4 Fundamentals of Gamification

Want to increase app engagement? Learn how Happn used gamification principles to take people from browsing to engaging.

Centered a series exploring the intersection of design, product, and people around the world. In the latest episode, I talked with designers at a Parisian dating app to learn how they tapped into the power of gamification. Here’s what I learned.

It’s CrushTime

Happn is a popular dating app in France that connects people who’ve crossed paths. It’s like missed connections for the digital age. But their data showed that a number of users would sign into the app, browse their timeline, yet wouldn’t initiate “liking” someone. To tackle this challenge, Happn held a design sprint aimed at increasing app engagement. Their sprint-inspired solution? CrushTime, a mini-game built directly into the app.

Here’s how it works: In each round you are shown four people — one who has a crush on you — and you have to guess who’s the crush. It’s simple. It’s fun. And it keeps you coming back to play.

Tools and Techniques: The 4 Fundamentals of Gamification

CrushTime’s success depended on four fundamental principles of gamification:

1. Value Proposition

Time is precious, and people want to know — is the reward worth it? All experiences, whether they’re apps or games, are competing for people’s time. If the reward isn’t worth the effort, they won’t keep coming back. In CrushTime, the reward is social: discovering who has a crush on you. If you find a mutual crush, the app helps you begin chatting with them right away.

“The win is the crush, because it’s important to win something in a game. Finding love is a good win. 2:00

2. Retention

To retain users over time, it’s important for a gamified experience to limit how many challenges a user can complete in a single session. Often this is done through some form of currency or fuel that replenishes over time. Happn limits how many CrushTime rounds users can play in a day, which allows them to take a break and encourages them to come back for more.

3. Re-engagement

CrushTime also uses push notifications to re-engage their users, incentivizing them to “take a chance,” and “find the one.” Offering deals and other incentives can motivate users to return to the app.

4. Unpredictability

In CrushTime, players are presented with 4 people, but only 1 of those has a crush. In each round, there is a 3 in 4 chance you won’t find your crush on the first try. Selecting someone who isn’t a crush prompts a broken heart dialog, with options to continue (at the price of a credit) or end the round. This adds a sense of challenge to the game and keeps users on edge by making the success rate unpredictable.

It encourages you to play, because you don’t know it’s going to be a sure match right away. 03:38

Learn more in the episode

Come with me to Paris, France, to learn how Happn implemented these gamification principles into their app, creating a game of love.

Subscribe and don’t miss the next season of Centered: yt.be/centered


Special thanks to Tom Greenaway for sharing the fundamentals of gaming and shedding light on the similarities between UX and game design– they’re simply different sides of the same coin: “In UX, the destination is the reward. In a game, the journey is the reward.”