Republic of Gamification
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Republic of Gamification
Resource center for gamification trends and practices
Curated by Hubert Cosico
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Gamification pourquoi et comment

La gamification est l’application des principes, des éléments, des mécanismes et de la psychologie du jeu dans d’autres domaines. La gamification favori
Hubert Cosico's insight:

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Why pay for performance undermines motivation and Why process based indicators may be incompatible with quality improvement

Why pay for performance undermines motivation and Why process based indicators may be incompatible with quality improvement | Republic of Gamification |
Hubert Cosico's insight:

Key insights: "Performance based pay may increase output for straightforward manual tasks. However, a growing body of evidence from behavioral economics and social psychology indicates that rewards can undermine motivation and worsen performance on complew cognitive tasks, especially when motivation is high to begin with."


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How do Game Mechanics Change Behavior?

How do Game Mechanics Change Behavior? | Republic of Gamification |

Most behavior change games include four game design mechanisms: setting goals and missions, tracking progress, receiving incentives, and receiving support.


The first step in most behavior change games involves setting a goal and missions, quests or challenges to achieve the goal. Players have missions assigned to them, choose from a set of pre-configured missions, or create their own missions. Missions range in difficulty, and new players are encouraged to start with easier missions before proceeding to more difficult ones. On Mint and Payoff, typical goals include paying off a credit card debt or buying a house, while on Fitocracy and SuperBetter typical missions include eating healthier or working out.


Most behavior change games track progress by asking players to complete virtual tasks (Urgent Evoke, World Without Oil, Code Academy and DuoLingo) or self-report on their progress (RecycleBank, Fitocracy and SuperBetter), while some automatically track data through sensors and feeds (Quentiq, Nexercise, Zamzee, OPower, Mint and Payoff). Most games use points, rankings, levels and leader boards to help players measure their progress and compare their performance to friends, similar others, and other players. For instance, OPower compares players’ energy consumption to that of their neighbors and Mint compares peoples’ spending habits across categories such as coffee, phone bills and gas. These benchmarks help players re-evaluate their missions and encourage a healthy sense of competition, both to beat their own best performance and that of their friends.


Players receive incentives when they accomplish tasks such as completing their profile, inviting friends, sharing their progress, or achieving a milestone. Incentives range from rewards like points, virtual goods and unlocked content; recognition through badges, levels, titles and special privileges; and in some cases real-life prizes including cash prizes ( and holidays packages (RecycleBank). Incentives are effective in attracting first-time players, helping them get started and creating fun and excitement. After they are hooked and begin to successfully complete missions, players receive the ultimate incentive to keep playing – they see a change in their behavior and experience a sense of pride and self-empowerment.


Most behavior games are intrinsically social in nature. They encourage players to share their performance with their social networks and connect them to other people who have struggled with or overcome similar challenges. These communities of friends and like-minded strangers offer players support, encouragement, advice and, when needed, a good dose of peer pressure. In some games, friends have specific roles to play; for instance, in SuperBetter, players invite allies to create special missions for them, while in Urgent Evoke, players give power votes and act as mentors for others.


Behavior change games work best when they are designed with wonder, playfulness and storytelling at their core. In spite of the hype around gamification and the success of white label gamification solutions like Badgeville, Bunchball, and BigDoor, it’s not enough to just add community or game elements to boring tasks.


Game researcher Nicole Lazzaro explains why we play games:

“Wonder, one of the strongest emotions of game design, rivets player attention and unleashes powerful neurochemicals that facilitate learning. At the heart of every intellectual pursuit, at the root of nearly all engagement, wonder keeps players coming back.”


Game researcher Raph Koster argues in his book Theory of Fun for Game Design that games and stories have a complimentary role: “Games tend to be experiential teaching; stories teach vicariously. Games are good at objectification; stories are good at empathy. Games tend to quantize, reduce, and classify; stories tend to blur, deepen, and make subtle distinctions. Games are external – they are about people’s actions; stories are internal – they are about people’s emotions and thoughts.”


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What Causes Behavior Change?

What Causes Behavior Change? | Republic of Gamification |

Fogg's Behavior Model shows that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing.


Using this model as a guide, designers can identify what stops people from performing behaviors that designers seek. For example, if users are not performing a target behavior, such as rating hotels on a travel web site, the Fogg's Behavioral Model (FBM) helps designers see what psychological element is lacking.


The FBM also helps academics understand behavior change better. What was once a fuzzy mass of psychological theories now becomes organized and specific using this model.


The FBM highlights three principal elements, each of which has subcomponents:


1. Core Motivators: Pleasure/pain, hope/fear, social acceptance/rejection.


2. Simplicity Factors that facilitate ability: time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance, non-routine.


3. Triggers: Facilitator, spark, signal


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Secret Game Mechanics Playdeck

Secret Game Mechanics Playdeck | Republic of Gamification |

Game mechanics are spreading and are becoming more and more omnipresent.


Some companies keep a playbook of product tips, tricks and trade secrets. Zynga has an internal playbook, for instance, that is a collection of “concepts, techniques, know-how and best practices for developing successful and distinctive social games”.

SCVNGR, which makes a mobile game with real-world challenges, has a playdeck that lists different game mechanics that can be mixed and matched to create the foundation for different types of games.


Here is a list of game dynamics terms, game dynamics theories that are interesting and potentially useful to any gamification aficionado.


1. Achievement
Definition: A virtual or physical representation of having accomplished something. These are often viewed as rewards in and of themselves.
Example: a badge, a level, a reward, points, really anything defined as a reward can be a reward.


2. Appointment Dynamic
Definition: A dynamic in which to succeed, one must return at a predefined time to take some action. Appointment dynamics are often deeply related to interval based reward schedules or avoidance dyanmics.
Example: Cafe World and Farmville where if you return at a set time to do something you get something good, and if you don’t something bad happens.


3. Avoidance
Definition: The act of inducing player behavior not by giving a reward, but by not instituting a punishment. Produces consistent level of activity, timed around the schedule.
Example: Press a lever every 30 seconds to not get shocked.


4. Behavioral Contrast
Definition: The theory defining how behavior can shift greatly based on changed expectations.
Example: A monkey presses a lever and is given lettuce. The monkey is happy and continues to press the lever. Then it gets a grape one time. The monkey is delighted. The next time it presses the lever it gets lettuce again. Rather than being happy, as it was before, it goes ballistic throwing the lettuce at the experimenter. (In some experiments, a second monkey is placed in the cage, but tied to a rope so it can’t access the lettuce or lever. After the grape reward is removed, the first monkey beats up the second monkey even though it obviously had nothing to do with the removal. The anger is truly irrational.)


5. Behavioral Momentum
Definition: The tendency of players to keep doing what they have been doing.
Example: From Jesse Schell’s awesome Dice talk: “I have spent ten hours playing Farmville. I am a smart person and wouldn’t spend 10 hours on something unless it was useful. Therefore this must be useful, so I can keep doing it.”


6. Blissful Productivity
Definition: The idea that playing in a game makes you happier working hard, than you would be relaxing. Essentially, we’re optimized as human beings by working hard, and doing meaningful and rewarding work.
Example: From Jane McGonical’s Ted Talk wherein she discusses how World of Warcraft players play on average 22 hours / week (a part time job), often after a full days work. They’re willing to work hard, perhaps harder than in real life, because of their blissful productivity in the game world.


7. Cascading Information Theory
Definition: The theory that information should be released in the minimum possible snippets to gain the appropriate level of understanding at each point during a game narrative.
Example: showing basic actions first, unlocking more as you progress through levels. Making building on SCVNGR a simple but staged process to avoid information overload.


8. Chain Schedules
Definition: the practice of linking a reward to a series of contingencies. Players tend to treat these as simply the individual contingencies. Unlocking one step in the contingency is often viewed as an individual reward by the player.
Example: Kill 10 orcs to get into the dragons cave, every 30 minutes the dragon appears.


9. Communal Discovery
Definition: The game dynamic wherein an entire community is rallied to work together to solve a riddle, a problem or a challenge. Immensely viral and very fun.
Example: DARPA balloon challenge, the cottage industries that appear around McDonalds monopoly to find “Boardwalk”.


10. Companion Gaming
Definition: Games that can be played across multiple platforms
Example: Games that be played on iphone, facebook, xbox with completely seamless cross platform gameplay.


11. Contingency
Definition: The problem that the player must overcome in the three part paradigm of reward schedules.
Example: 10 orcs block your path.


12. Countdown
Definition: The dynamic in which players are only given a certain amount of time to do something. This will create an activity graph that causes increased initial activity increasing frenetically until time runs out, which is a forced extinction.
Example: Bejeweled Blitz with 30 seconds to get as many points as you can. Bonus rounds. Timed levels.


13. Cross Situational Leader-boards
Definition: This occurs when one ranking mechanism is applied across multiple (unequal and isolated) gaming scenarios. Players often perceive that these ranking scenarios are unfair as not all players were presented with an “equal” opportunity to win.
Example: Players are arbitrarily sent into one of three paths. The winner is determined by the top scorer overall (i.e. across the paths). Since the players can only do one path (and can’t pick), they will perceive inequity in the game scenario and get upset.


14. Disincentives
Definition: a game element that uses a penalty (or altered situation) to induce behavioral shift
Example: losing health points, amazon’s checkout line removing all links to tunnel the buyer to purchase, speeding traps.


15. Endless Games
Definition: Games that do not have an explicit end. Most applicable to casual games that can refresh their content or games where a static (but positive) state is a reward of its own.
Example: Farmville (static state is its own victory), SCVNGR (challenges constantly are being built by the community to refresh content).


16. Envy
Definition: The desire to have what others have. In order for this to be effective seeing what other people have (voyeurism) must be employed.
Example: my friend has this item and I want it!


17. Epic Meaning
Definition: players will be highly motivated if they believe they are working to achieve something great, something awe-inspiring, something bigger than themselves.
Example: From Jane McGonical’s Ted Talk where she discusses Warcraft’s ongoing story line and “epic meaning” that involves each individual has motivated players to participate outside the game and create the second largest wiki in the world to help them achieve their individual quests and collectively their epic meanings.


18. Extinction
Definition: Extinction is the term used to refer to the action of stopping providing a reward. This tends to create anger in players as they feel betrayed by no longer receiving the reward they have come to expect. It generally induces negative behavioral momentum.
Example: killing 10 orcs no longer gets you a level up.


19. Fixed Interval Reward Schedules

Definition: Fixed interval schedules provide a reward after a fixed amount of time, say 30 minutes. This tends to create a low engagement after a reward, and then gradually increasing activity until a reward is given, followed by another lull in engagement.
Example: Farmville, wait 30 minutes, crops have appeared.


20. Fixed Ratio Reward Schedule

Definition: A fixed ratio schedule provides rewards after a fixed number of actions. This creates cyclical nadirs of engagement (because the first action will not create any reward so incentive is low) and then bursts of activity as the reward gets closer and closer.
Example: kill 20 ships, get a level up, visit five locations, get a badge.


21. Free Lunch

Definition: A dynamic in which a player feels that they are getting something for free due to someone else having done work. It’s critical that work is perceived to have been done (just not by the player in question) to avoid breaching trust in the scenario. The player must feel that they’ve “lucked” into something.
Example: Groupon. By virtue of 100 other people having bought the deal, you get it for cheap. There is no sketchiness b/c you recognize work has been done (100 people are spending money) but you yourself didn’t have to do it.


22. Fun Once, Fun Always

Definition: The concept that an action in enjoyable to repeat all the time. Generally this has to do with simple actions. There is often also a limitation to the total level of enjoyment of the action.
Example: the theory behind the check-in everywhere and the check-in and the default challenges on SCVNGR.


23. Interval Reward Schedules

Definition: Interval based reward schedules provide a reward after a certain amount of time. There are two flavors: variable and fixed.
Example: wait N minutes, collect rent.


24. Lottery
Definition: A game dynamic in which the winner is determined solely by chance. This creates a high level of anticipation. The fairness is often suspect, however winners will generally continue to play indefinitely while losers will quickly abandon the game, despite the random nature of the distinction between the two.
Example: many forms of gambling, scratch tickets.


25. Loyalty
Definition: The concept of feeling a positive sustained connection to an entity leading to a feeling of partial ownership. Often reinforced with a visual representation.
Example: fealty in WOW, achieving status at physical places (mayorship, being on the wall of favorite customers).


26. Meta Game
Definition: a game which exists layered within another game. These generally are discovered rather than explained (lest they cause confusion) and tend to appeal to ~2% of the total gameplaying audience. They are dangerous as they can induce confusion (if made too overt) but are powerful as they’re greatly satisfying to those who find them.
Example: hidden questions / achievements within world of warcraft that require you to do special (and hard to discover) activities as you go through other quests.


27. Micro Leader-boards
Definition: The rankings of all individuals in a micro-set. Often great for distributed game dynamics where you want many micro-competitions or desire to induce loyalty.
Example: Be the top scorers at Joe’s bar this week and get a free appetizer.


28. Modifiers
Definition: An item that when used affects other actions. Generally modifiers are earned after having completed a series of challenges or core functions.
Example: A X2 modifier that doubles the points on the next action you take.


29. Moral Hazard of Game Play
Definition: The risk that by rewarding people manipulatively in a game you remove the actual moral value of the action and replace it with an ersatz game-based reward. The risk that by providing too many incentives to take an action, the incentive of actually enjoying the action taken is lost. The corollary to this is that if the points or rewards are taken away, then the person loses all motivation to take the (initially fun on its own) action.
Example: Paraphrased from Jesse Schell “If I give you points every time you brush your teeth, you’ll stop brushing your teeth b/c it’s good for you and then only do it for the points. If the points stop flowing, your teeth will decay.”


30. Ownership
Definition: The act of controlling something, having it be *your* property.
Example: Ownership is interesting on a number of levels, from taking over places, to controlling a slot, to simply owning popularity by having a digital representation of many friends.


31. Pride
Definition: the feeling of ownership and joy at an accomplishment
Example: I have ten badges. I own them. They are mine. There are many like them, but these are mine. Hooray.


32; Privacy
Definition: The concept that certain information is private, not for public distribution. This can be a demotivator (I won’t take an action because I don’t want to share this) or a motivator (by sharing this I reinforce my own actions).
Example: Scales the publish your daily weight onto Twitter (these are real and are proven positive motivator for staying on your diet). Or having your location publicly broadcast anytime you do anything (which is invasive and can should be avoided).


33. Progression Dynamic
Definition: a dynamic in which success is granularly displayed and measured through the process of completing itemized tasks.
Example: a progress bar, leveling up from paladin level 1 to paladin level 60.


34. Ratio Reward Schedules
Definition: Ratio schedules provide a reward after a number of actions. There are two flavors: variable and fixed.
Example: kill 10 orcs, get a power up.


35. Real-time v. Delayed Mechanics

Definition: Realtime information flow is uninhibited by delay. Delayed information is only released after a certain interval.
Example: Realtime scores cause instant reaction (gratification or demotivation). Delayed causes ambiguity which can incent more action due to the lack of certainty of ranking.


Want more secrets?

Source: Erick Schonfeld


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9 Game Fundamentals To Increase Engagement

9 Game Fundamentals To Increase Engagement | Republic of Gamification |

Gamification relies on nine basic game fundamentals for successful application to education, instruction, learning and real-world work .


According to Ralph Koster’s work A Theory Of Fun, “A game is a system where players engage in abstract challenges, defined by rules, interactivity and feedback, that results in a quantifiable outcome, often eliciting an emotional reaction.”


Professor Karl Kapp takes Koster’s definition and breaks it down even further:


1. System

A set of integrated elements that take place within the confined space of the game. Each part of the game affects the other parts. Scores are linked to behaviors and actions that are directly related to a strategy or movement of pieces. Rules limit actions and behaviors.


2. Players

No not the slang word for players who play the relationship-meat market! It’s people interacting with game content or others playing the game.

Note: The mere act of playing the game often results in learning. Learning is one of our real goals in conferences and education.


3. Abstract

Games typically mimic reality in an abstract way. They take place within the confines of a safe space that allow for failure without the consequences of real life. No one gets hurt or causes real damage in a game. It’s a fake experience modeled after the real world.


4. Challenge

Players try to achieve specific goals or outcomes. These challenges involve some degree of complexity and level of difficulty. The game looses its appeal when it becomes boring.


5. Rules

Rules define the parameters of a game. They define the sequence of play, how to win and what is and isn’t fair.


6. Interactivity

Players interact with other players, the game’s content and the game’s system. Interactions drive the game!


7. Feedback

This is a critical element of all games. Players receive instant, direct, clear and concise feedback on their strategy and moves. This allows players to make changes and corrections based on positive and negative feedback.

Note: Feedback is also a critical tool for learning and frequently absent from conference environments and didactic (lecture) based instruction.


8. Quantifiable Outcome

A score, level or winning state clearly define an outcome. This distinguishes a game from play that has no concrete outcome or ending.


9. Emotional Reaction

Games invoke emotions. We have all experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.


Combining These Elements
Together the sum of these elements are greater than their individual parts and combine to create a great game.


As Kapp says, “A player gets caught up in playing the game because the instant feedback and constant interaction are related to the challenge of the game, which is defined by the rules, which all work within the system to provoke an emotional reaction and finally result in a quantifiable outcome within an abstract version of a greater reality.”


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What’s the Value of a Big Bonus?

What’s the Value of a Big Bonus? | Republic of Gamification |
If our tests mimic the real world, then higher bonuses may not only cost employers more but also discourage executives from working to the best of their ability.
Hubert Cosico's insight:

"Social pressure has the same effect that money has. It motivates people, especially when the tasks at hand require only effort and no skill. But it can provide stress, too, and at some point that stress overwhelms the motivating influence." 

I'm pleasantly surprised how the concept of intrinsic motivation, related to gamification, can actually have some political implications that can help address the current financial crisis. 


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How gamification has shaped our attitude towards failure

How gamification has shaped our attitude towards failure | Republic of Gamification |
Video games are masterful in their ability to find the right difficulty level to engage their user. The aim is to create something that is challenging enough to generate some sense of accomplishment when objectives are met.
Hubert Cosico's insight:

Reframing attitudes through gamification can alter habits, create new perspectives and/or engineer new behaviors. One concrete example is how successful Games are in recasting fail­ure as a pos­it­ive thing. 


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Future of Engagement: Behavior Change Games

Future of Engagement: Behavior Change Games | Republic of Gamification |

Today people use the power of games, networks and data to change their behavior.


Behavior Change Games use game design elements and the power of communities to motivate people to achieve challenging tasks in the real world. Behavior change games have been used to enable people to lead a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, recover from illness and injury, manage time and money, learn new skills, and engage with political and social causes.


The rise of behavior change games can be tracked to three changes in how people play games.


First, social games on Facebook have widened the appeal of games beyond the video gaming niche of kids and young adults. For instance, Zynga’s Farmville had more than 83 million monthly active users at its peak.


Second, marketers, entrepreneurs and change makers have adapted game design principles in contexts other than entertainment, to design marketing and loyalty programs, social networks and training software, and serious games for social impact. For instance, location-based social network Foursquare, which uses gamification to make “checking-in” more fun, crossed 25 million users in September 2012.


And, third, the explosion in personal, social and location data has led to the popularity of the quantified self movement, enabling people to track and change their behaviors. For instance, 10 million people use personal finance management service to track over $80 billion in credit and debit transactions and almost $1 trillion in loans and assets.


Behavior change games use the power of games, networks and data to help people create meaningful change. In 2012, a number of niche behavior change games emerged across a diverse range of topics.


Quentiq, FitBit, Nexercise, Healthrageous, Hotseat, Jawbone UP, Striiv and Zamzee help people track their workouts and activity automatically. Fitocracy, SuperBetter, Habitual, SlimKicker, Hubbub, HealthMonth, Mindbloom, HealthyHeroes and Goalpost help people become healthier and develop good habits. PracticallyGreen, RecycleBank and OPower help people adopt a greener lifestyle and save electricity. Mint and Payoff help people manage their finances and debt. Urgent Evoke and World Without Oil educate people about social issues and encourage them to contribute to solutions. Code Academy and DuoLingo help people master a programming language, or learn French. Epic Win and The Email Game help people increase their productivity and complete tasks or clear their email inbox. Finally, Goodify, Keas, Shape Up and Youtopia are focused on organizations and schools, and help them motivate employees and students to volunteer or get fit.


Some of these behavior change games have also created social impact at scale. Shape Up has helped 700,000 people lose 1 million pounds, PayOff has helped members pay off $41 million of debt, and OPower has helped people reduce energy consumption by 1.6 billion kilowatt hours and save $179 million on electricity bills.


The success of behavior change games shows that people can change deeply entrenched behaviors and form lasting good habits, if they are able to break up big challenges into small goals, receive feedback on their progress, and tap into their networks for support.


This is not surprising. Game researcher Jane McGonigal, who is also the author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World explains why such games work:


“Gamers spend on average 80% of their time failing in game worlds, but instead of giving up, they stick with the difficult challenge and use the feedback of the game to get better. With some effort, we can learn to apply this resilience to the real-world challenges we face.”


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Gamification: Playing Your Digital Cards Right (Excerpt)

Gamification: Playing Your Digital Cards Right (Excerpt) | Republic of Gamification |

Here are my key takeaways from Accenture’s latest whitepaper entitled "Playing Your Digital Cards Right":


Gamification means taking the essence of what makes games so addictive and applying it to non game contexts, such as enhancing productivity or influencing consumer behavior to drive real business benefits.


Gamification provides companies with the ability to offer a more interactive engaging and differentiated customer experience, achieved through a range of features such as challenges, contests and rewards.


By 2015, according to Gartner Inc., spending in the gaming and gaming-related markets is projected to reach $112 billion.


More than 70% of Forbes Global 2,000 companies will have at least one gamified application by 2014, primarily in areas of recruitment, learning and career development and health and wellness.


Nearly half of Southeast Asia’s Internet users play online games every week and mobile phone ownership is approaching 90% in the region. Regional digital gaming market is expected to more than double to $30.3 billion between now and 2016, accounting for nearly 60% of GLOBAL sales.


This growth potential is brought about by the emergence of Generation Y and the decline of traditional marketing media.


Born between 1980 and 2000, Generation Y or the so-called “digital natives”, is the first generation to grow up with the Internet, social networks and smartphones. Gen Yers appear to prefer non face-to-face communication and seem to have a proclivity to instant gratification.


To influence Gen Y’s behavior, businesses have to communicate with them through the methods and channels that they relate best.


Gen Yers seem to place a premium on the recommendations of “friends” – which nowadays includes the opinion of trusted social networks.


Gen Yers typically love to multi-task. Corollary to this desire for on-going, continuous stimulation and personal recognition is that many of them lack long-term commitment to their work or employer and will readily change jobs.


The challenge is to figure out what hooks these Gen Yers as consumers, as workers and as members of other important communities. The answer is the nearest keyboard, digital device or game controller. In 2009, 82% of American kids aged between 2 and 17 played computer games. A year later, this jumped to 91%.


As the digital era leads to an erosion of the effectiveness of traditional marketing and advertising approaches, companies need to find fresh ways to engage attention. Gamification presents a new opportunity for differentiation as marketers search to enter consumers” digital “walled-gardens”.


What are the 7 essential characteristics that make gaming so addictive?


1. Status: The significance of acclaim and accomplishment, denoted by symbols of success (badges, tokens, coins) that are acknowledged and respected within the social community constitute powerful motivators.


2. Metrics of Success: Enabling the player to perceive progress toward an ultimate goal through incremental accomplishments is vital to sustaining interest and participation.


3. Competition: Pitting and individual against others, or groups against groups, in a competitive context is a major motivational factor in maintaining engagement.


4. Ranking and Leaderboards: Visual displays enable the player to track performance both against his/her goals and relative to others.


5. Social connectedness: One of the great appeals of gaming is that it establishes a link that facilitates and encourages engagement with others.


6. Immersion reality: There is huge appeal in games’ visual stimulation, their highly detailed graphics, their smooth paced animation, and overall, their ability to make the player feel completely immersed in their virtual reality.


7. Personalization and self-expression: Choices empower players and make them feel engaged. Customization of self-representation (avatar) promotes a sense of ownership in the game and is an alluring element.


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Why stories are important in gamification design

People are not looking for projects, they are looking for roles to play and thats why stories or narratives are important in games and in gamification.


Stories give context and allow achievers, explorers, killers and socializers to flourish and enjoy their journey to progress.


Margaret Robertson talks about the importance of storytelling in games in this video. Understanding how stories make games more engaging is crucial for any gamification solutions to succeed.


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