedom and to volition to fulfil a certain task.
  • The need for social relatedness refers to one’s feelings of belonging, attachment, and care in relation to a group of significant others.

The study found that all game design elements can be sub-categorised as data points serving to fulfil the above-mentioned psychological needs of a particular user. It established a relationship between game design elements and psychological needs by experimenting with two separate sets of users, one in a controlled condition and other game design elements condition, it was found that participants in game design elements condition with badges, leaderboards and performance graphs had significantly higher levels of competence need satisfaction than the participant in controlled conditions. Similarly, the need for autonomy was further classified as autonomy need satisfaction for decision freedom and task meaningfulness and established that although the game design elements do not largely affect the autonomy need satisfaction for decision freedom but participants in game design element condition with badges, leaderboards, and performance graphs had significantly higher perceived task meaningfulness than participants in the control condition. In the context of social relatedness participants in the game design element condition with avatars, meaningful stories, and teammates had significantly higher levels of social relatedness need satisfaction than participants in the control condition and participants in the experimental condition.

We can conclude that gamification has a promising future and it can be firmly assumed that gamification will play a crucial role in how we interact with various apps and platforms but the future of the web is decentralized and gamification will have to evolve to fit in the user’s freedom and ownership through blockchains. In the current scheme of things all game design elements issued by different platforms are merely in-app sets of data that are issued and controlled by the native application. Having said that we are releasing CRIDA a decentralized gamification protocol that let users earn experience points (XPs) as NFTs which each earning user can own considering the technical nature of Non-fungible tokens, badges will also be issued as NFTs with a property to attach custom assets and XPs to them that are owned by every user earning them on a particular platform. We believe this will revolutionize the way gamification is perceived by both users and platforms.

PS: We will be publishing more on CRIDA protocol and use-cases in distinct scenarios in future articles.