4 Dominant Applications of Gamification in 2016

Octalysis Gamification Framework

4 Dominant Applications of Gamification in 2016

(Below is a snippet of Gamification Book: Actionable Gamification – Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. If you like this blog post, you will LOVE the book.)

Now that we have covered the different implementation methods for gamification, we will explore the various applications of gamification in several industries.

In general, the majority of my clients represent four fields that I consistently see innovating time and time again, indicating a tremendous amount of application and growth in these sectors:

  • Product Gamification
  • Workplace Gamification
  • Marketing Gamification
  • Lifestyle Gamification

1) Product Gamification

Product Gamification is about making a product, online or offline, more engaging, fun, and inspirational through game design. Most companies struggle to create products that customers fall in love with, continue using, and passionately share with their friends. Some of these products have great “functional” purposes, but don’t focus on the motivation and Core Drives of their users.

In a previous era, consumers didn’t have adequate information and were accustomed to slow gratification. Along with immense barriers for starting new companies, it was not as detrimental for a company to simply assume that customers would use their products – provided that they were marketed correctly. However, people today are spoiled with instant gratification through the Internet, with immersive empowerment and real-time feedback through games, and the constant connection to their social network. Your users, customers, and employees are becoming less tolerant of badly designed products that do not take into account their motivations, especially when they have a variety of competitive alternatives they can choose from.

Status Quo Sloth of Startup Adoption

Many corporations and startups excitedly tell me, “Our product is great! Users can do this; users can do that; and they can even do these things!” And my response to them has been, “Yes, you are telling me all the things your users *can* do. But you have not explained to me *why* the user would do it.”

That’s the problem with a majority of company products – great technology and functionalities, but no traction. People don’t have a reason to go out of their way to use the product. Sometimes, a startup founder tells me, “Hey, Yu-kai, there’s no reason why people wouldn’t use our product. We save them money, we save them time, and we make their lives better.” On lucky days, customers themselves would even say, “Yeah, there’s no reason why I wouldn’t use your product. It saves me money, it saves me time, and it makes my life better. I’ll definitely sign-up sometime tomorrow.”

For those who have run startups or launched products before, you know the crucial part of the entire phrase is the ending. When people say they will do it “tomorrow,” more often than not it means “never.” This is because at this point they are motivated by Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance, and specifically by something I call Status Quo Sloth (Game Technique #85) – they are avoiding a change in their habits and behavior.

Remember how we talked about how Gamification is actually Human-Focused Design learned from decades, even centuries of game design experience? When you are launching a new product, its motivational standing is very similar to a game. No one has to play a game. You have to do your taxes; you have to go to work; and you really should go to the gym. But you never have to play a game, and let’s be honest, oftentimes you shouldn’t.

Because games have invested an amazing amount of creativity, innovation, and resources into figuring out how to get people to want to spend more time on them, there are definitely many great lessons you can learn from games for your own products. The key here is to make a product so exciting that customers become obsessed with using your product and are compelled to share how exciting their experiences were to their friends.

2) Workplace Gamification

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When to use Extrinsic Rewards to Motivate People

Extrinsic Rewards

The Advantages of Extrinsic Motivation Design

(Below is a snippet of Gamification Book: Actionable Gamification – Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. If you like this blog post, you will LOVE the book.)

Obviously designing for Extrinsic Motivation is not all negative. Besides enhancing a person’s focus on completing monotonous routine tasks, it also generates initial interest and desire for the activity.

Often, without there being extrinsic motivation during the Discovery Phase (before people first try out the experience), people do not find a compelling reason to engage with the experience in the first place. Promoting, “You will get a $100 gift card if you sign-up,” usually sounds more appealing than “You will utilize your creativity and be in a fun state of unpredictability with your friends!” (Though both actually utilize Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience.)

When people consider themselves “too busy,” they won’t justify spending time to try out your experience. But when you offer them an extrinsic reward to try out the experience, they will at least test it out, assuming of course that the reward is not an insult to the value of the user’s time investment.

Rewarding users $2 for trying a new search engine for an entire month is pretty weak, while paying people $3 to spend weeks going to stores, taking pictures, and sharing them with their friends is also a path to failure. It is better to not give them a reward at all!

And of course, as we have seen earlier, if people continuously justify doing something for high extrinsic rewards, their intrinsic motivation dwindles as the Overjustification Effect settles in.

Therefore, as Michael Wu of Lithium points out, it is better to attract people into an experience using Extrinsic Rewards (gift cards, money, merchandise, discounts), then transition their interest through Intrinsic Rewards (recognition, status, access), and finally use Intrinsic Motivation to ensure their long term engagement. Through this process, users will start to enjoy the activity so much that they will focus on relishing the experience itself without thinking about what can be gained from the experience.

Five Examples of Gamified Crowdsourcing To Learn From

Image showing how crowdsourcing is powerful when combined with gamification

Crowdsourcing is a method of actionable community engagement that harnesses the collective wisdom, contributions, and capabilities of large numbers of people (i.e. the “crowd” in crowdsourcing). Crowdsourcing has been used to solicit, improve, and address complex virtual and real-world challenges. Some of these applications are in the areas of:

  • Innovation and creativity
  • Building accurate and vast knowledge
  • Solving complex multi-layered problems
  • Achieving complicated feats within a short span of time

Crowdsourcing utilizes several core behavioral drives that compel users to collectively work together to solve problems (sometimes by breaking them into tedious, and manageable tasks). Wikipedia is one example of a crowdsource information platform that utilizes gamification principles to entice users to curate and publish regular content while holding the community (and its content) responsible for accuracy and quality.

While different crowdsourcing application utilize a wide-range of gamification principles at varying degrees (and with differing success), the decision to implement gamification mechanics depends on the quality of experience the project seeks to offer based on the understanding of their users’ drives and motivations.

In some cases, people may be naturally inspired to contribute their time and efforts towards a particular cause (e.g. Wikipedia). In other instances, it may be beneficial to enhance the experience of the crowdsourced endeavor by making it more immersive and compelling through the integration of key game mechanics.

Here are several examples (in no particular order) which highlight the achievement of large scale or complex feats through the integration of gamification and crowdsourcing.

Continue reading Five Examples of Gamified Crowdsourcing To Learn From

Gamification Theories in Parenting: Epic Meaning & Calling

Parenting Gamification

 (Below is an unedited manuscript snippet of my book: Actionable Gamification – Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. If you like this post, you will LOVE my book).

Parenting Gamification: Your Parents are Bigger Than You!

Parenting is generally motivated by two Core Drives in my Gamification Framework Octalysis: Core Drive #2, Development & Accomplishment (reward when the child behaves), as well as Core Drive #8, Loss & Avoidance (punish/ground when the child does not behave).

However, the Chinese culture, along with many other Asian cultures, has figured out how to implement Epic Meaning & Calling into Parenting.

In the Chinese language, there is a word termed “Xiao,” pronounced “Sheeow,” which has no sound English translation, but is a concept that elicits: since your birth, you are in debt to your parents and you own your life and existence to them. As a result, you need to do everything possible to honor them and lift them up.

Many sources translate the word “Xiao” to the term “Filial Piety” – “a virtue of respect for one’s parents and ancestors.”

But it goes way beyond the word “respect.”

Once Chinese children start to comprehend the world, parents will tell them or play them stories where well-known children of “Xiao” in Ancient China fight tigers to protect their parents, warm up their parents mattresses before bedtime, or cut off their own flesh in order to feed their hungry parents. In one story, a 60-year-old man of “Xiao” pretends to play on the ground in a humorous way in order to entertain his 80-year-old parents. (Note: regardless of the tactics to educate such Epic Meaning & Calling, “Xiao” is truly a great virtue that is being lost in a new flat-world of instant gratification and self-centeredness).


Other examples of ? in the “24 Paragons of Filial Piety” include (thanks to Robbert Penner for additional research):

  • -a man sells himself into slavery to pay for father’s funeral
  • a man tastes his sick father’s stool
  • a woman cooks part of her own liver to feed her mother
  • an eight-year-old boy attracts mosquitoes to suck his blood so they won’t bother his parents
  • a father decides to bury his three-year-old son so he can afford to care for his mother. While digging the hole, he finds treasure and doesn’t have to kill his son.

While some of these true stories are disturbing, it illustrates how important Xiao is as a value within the culture. Of course, parents aren’t just hypocritically manipulation their children. Children see the exact same attitude of their parents towards their grandparents. The children who see their parents treat the grandparents poorly will most likely not buy into the Epic Meaning of Xiao.

In Traditional Ancient Chinese Culture, when one’s parents pass away, he needs to dress in a mourning dress, abstain from all entertainment and sometimes meat, as well as exclude social relationships for three entire years to express his sadness for his parents. This act is called “Shouxiao”, which literally means “guarding Xiao” and was traditionally set to be three years because Confucius stated that it takes three years for us to leave our parents’ arms, and hence it is proper to spend three years mourning for them.

Of course, in today’s modern society, much of the three-year mourning is lost and reduced to days or weeks as a symbolic gesture to honor one’s parents.

And because of this culture of “Xiao,” Asian children grow up feeling that they have to do a lot for their parents – they have to study hard; they have to find get into a good school that their parents can be proud of; they have to support their parents throughout life; they should live with their parents to always be available, and make sure everything is taken care of for their parents throughout life.

In contrast, in Western societies where the concept of “Xiao” is not as prevalent, people still respect their parents immensely, but often once they form their own families, they generally become a lot more disconnected and simply bring their children to grandpa and grandma once or twice a year, instead of constantly making life decisions that are tailored to their parents.

There’s even popular Chinese literature and idioms such as “Bu Xiao Zhi Zi, Tian Di Bu Rong,” which means, “For a son without ‘Xiao,’ there is no space/tolerance for him in heaven or earth.” This means that if you do not have “Xiao,” you are such an epic scumbag you don’t deserve to have ever existed, and both the heaven and the earth are so disgusted by your existence they are spitting you out of their presence.

It is this type of Epic Meaning & Calling that motivates people beyond their self-interest, regardless of what they want for themselves or whether they feel good or not about it.

Even today, if my parents told me I don’t have Xiao because of any behavior, it would crush me emotionally and motivate me towards almost anything to amend it. Just because I understand the nature of the motivation does not mean I am exempt from it. It is something deeply ingrained within me and my values. In similar faith, my parents have never made that statement to me in my entire life, because that would be one of the greatest insults a parent can give. It is that serious and tangible when it comes to this type of motivation.