Joris Beerda: “Guide to Gamification Glory” – Part 2

steps map.001In my last Gamification blog piece ( I discussed analytics and basic Octalysis Design and how to create a good experience design framework that appeals to different core drives, different players and in different stages of the experience (from discovery all the way up to the end-game).

We also talked about how to develop game techniques / features that appeal to key core drives, so that people stay engaged mid-to-long term as well. When designed well, you have landed in Octalysis Heaven!

Now, we descend down to earth again though. We have some important issues to solve before we can hand our design to game developers.


How do we:

• Get a working product while keeping in mind the limited budgets of our clients?

• Get people to acquire skills throughout the experience?

• Get them to reach a state of Flow, where players forget time and space and become completely engaged in the experience

• Know what feedback works and what feedback doesn’t?

budget greenBack to Business

We have an ideal scenario wherein our gamification features are optimally paired for the impact we want to have on player engagement. But, wait, is there enough budget to cover the development of all these features? And how do we decide what to leave in and which features to leave out? In the end, your client will decide what he or she is willing to pay to get an optimal experience. Having cool 3-D avatars that can sing, dance and interact may be a really cool feature, but is your client willing to fork out the extra 20,000 USD it will take to develop it? Or would he rather spend that money on other features?

To facilitate the choices our client has to make, we prepare a PES list. This list states, for each feature, how powerful it is and how easy it is to implement:

P Power of the Feature: how much effect does the feature have?

E Ease and cost of development/implementation of the feature

S Total weighted score: if the client has a large development budget at its disposal, we will assign greater significance to P. It’s the power/effect that matters most. However, if the client doesn’t have a lot of budget, it may choose to go for less powerful features: less effect but more befitting their budget.

The advantage of using PES is that you force your client to make key decisions before development of features takes place. The last thing we want is that a client discovers midway that the budget doesn’t fit with what we have designed for. This is part of your responsibility of being a Professional Gamification Designer too!

OK, back to design…

green flowAcquiring skills and reaching Flow

Activity Flow Cycles

By now many people are familiar with the concept of Flow, coined by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi to describe a state of optimal motivation where skills and challenges are approximately equal and where players forget time and space and become completely engaged in the experience. The point where challenges are a little bit more difficult than skills is where cognitive development (aka “learning”) takes place.

Our activity cycles are aimed at touching these super-optimum points in the experience time and time again, but not continuously: we call this “progression stairs”, which symbolizes the players learning journey at meso levels of the experience. The macro level is the Octalysis analysis. Later I will talk about feedback loops at the micro level).

Progression stairs

The learning experiences we design are structured in such a way that we allow players the greatest possible freedom in choosing how they would like to learn. They can start with assignment/game A, B or C and preferably in whatever order they want (if possible).

In the end, every player reaches comparable end goals though so that business objectives are covered. After an amount of learning has taken place, players normally encounter a very difficult assignment, where they have to out what they have learned in practice (in games this is the “Boss Fight”). Completing this assignment bring you to an Epic Win State, where we allow the player some time to enjoy the mastery he or she has acquired. Hey, learning is fun! From there on, new levels start and new progression stairs are formed. As you can see skills are formed, approximately in line with the levels getting more challenging. This is flow in practice.

Levelling up is always increasingly more difficult and normally we do not design for progress in linear fashion, but in a way that looks linear but isn’t. Progression is skewed heavily towards being easily achieved in the beginning and more difficult to achieve at later stages. So you will progress quite easily at level 1 or level 3, but levelling up to level 45 from 44 may take a very long time.

green baby plantMicro-levels: Feedback Loops: how are rewards structured best?

In order to motivate people to learn and progress to mastery we give them feedback on their actions by handing out rewards. The Gamified experience should provide these rewards at the micro level of the experience in order to facilitate the path to mastery and to keep people primed while coming into or being in flow.

I like to use a definition of rewards in its broadest sense:

“A stimulus or possitive feedback given to someone who obtains a response or outcome that increases the probability of occurrence of the response or the probability of a similar activity leading to a similar outcome”

In this definition, rewards are not just extrinsically originated rewards (money, badges, ranking, experience points), but it also encompasses rewards that follow intrinsically originated behaviour (the feeling of pride, of being content or feeling smart when your choice of actions leads to results). Yes, these are also rewards, even though they cannot be quantified so directly as extrinsic motivators.

But make no mistake, our gamified system provides us with a lot of quantified information about intrinsic behaviour too: amount of times players try an assignment; amount of different solution possibilities tried for an assignment; amount of shares while in the experience etc etc. And although you cannot always measure progress one-on-one with these intangible intrinsic rewards, they are very important for player motivation especially for mid to long run motivation. This is where the staying power of your crafted experience lies, so don’t just rely on XPs, Leaderboards and Badges to motivate players.

So what’s next?

The next step is development of the product. Because we have created awesome wireframes of how the experience will look and feel like, we now have a product that we can go to game developers with.

That’s something we will discuss in my next blog issue: How to Develop an Awesome Gamification Experience!

I will focus on:

• How do developers translate Gamification Design into a real working product or platform?

• What role does the Gamification Designer play in the Development phase? • What kind of releases can you expect: from MVP, to release 1.0, 2.0, 3.0…

• How is developing a Gamified experience different from developing a game?

Do you have a Gamification topic that you want me to discuss?

Contact me on:

See you next time.

Till then: Keep the faith!

Leave a Comment

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