How Understanding Gamification Gives an Edge in Design and Product Roles

This article was written by Erik van Mechelen, based on the Octalysis Gamification framework designed by Yu-kai Chou

Getting an edge with gamification

Can you get a job in gamification?

At first glance, the pickings are slim. An Indeed job search for ‘gamification’ doesn’t return many results, but does include roles with gamification mentioned in the description, from VR software developers to instructional designers to sales specialists and customer care reps.

We do know there are jobs in gamification. (The Octalysis Group recently did a contest posted on their Octalysis Explorers Facebook page, with a contest to demonstrate gamification knowledge and potentially join The Octalysis Group.)

But it isn’t the only option.

From getting to know many people, and some people quite well, in the Octalysis Explorers and Octalysis Prime Mastermind group, I know there is a huge variety of people and professional roles that understand gamification knowledge (and understanding how to apply that knowledge in their roles) will give them an edge in their daily professional activities.

When considering gamification, the closest job postings might be for:

1. Product Designer
2. UX Designer
3. Product Manager

A thorough understanding of gamification could give you an edge in these roles.

Just like people used to say developers who knew AJAX got paid 15% higher than developers who don’t, gamification may become your edge to higher pay and better performance.

An instrument in your arsenal

Or toolbox. Or way of thinking. Or you-name-it. Ultimately, how you work and do great work and differentiate yourself within your team and to prospective employers.

At bottom, gamification is actually about understanding human behavior and how humans interact with stuff they use. It’s also about behavior, from motivation through to desired actions.

This field will remain our entire lives, even if experts change the terminology to keep things sounding fresh 🙂

Product Designer

According to Eric Eriksson, a product designer at Facebook (and formerly of Spotify), a product designer

creates solutions for user problems and validates concepts at each step of the way.


  • The product designer understands all the intricacies of the business, and know how to balance user goals with business goals
  • The product designer knows when to deliver wireframes, when to deliver pixel perfect mockups, and how to provide the right context for their designs to anyone involved.
  • The product designer knows when to prototype, and how to test the designs with the right users.
  • The product designer understands the implications of their design on the company’s processes and technical capabilities.
  • The product designer knows how to focus on the right problem based on quantitative data (e.g. Google Analytics) and qualitative data (e.g. user interviews), then convincingly communicate their solutions to all stakeholders.

An understanding of gamification assists each of these categories of thinking.

My main lens into gamification lately is through Octalysis, so I will proceed with that language.

Let’s take the first bullet: “How to balance user goals with business goals.” Without a clear understanding of the motivations or Core Drives behind a user’s behavior, we can’t ensure we provide that Core Drive in changes we make to our experience.

If a user is driven by Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment and we remove that core activity loop, then we may drop that user. Alternatively, if our design retains Core Drive 2 but looks and feels different, that’s just fine!

Additionally, the phrasing “how to balance user goals with business goals” plays very well with the Octalysis Strategy Dashboard: 

UX Designer

According to Pabini Gabriel-Petit, user experience design is defined as follows:

A holistic, multidisciplinary approach to the design of user interfaces for digital products, defining their form, behavior, and content. User experience design integrates interaction design, industrial design, information architecture, information design, visual interface design, user assistance design, and user-centered design, ensuring coherence and consistency across all of these design dimensions.

Notice again, that behavior is integral to a definition.

Since a user experience designer is designing for behavior, and specifically human behavior, learning about human-focused design aka gamification is a reasonable thing to do to level up your game.

Product Manager

And here’s Tom Leung, former PM at Google, on what he thinks Google desires in PMs…

  • 99 percentile on SAT and GMATCS
  • Undergrad from top school
  • MBA from top school
  • Ability to frame discussions for execs
  • Ability to frame discussions for engineers
  • Mini-CEO mentality
  • Rapid learning capabilities
  • Self-directed
  • Start-up experience
  • Good external presenter
  • Willingness to take on unspecified product assignment
  • Willingness to live in or visit Mount View on regular basis
  • Concise email writing
  • High tolerance for lots of meetings
  • Understand business, technology, and customers

Once again, we see a need to understand people, how to communicate, and understand and apply this in small groups and in designing products for customers.

A few places to start…

From what I’ve seen, there is not yet a go-to place for all things gamification, because gamification blends into several different roles. It may one day become necessary to understand human-focused design to be relevant in any role, but time will tell.

For now, browse these places I found as a place to start, particularly if you are looking for a formal style of education.

If you’re like me and are a self-directed learner or prefer to learn by doing through projects, then I’ve written about that over here. Octalysis Prime is also a great place to get started with much less commitment than a full professional course.


Your journey continues

Let me know how your journey with gamification is going? What are you trying next?

Also, read this about gamification implementations at your company, getting buy-in from your boss:


Share the Post:

other Posts