Comprehensive List of 90+ Gamification Examples & Cases with ROI Stats (2024)


It’s all about the Gamification Examples & Case Studies

Below is a list of gamification examples and cases with ROI (Return On Investment) stats and figures, with many links to the case studies, so you can see for yourself the tremendous impact it is having on businesses.

I want this list to focus on cases that can confidently be measured as ROI.

The current gamification market size is estimated between $3 billion and $12 billion, depending on sources.

The Octalysis Group: Yu-kai Chou’s Case Studies

  • 712% uplift in sales for a well-known hotel chain, through our human-focused designs that boost product attractiveness and market performance.
  • A loyalty program for a Major Airline with a 175% performance enhancement through a well-crafted reward system.
  • An employee engagement platform for sales staff led to 28.5% more revenue and 59% higher KPIs.

Read the case studies done by the Octalysis Group of our clients.

The Octalysis Group has a decade-long track record of success working with clients across industry and service verticals. We specialize in creating engagement in areas where this is difficult to achieve.

Enterprise Gamification Case Stats and Figures

1) Caixa Bank (Brazil)Their initial goal of a 5% increase in annual sales (R$ 8.6 billion to R$ 9 billion) was surpassed, achieving a remarkable 49% increase in just six months. This resulted in an additional USD 1 billion in revenue for the bank.

2) SAP: The SAP Community Network gamified its already-mature reputation system, increasing usage by 400% and community feedback by 96%

3) Onmicare: introduces gamification to its IT service desk, getting a 100% participation rate from team members

4) Astra Zeneca: gamified medicine training gets 97% of their large network of agents to participate, with a 99% Completion Rate

5) CaLLogix: reduces attrition by 50% and absenteeism by 80%. The company saves $380,000 per year

6) SAP Streamwork: added gamification in brainstorming groups and grew generated ideas by 58%

7) Galderma: a pharmaceutical company, uses gamification to train their sales division regarding new products. Despite the voluntary participation, nearly 92% of targeted employees ended up playing

8) Spotify and Living Social: replaced annual reviews with a mobile, gamified solution with over 90% of employees participating voluntarily

9) Objective Logistics: the company motivates the employees through behavioral rewards and increases their profit margin by 40%

10) Inside View: gamifies their employee social media usage and increased Twitter updates by 312%

11) Keas: employment wellness program that increased employee engagement with healthy activities by 10,000% (100x)

12) Danske Statsbaner: through their “Engaged” platform, employees share their actions that support the value and strategy of the company, resulting in 92% positive ratings in content

13) Google: designed a Travel Expense System resulting in close to 100% employee compliance for travel expenses

14) Deloitte: training programs that are gamified took 50% less time to complete and massively improved long-term engagement

15) Engine Yard: increased the response rate for its customer service representatives by 40% after posting response-time leaders to all employees

16) Nextjump: uses gamification to get 67% of their employees to go to the gym

17) Bluewolf: gamified online conversations and posting increased employee community activity by 57%

18) Ford Canada: gamified its learning portal for employees and increased actions per user by 100% within 5 weeks

19) Blue Shield’s Wellivolution: Team gamified system resulted in 80% of employees participating in at least one wellness program, and 50% of employees dropped smoking behavioral

20) Idea Street: the Department of Work in the UK used game mechanics to get 120,000 people to contribute 4,000 ideas, with 63 of them implemented in the marketing department

21) EMC RAMP: with their gamification platform, the company rewarded positive behavior from employees, partners, and customers which led to a 10% increase in documentation, 40% more videos watched, and 15% more discussions

22) DirecTV: uses gamification to overcome the fear of failure

23) HCL: decrease new hire “Pre Join” dropout rate by 90%

24) T-Mobile: dials up employee engagement by 1,000 percent

25) Royal Caribbean Cruises: All-time high customer satisfaction with facial recognition.

26) Slalom Consulting: participation in the employee name recognition program increased from 5% to 90%, and recognition scores improved from 45% to 89%

 Sales Gamification Case Stats and Figures

1) Autodesk: gamified the free trial, incentivizing users to learn how to use the program and offering both in-game and real word prizes, increasing trial usage by 54%, buy clicks by 15%, and channel revenue by 29%

2) ePrize: increased the participation in their sales event by 10% by creating a participation-based point economy 

3) LiveOps: call center reduces call time by 15% and increases sales by over 8%

4) Step2: children’s retailers used PowerReviews’s social loyalty scheme to boost sales with a 300% increase in revenue from Facebook and 600% in content uploaded

5) Domino’s Pizza: created the gaming app Pizza Hero and increased sales revenue by 30% by letting customers create their pizza with an app

6) Moosejaw, a clothing company, used an innovative gamified system that saw 76% of sales revenue come from gamified activities, including 240k social media impressions, resulting in a 560% ROI from initial marketing expenditures

7) Silver Grill Cafe: received a 66% Return on Investment for having its waiters/waitresses play a cross-selling game)

8) Cisco: used gaming strategies to enhance its virtual global sales meeting and call centers to reduce call time by 15% and improve sales by around 10%

9) Popchips: uses games to personalize mobile advertising and has seen its sales rise 40% leading to $100 million in sales.

10) Teleflora gamified its store with a social engagement scheme offering points for actions, increasing traffic from Facebook by 105% and conversion rates by 92%

11) America’s Army: 30% of Americans aged 16 to 24 had a more positive impression towards and recruited more people than all the other methods combined while costing a fraction of the marketing cost

12) Extraco Bank: raised customer acquisition by 700% through a gamified system

13) Lawley Insurance: with a 2-week contest, the company closed more sales than the previous 7 months combined

14) Playboy: in its Miss Social game, 85% of its users play more than once, with 50% returning a month later, resulting in a 60% increase in monthly revenue

15) Kill The Paper Invoice: increased website visits by 108.5%, and a conversion rate of 9.38% through a gamified system

16) increased their conversion rate by 18% with a 3000% lift in the total number of click-per-buy

17) Ford Escape Route: with this game, Ford’s customers bought over $8 million in vehicles, with 600% increased likes on the FB page and over 100 million impressions on Twitter

18) Investorville: with a property-investing game, Australia’s Commonwealth Bank created 600 new loans

19) Hewlett Packard: launched Project Everest to give rewards like holidays and other goods to the best reseller teams and saw 56.4%.

20) Grouper.MK: A 600% increase in monthly signups.

Product Gamification Case Stats and Figures

1) Microsoft: improved its translations for Windows OS through the Language Quality game with over 900 employees completing 26,000 tasks with 170 additional errors reported

2) Leadership Academy: within three months, daily visitors increased by 46.6% with one user earning the Leadership Academy Graduate Badge, which was expected to take 12 months

3) Microsoft: obtained 16x more feedback from people through its Communicate Hope gamified system

4) EMC2: increased the amount of feedback it received by 41%

5)  got a 26% response rate from the teen audience to a scavenger hunt game

6) OpenText: implementation of a leaderboard contributed to a 250% increase in business usage and adoption

7) Volkswagen: got 33 million webpage hits and 119,000 ideas through its People’s Car Project which lets people design their “perfect car”

8) Samsung Nation: 500% increase in customer product reviews, and a 66% increase in site visits when using a gamified system

9) Beta One: Microsoft’s Testing Division got a 400% increase in participation for the pre-release testing

10) Uber: The rideshare app gets more drivers on the road using gamification.

11) Arcade City: Challenger to Uber and Lyft getting its start in Austin, TX, with smart contracts (Ethereum) and guilds to protect drivers: “Think Habitica meets Uber,” says its CEO. 

12) Audible: Audible uses badges to keep readers reading, even though they already have a strong product.

Lifestyle Gamification Case Stats and Figures

1) OPower: reduced measurable energy consumption by over $100M

2) Aetna: increased daily healthy activities by 50% with an average engagement of 14 minutes on the site

3) embedded a social platform that improved user submission by 300%, comments by 400%, and Slideshow Visualizations by 53%

4) Bottle Bank Arcade: gamified bottle bank was used 50 times more than conventional bottle bank.

5) The World’s Deepest Bin: 132% more trash collected compared to conventional bin

6) Piano Stairs: 66% more people use the stairs if they can produce music with it

7) Speed Camera Lottery: a lottery system that causes a 22% reduction in driving speed

8) Toilette Seat: 44% increase in lifting the toilet seat when urinating

9) Nike: used gamified feedback to drive over 5,000,000 users to beat their personal fitness goals every day of the year

10) Recycle Bank grew a community of 4 million members by providing a gamified recycling platform.

11) Chevrolet Volt: uses a green/amber indicator to give drivers visual feedback of their driving style and reduces the number of people exceeding the speed limit by 53%

12) Diet DASH at Drexel University shown to reduce sugar intake, and over half the players lost 3% body weight over 2 months

Consumer Behavior Gamification Case Stats and Figures

1) MTV My Chart: lets users create their video chart based on various game dynamics, and obtained 500,000 votes and 150,000 videos viewed within 3 months

2) Joiz: a Swiss television network increased sharing by 100% and social referral traffic by 54% with social infrastructure and gamification technologies

3) increased their music userbase by 59%

4) Marketo: layered a game platform on their community and saw a 71% lift in daily activities, a 36% increase in ideas submitted, and a 48% increase in question replies.

5) Interscope Records: the company obtained a 650% increase in engagement and interaction with the website

6) Verizon: users spend over 30% more time on-site with social login games versus a regular site login

7) Allkpop: during the week-long promotion of game mechanics, the online news site experienced a 104% increase in shares, 36% in comments, and 24% in pageviews

8) SessionM: offers mobile publishers a platform for adding game mechanics into apps, increasing 35% retention and reducing bounce rate by 25%, all while seeing a 40x increase in engagement rate in social activities

9) Buffalo Wild Wings: the campaign generated more than 100 million social impressions on SN, as well as a 500% increase in participation rate

10) Green Giant: generated 420,000 likes on Facebook through their gamified system

11) NickTV: introduces a game-based role-playing platform as heroes and within 2 months obtained 750,000 page views (200% the amount of the usual traffic for the entire nickel. it website), over 50,000 users, and over 4,000,000 sessions on the website, with an increase in time spent on site by 25%

12) More than a Game: The interviewer changed the formulation of surveys, obtaining a 98% response rate and an 87.5% in descriptive words within answers

13) BlurbIQ: introduced Interactive Video Interruptions and within two weeks obtained 915% more interaction, 1400% increase in click-through rate, and 95% increase in recollection

14) Bell Media: increased customer retention by 33% by incorporating “social loyalty” rewards on its website

15) Club Psych USA: saw a 130% jump in page views and a 40% increase in return visits to the game 

16) American Express: the company has gotten over 2 million likes on Facebook through their Nextpedition gamified system

17) Boyd Game: the casino gets over 700,000 visits each month by introducing gamification on its website

18) Verizon Wireless: more than 50% of the site’s users participate in this gamified environment and spend 30% more time on the site

19) Topliners: introducing gamification in the community lifted active users by 55%

20) SAP ERP: introducing game mechanics improved user participation with telepresence increasing by 29.75%

21) GetGlue: Has built a community of 2 million users around a gamified TV. feedback platform, 20% of all social media posts to dedicated TV. show pages during primetime come through GetGlue. (Link in Italian)

22) uses game mechanics to increase user engagement through real-time notifications and activity streams, increasing answered questions by 23% and votes by 58%

23) implemented a social loyalty program, rewarding users with tangible gifts such as concert tickets which led to a weekly activity increase of 59%

24) Badgeville & Kendall-Jackson: increase customer engagement by 65%

25) Patient Partner: uses gamification to improve medication adherence

Education Gamification Case Stats and Figures

1) Beat the GMAT: students increase their time spent on site by 370% through a gamified system

2) OTT, an e-learning provider, increased by 65% user engagement, with some users peaking at over 300%, by adding a reward system

3) Deloitte Leadership Academy, an executive training program, increased by 46.6% the number of users that returned daily to their platform by embedding gamification mechanics into it

4) Stray Boots & A.L.Penenberg: the professor taught journalism through gamification and saw student grades increase by more than a letter grade

5) Devhub: a place for Web developers, added gaming feedback and watched in awe as the percentage of users who finished their sites shot up from 10% to 80%

6) Foldit: gamers have solved a 15-year AIDS Virus Protein problem within 10 days

7) Duoling: Grew to 300 million users and 10 minutes per day per user.

Scientific research related to the effect of Gamification

1) Research findings support the impact of levels, badges, and a (dummy) feedback system connected to a study course, results were significant, with 18.5% higher average grades for students enrolled in the gamified course

2) Research findings support the impact of levels, points, leaderboards, streaking, and visual storytelling to improve participation in crowdsourced assessments. Results were significant with an increase of 347% of participants returning for recurrent participation. (compared to the control group)

3) Research findings support the impact of point-based levels (Status titles) and leaderboards on IBM’s internal social network service. Short-term impact showed a 92% increase in comments posted, within this research long-term engagement was also measured and a rise of 299% more comments posted was found compared to the control group

4) Subsequent research in the same social network service above showed the effects of removing the point-based levels, status titles, and leaderboards. The removal of the game mechanics showed a significant result as across-the-board activities on the social network service dropped by 52%. 

5) Research findings support the impact of narratives, leaderboards, and countdown timers on online training. Results were significant with a 61% increase in participation in online training.

6) Research findings support the impact of narrative, levels, quests, countdown timers, immediate feedback, guidance systems, visual storytelling, surprise events, and flow (matching ability and difficulty) to an online tutorial. Results were significant with users learning via the gamified tutorial showing increased ability by finishing tasks 135% faster than the control group. Additionally, the users expressed much higher satisfaction in regards to using the system.

The Octalysis Group: Case Study Collection

  • 712% uplift in sales for a well-known hotel chain, through our human-focused designs that boost product attractiveness and market performance.
  • A loyalty program for a Major Airline with a 175% performance enhancement through a well-crafted reward system.
  • An employee engagement platform for sales staff led to 28.5% more revenue and 59% higher KPIs.

Read the case studies done by the Octalysis Group of our clients.

The Octalysis Group has a decade-long track record of success working with clients across industry and service verticals. We specialize in creating engagement in areas where this is difficult to achieve.

Updated by Howie Ju: Oct. 10, 2023

Master the Art of Streak Design for Short-Term Engagement and Long-Term Success

Welcome to the world of Streak Design, a powerful motivational tool that can boost user engagement, create urgency, and enhance the overall experience.

Today, I’ll share some key insights on how to effectively implement streak design in your products or services and discuss its impact on user behavior.

Understanding Streak Design (Game Technique #78)

A streak is formed when users repeatedly perform a desired action without failing. Streak design focuses on creating a sense of Accomplishment (Core Drive 2 in the Octalysis Framework), urging users to keep their streaks alive.

However, it often ends up being driven by Loss and Avoidance (Core Drive 8), as users feel compelled to maintain their streak to avoid losing it.

Streak design is highly effective in driving short-term bursts of activity, but it’s not always suitable for long-term engagement as people burn out the moment they lose their streaks.

Implementing Reward Structures and Streak Ramp-Up

One way to enhance streak design is by tying it to your reward structure. Offer users rewards for maintaining their streak and create a sense of progression by gradually increasing the rewards as they continue.

For example, in a game, users could receive:

  • 10 coins on Day 1
  • 20 coins on Day 2
  • 30 coins on Day 3
  • 40 coins on Day 4
  • 50 coins on Day 5 and subsequent days

If users fail to maintain their streak, they’d drop back to zero coins per day. This creates a sense of both Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment, Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession, Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience, as well as Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance, prompting users to continue their streak.

Introducing Gentle Loss and Avoidance with Streak Ramp-Down

A gentler approach to the above mechanic is the Streak Ramp-Down technique. Instead of resetting users’ rewards to zero when they break their streak, gradually reduce the rewards over time.

For instance, if a user stops performing the Desired Action, their rewards would decrease as follows:

  • 50 coins to 40 coins
  • 40 coins to 30 coins
  • 30 coins to 20 coins
  • 20 coins to 10 coins

This method creates scarcity and urgency without completely demoralizing users, as they don’t lose everything at once. The threat of losing rewards is often more powerful than the actual loss, making the steep ramp-down an effective motivational strategy.

Most importantly, users can gain back their Streak progress relatively easily if they just missed one day, so they are driven to come back instead of burning out immediately after.

Key Takeaways for Effective Streak Design

  1. Streak design drives short-term bursts of activity but may not always be suitable for long-term engagement.
  2. Tie streak design to your reward structure to encourage users to maintain their streaks.
  3. Implement a streak ramp-up to create a sense of progression and increasing rewards.
  4. Introduce gentle loss and avoidance with a streak ramp-down to create urgency without demoralizing users.

In a future discussion, we’ll explore another game design technique called the “Bootleg Quest,” (Game Technique #107) which is similar to streak design but leads to a permanent bonus that users cannot lose. This method offers an even more effective way to design engaging experiences.

Remember, the key to successful streak design is balancing the desire for Accomplishment (Core Drive 2) with the fear of Loss and Avoidance (Core Drive 8).

By carefully implementing these strategies, you can create a compelling and engaging experience for your users.

Game Design Techniques: the Onboarding Bundle

Hello, Octalysis Enthusiasts!

Today, we’re going to dive into a small bundle of game design techniques that can make a huge difference in your product’s user experience. These techniques are the Glowing Choice (GT #28), Desert Oasis designs (GT #38), and the Step-by-Step Overlay Tutorial (GT #6).

By understanding and implementing these design strategies, you can create an engaging and enjoyable onboarding experience for your users.

Based on Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment, people want to feel smart and capable. They don’t want to feel lost or confused. If they don’t know what to do in an interface for maybe about four seconds, they start feeling stupid. So, when designing your user experience, keep in mind these two important principles:

  1. You never want to let users accidentally stumble upon a bad experience. Everything they can possibly choose, or they will probably choose, should be a good experience.
  2. You want to think about the First Major Win-State, which is the moment where the user first says, “Wow, this experience is so awesome!” Guide them towards that First Major Win-State as quickly as possible.

Now, let’s explore how you can guide people into a good experience using these game design techniques.

Glowing Choice (Game Technique #28)

The Glowing Choice is a game design technique where something on the interface stands out, like a pointy arrow, a light bulb, or even a jiggly, wiggly button. This eye-catching element attracts the user’s attention and encourages them to interact with it.

Imagine entering a vast virtual world with numerous directions to explore. The user knows what they should do because there’s a character with a big exclamation mark on their head, signaling that they should talk to this person to receive their first quest. This is the Glowing Choice in action.

Now, imagine a smaller software interface. It’s much less complex than a virtual world, but the Glowing Choice works wonders here as well. By highlighting a specific action or feature, you can guide users and make them feel smarter and more capable.

Desert Oasis (Game Technique #38)

The Desert Oasis design is an interface where the rest of the interface is relatively plain, but the desired action stands out with bold colors, making it impossible to miss. It’s like being in a desert and seeing a lush, green oasis in the distance; you’re naturally drawn towards it.

A good example of this design is the stop sign on the road. The red octagon is a strong visual cue that’s hard to miss, and it effectively communicates the desired action.

The key difference between the Glowing Choice and Desert Oasis is that the Glowing Choice is an overlay that disappears after interacting with the desired action, while the Desert Oasis is a permanent part of the interface.

Step-by-Step Overlay Tutorial (Game Technique #6)

When users first join an app or game, they want to be guided through the process. They don’t want to feel lost or overwhelmed. The Step-by-Step Overlay Tutorial is a collection of Glowing Choices that guide users through a tutorial, allowing them to learn a whole set of actions.

Sometimes, the tutorial takes place in a simulated situation, while other times, it’s within the actual application.

For instance, imagine a mobile app that helps you get gas delivered to your car. When users download the app, they might not need gas immediately. However, by providing a simulated tutorial that guides them through the process of scheduling a gas delivery, the app ensures that users understand how the system works.

The onboarding process shouldn’t end when users have set up their profiles. Instead, it should guide them through the desired actions at least once, so they feel confident in using the app or platform. By providing a Step-by-Step Overlay Tutorial, you can create a smooth onboarding experience that effectively reduces cognitive load and fosters a sense of achievement.

By incorporating these techniques, you can guide users towards the Desired Action, create a sense of progress, and help them achieve their First Major Win-State.

Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling

By highlighting a mission, quest, or a cause that users can be a part of, you can evoke a sense of Epic Meaning & Calling. Use the Glowing Choice or Desert Oasis designs to draw users towards actions that contribute to a larger narrative, making them feel like they’re part of something greater than themselves.

Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment

Help users experience a sense of progress and achievement by using the Glowing Choice to highlight milestones, levels, or other indicators of progress. The Desert Oasis designs can be used to make these achievements more visible and enticing. Additionally, the Step-by-Step Overlay Tutorial can guide users through a series of tasks, leading them to experience their First Major Win-State, creating a sense of accomplishment and motivating them to continue using your product.

Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

Encourage users to experiment and innovate by emphasizing tools, customization options, or creative features through the Glowing Choice or Desert Oasis designs. With a Step-by-Step Overlay Tutorial, guide them through the creative process and showcase the possibilities of your platform, fostering a sense of empowerment.

Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession

By using the Glowing Choice or Desert Oasis designs to emphasize rewards or virtual goods, you can tap into users’ desire to own and accumulate. Showcasing the value of these possessions can deepen their engagement with your product and encourage further investment.

Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness

Leverage the Glowing Choice or Desert Oasis designs to make social features prominent, such as connecting with friends, joining groups, or engaging in collaborative activities. The Step-by-Step Overlay Tutorial can help users understand the social dynamics of your platform, making it easier for them to form connections and establish a sense of belonging.

Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience

Highlight limited-time offers, exclusive items, or rare opportunities using the Glowing Choice or Desert Oasis designs. By making these scarce resources stand out, users will be more likely to feel the urgency to act on them, leading to increased engagement.

Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity

Incorporate elements of surprise or mystery into your user experience by using the Glowing Choice to draw users’ attention to hidden features or content. A well-crafted tutorial can also introduce an element of unpredictability, teasing upcoming challenges or experiences that users will encounter as they progress.

Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance

Use the Glowing Choice or Desert Oasis designs to emphasize actions that help users avoid negative consequences, such as losing progress, missing out on rewards, or falling behind in a competition. A carefully crafted Step-by-Step Overlay Tutorial can also teach users how to prevent setbacks and overcome obstacles.

By understanding and incorporating the Glowing Choice, Desert Oasis designs, and the Step-by-Step Overlay Tutorial, you can create a user experience that appeals to all 8 Core Drives of the Octalysis

In conclusion, designing an effective onboarding process is crucial for user retention and engagement. With these game design techniques, you can create a smooth, enjoyable experience that helps users feel confident and accomplished. By incorporating these strategies within the Octalysis Framework, you can tap into the full potential of your product, ensuring long-term success and user satisfaction.

5 Psychology Books That Contextualize Gamification Design

Image of head and brain- 5 psychology books

(Click here if you are interested in Yu-kai Chou’s Book “Actionable Gamification” – Beyond Points, Badges and Leaderboards.” The book sold over 100K copies and is referenced by over 2500 Ph.D. Theses and Academic Journals.)

The obvious and ultimate point of creating games is to satisfy players. But to do this successfully requires a complex process to develop a game that adequately anticipates and meets its target audience’s motivations. As you’ve seen reflected in previous posts, people are not always driven by logic alone, which makes this development process all the more difficult.

What we might assume to be true about human motivation and thought processes may require further examination and analysis.

While the Octalysis framework focuses on the core drives of players, these principles are expanded upon by other fields. These include behavioral science, human cognition, and other areas that focus on how and why we make decisions or naturally think the way we do. A holistic understanding of cognitive behavior will deepen your understanding of motivation, drives and how to shape experiences for desired responses.

Without further adieu, here are five insightful psychology books that will expand your perspective on the workings of human cognition.

Considering this information within the context of game design will further your ability to create truly winning experiences for players.

Continue reading 5 Psychology Books That Contextualize Gamification Design

The 8 Core Drives of Gamification #1: Epic Meaning & Calling

Epic Meaning & Calling

The First Motivation Core Drive of Octalysis Gamification

(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.)

Epic Meaning & Calling is the First Core Drive of the Gamification Framework Octalysis. This is the drive where people are motivated because they believe they are engaged in something that is bigger than themselves.

Games trigger this Core Drive often. Many times in games, the world is about to be destroyed, and somehow, you as the player are the only qualified candidate to save the world. Sound exciting and motivating?

How about real life? Do we ever encounter scenarios where we are driven by Epic Meaning & Calling?

Have you ever wondered why:

  • People contribute to the non-profit website Wikipedia? What would make someone spend hours updating a site that doesn’t pay her or even help her build her resume?
  • Why are people so loyal to Apple products, to the extent that they know they want to buy the next product even before they know what it is?
  • Why are school rivalries so engaging, driving radical behaviors such as pranks, streaking, violence, and profit for the schools?
  • Why do Asian kids work so hard for their parents throughout their life?
  • Why do people buy Life Insurance, giving up current cash they could enjoy for potential future cash that they know they cannot enjoy?
  •  At the most extreme front, why do people sacrifice and even become martyrs of ideals they believe in? Certainly it is not comfortable, and it’s hard to imagine anything they will gain from and enjoy after such a big sacrifice.

What is Epic Meaning & Calling?

Epic Meaning and Calling is the need or the urge to be a part of something much bigger than just yourself. When this drive is activated, participants choose to be members of your system and will take action not because it necessarily benefits them directly, but because it turns them into the heroes of the company’s story.

This core drive is activated when your system inspires people and gets them excited about being part of a bigger purpose or plan.

When your system or product demonstrates deep and sincere passion towards a higher vision, others will want to believe in you and be on the journey with you, even if it means foregoing financial compensation (which is our Left-Brain Core Drive #4 – Ownership & Possession).

This is where the magic happens. By activating Epic Meaning and Calling, you’ll gain active participants and grow your customer base or audience through their passion and commitment to your cause, sometimes to an irrational degree.

Epic Meaning and Calling can possibly be implemented anytime within a player’s journey, but is most often introduced when people are starting to interact with your system, which is the Discovery Phase and the onboarding phase.

But how do you instill Epic Meaning and Calling into your users or customers?

Here are five Game Techniques to incorporate Epic Meaning and Calling into your system in ways that will build engagement, motivation, and loyalty. For each concept, there will also be examples of organizations across all different industries that use these concepts to improve user interaction within their systems.

Narrative (Game Technique #10)

Most games start with a narrative that gives the player some context about WHY she should play the game. Many of them are related to saving the world, a princess, solving a case, or even just helping a dragon or crocodile take a bath.

So why don’t we use narrative to give people content in other things?

One of the most straightforward ways to install Epic Meaning & Calling into your user base is through an engaing Narrative, which allows you to introduce a story that gives people context for a higher meaning in terms of interacting with your company, product, or website.

Zamzee, a “wearable technology” company for children, uses narratives to instill a fantasy Epic Meaning & Calling into children in order to make them exercise more.

Through its online software interface, Zamzee gives kids fantasy quests, such as becoming a sorcerer’s apprentice. In order to learn your first spell, you run up and down the stairs 15 times.

Even though the action itself is disconnected from the narrative, just having them make-believe a magical meaning inspires the kids to exercise more because now they are motivated by their own imaginations.

Zamzee shows that kids who participate in these imaginary missions move 54% more than kids who don’t.

Humanity Hero (Game Technique #27)

If you can incorporate a world mission into your offerings, you can gain even more buy-in during the on-boarding process. The way this works is to tie the actions you want people to take to something that will make the world a better place.

One company that does an incredible job of installing a sense of Humanity Hero is TOM’s Shoes, which sends one pair of shoes to a child in a third-world country whenever you buy from them.

The idea that you can put shoes on someone else’s feet every time you make a purchase is extremely motivating. Additionally, when customers wear the shoes, they let others know that they are helping the world, which is a method of Touting (Game Technique #64) within Social Influence & Relatedness.

Free Rice is another example that utilizes the Humanity Hero technique. is a website that donates 10 grains of rice for every correct answer on the educational questions they have on their site. The funding comes from the ads and the number of page views they generate from question answerers.

To date, FreeRice has donated 6100 metric TONS of rice, consisting of 93 billion grains of rice and enough to feed 10 million people.

If you tie your system to a cause that a lot of people care about, you can build an entire business on the goodwill of others.

Elitism (Game Technique #26)

Epic Meaning and Calling 300

Allowing your users or customers to form a prideful group based on ethnicity, beliefs, or common interests makes them feel like they are part of a larger cause.

Elitism instills group pride, which means each member tries to secure the pride of the group by taking specific actions. The group also attempts to frustrate its rivals, which can lead both groups upping their actions to beat the competition.

This is why University Rivalries are so engaging. When I was attending UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), it was very difficult to not feel the strong rivalry against USC (University of Southern California).

Starting from orientation as a Freshman, there is no lack of content and jokes that sets the scene of the USC rivalry. During sports seasons, this rivalry reaches its pinnacle, with both sides aggressively, sometimes violently, insulting each other.

There are even T-Shirts printed with the text, “My 2 favorite teams are UCLA, and whoever is playing USC.”

UCLA Elitism












Both sides believe that this rivalry is bigger than themselves, and with this newly instilled sense of Elitism, they go about doing many irrational activities because they “should” as a proud representative of that school.

Even though rivalries are engaging, even fun, for students, who benefits the most from the school rivalries? It is the universities themselves.

By creating an outside enemy that students “should hate with a passion,” it creates more “school spirit” where students bond together and commit “Desired Actions” in frenzies. Tickets to games against USC sell out quickly, with everyone gearing up with UCLA merchandise and war paint.

More importantly, students feel a stronger tie towards their Alma Mater, which means that later on in their careers, they are more prone to donate to their schools since that’s what successful alumni “should” do.

I too implicitly feel that I “should” donate to my Alma Mater, but not because of any personal gains, but for a purpose beyond my own selfish and family matters.

Another great example of Elitism is demonstrated by the microlending platform, which allows developed countries to pseudo-donate their money to help third world country villagers start their small businesses to sustain their families.

To create a sense of Elitism, created groups and showed statistics that allowed Christians and Atheists to compete against each and see who contributes more money to help third world countries.

The Christians believed that, since the Bible tells them to love God and love one another beyond all things, they should demonstrate generosity to the world and help those in need, and so they increased their contributions. The Atheists, on the other hand, wanted to prove that one does not need to believe in a god to be kind to fellow human beings, so they also increased their contributions.

Again, both sides contributed more than they would have otherwise, simply because they felt they were doing it for a bigger purpose than themselves.

Beginner’s Luck (Game Technique #23)

Epic Meaning and Calling Beginners Luck

This is the “Calling” in Epic Meaning & Calling. Calling makes people think they are uniquely destined to do something. And one of the Game Techniques that can introduce the sense of Calling is Beginner’s Luck.

With Beginner’s Luck, people feel like they’ve been one of the few chosen to take action—which makes them much more likely to take it.

If a gamer, upon the first day of playing a game, randomly earns one of the most powerful swords in the game that even veteran players couldn’t get easily, chances are he isn’t going to quit on day one. He’ll likely be using that powerful sword to kill monsters fanatically until the next hook in the game shows up.

The game designer would likely also add in Social Influence & Relatedness (Core Drive 5) by designing in Touting Horns (Game Technique #64), which are mechanism that allow the user to implicitly show off what they are proud of.

If the game designer also adds Scarcity & Impatience (Core Drive 6) through a Generals Carrot (Game Technique #11) by telling the user he can only equip this sword once he defeats a particular level that is very difficult, now the user becomes obsessed and tries to figure out all sorts of ways to defeat that level.

Free Lunch (Game Technique #24)


Along the lines of the “Calling” theme, giving freebies that usually cost money for others to certain people in a way that ties to a larger theme can make customers feel special and encourage them to take further action.

For example, Spoleto, a Brazilian restaurant chain with over 200 restaurants throughout Brazil, Spain, and Mexico, gave a literal free lunch to any female who told them she was beautiful, in celebration of International Women’s Day.

This helped promote a positive message and made the women feel special for that day, and it will probably bring them back on other days too, as this is the place that made them feel uniquely special.

Believability is Key

Even though Epic Meaning & Calling is powerful beyond measure, it can also backfire and fail in epic proportions. As you use these concepts, keep in mind that you can really turn people off when you’re appearing disingenuous in your efforts to create Epic Meaning and Calling.

For example, if a major gasoline company that is known to “profit from evil” tried to convince people to use their brand by saying, “pumping with us protects the planet.” Customers would not only be unimpressed, they will feel insulted.

Or if a certain fast food conglomerate that is known for cheap unhealthy foods that happens to never decompose run a marketing campaign that says, “Eating our food protects your health and your family,” people may also see that as a manipulative slap in the face.

Even in fantasy make-believe settings like Zombies Run, where users are motivated to run more because they are trying to save their village from hypothetical zombies, you want to make sure the user is prepared to believe in the fantasy higher meaning in that context. Pretending there are zombies in the room during large corporate board meetings to get everyone to stand up more would likely not fare too well (and don’t tell the Board Directors that you did it because you read my book on Epic Meaning & Calling).

Once you have firmly established believability of your Epic Meaning & Calling, then you have a good chance of appealing to this Core Drive effectively to bring out the fun and selflessness out of people.

Serious Games, Advergames, Gameful Design? Implicit vs Explicit Gamification

Serious Games

Serious Games, Advergames, Gameful Design? Implicit vs Explicit Gamification

(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. This is also a flushed out version of my guest post at

One of the most popular debates and criticisms in the gamification industry is what is considered gamification and how it relates to Serious Games and Advergames.

For those who are unfamiliar with these terms, Wikipedia defines serious games as, “a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment.” In other words, games that are generally built for a productive purpose, such as training, education, healthcare, and the like (Hence, the term “serious”). defines advergames as, “A video game which in some way contains an advertisement for a product, service, or company.” These are games that basically act as interactive advertisement campaigns which draw potential customers onto a website or into a business. When I refer to “shoot-the-duck banner ads” as early and embarrassing forms of marketing gamification, those banner ads are technically classified as Advergames.

As you can see, both definitions have the word “a game” in them, which seems to go against the core essence of what “gamifying” something means. In my own writings, I talk about how you can gamify anything that involves human motivation, as long as it is not already a game, just like how you can’t liquefy liquid. You can however, apply better game design to games.

So because advergames and serious games are “games,” by that standard you can’t really gamify them. Right?

The Semantics of Gamification vs. The Value of Gamification

Continue reading Serious Games, Advergames, Gameful Design? Implicit vs Explicit Gamification

How Games Compel You to Pay them Obsessively

Game Monetization (Below is a manuscript snippet of my book, Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Please subscribe to the mailing list on the right to order the book when it launches. This post may be moved into a Premium Area after a certain period of time).

Dangling and Anchor Juxtaposition: Monetization in Social Games

Many social games on the market also use Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience (one of the Black Hat Core Drives) to monetize heavily. Often times it’s a combination of Anchore Juxtaposition (Game Technique #69) and Dangling (Game Technique #44).

For instance, when you go on a game like Farmville, you initially may think, “This game is somewhat intriguing, but I would never pay real money for a stupid game like this.”

Then, Farmville implements Dangling and regularly shows you a mansion that you want, but can’t have. The first few times, you just dismiss it, as you inherently know it wouldn’t be resource-efficient to get it.

But eventually, you start to develop some desire of the mansion that’s constantly dangling there. Just from a tad of curiosity, you do a little research and see that the game requires 20 more hours of play before you can afford to get the mansion through game currency.

Wow, that’s a lot of farming! But then, you see that you could just spend $5.00 and get that very mansion immediately.

$5 to save 20 hours of my time? That’s a no-brainer!

Now the user is no longer paying $5 to buy some pixels on her screen. She is spending $5 to save her time, which becomes a phenomenal deal. You see how game design can mess around with peoples’ value systems?

The very strange phenomenon here, is that most of these games can be played for free; however, people are spending money so they could play less of the game. That’s the odd nature of Scarcity & Impatience.

Scarce but not Screwed

An important factor to consider when using Dangling is the pathway to obtaining the reward.  You have to allow the user to know that it’s very challenging to get the reward, but not impossible.

If it is perceived as impossible, then people turn on their Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance modes and go into self-denial. “It’s probably for losers anyway.”

For example, if you see an exclusive organization dangled in front of you, but then you see the prerequisite to join is that you have to be a Prince or Princess through royal blood, you might not even look at what the organization does, but may just think, “Who cares about a bunch of stuck up, spoiled brats?”

There is no motivation, and in fact, it activates Core Drive 8 as an Anti-Core Drive – the drive to NOT participate.

However, if the sign said, “Only Princes/Princess OR people who have previously ran a marathon can join.” Now you are motivated, and might even ponder in your head the work required to run a marathon.

As long as there is a realistic chance, the Scarcity and exclusivity itself is enough to engage your mind. The interesting thing is, you still haven’t even figured out what the organization actually does! Without any information on the function-focused, the human-focused motivation of Scarcity is motivating you towards running a marathon.

The Powers of Anchor Juxtaposition

This leads to a game technique I call Anchor Juxtaposition, where you place two options side by side: one that costs money, and the other that requires a great amount of effort towards the Desired Actions that benefit the system.

For example, a site could say, “You have two options to get this reward: 1. Pay us $20 right now, or 2. Commit a ridiculous amount of Desired Actions such as “Invite your friends,” “Upload photos,” “stay on the site for 30 days in a row.”

When that happens, you will see many users irrationally engaging in the Desired Actions, because they feel like doing the Desired Actions is like earning money. You’ll see users slaving away for dozens or even hundreds of hours, just so they could save the $20. At one point, many of them would realize that it’s a lot of time and work, and at that point, the $20 purchase option becomes more appealing and they end up purchasing that. Now your users have done both: paid you money, and committed a great deal of Desired Actions. It is worth reminding here again that rewards can be physical, emotional, or intellectual.

Rewards don’t have to be a financial reward, nor does it need to be a badge (people hardly pay for those). In fact, based on Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback principles, the most effective rewards are often times Boosters that allow the user to go back into the ecosystem and play more effectively, which becomes a streamlined activity loop. With Anchor Juxtaposition, you must have two options for the user. If you simply put a price on the reward and say, “Pay now, or go away.” Many users will go back to the CD8 Denial mode and think, “I’m never gonna pay those greedy bastards a single dollar!” and leave.

However, if you just put on your site, “Hey! Please do all these Desired Actions, such as invite your friends and complete your profile!” users often don’t feel any motivation to do those activities because they clearly recognize it as being beneficial for the system, but not for themselves (“Yes, but what do I get from it?”).

Only when you put those two options together (hence Juxtaposition), do people become more open to both options, and often times commit to doing both consecutively. But does this work in the real world, outside of games? You bet.

Dropbox is a File Hosting Service company based in San Francisco that has obtained extraordinary popularity and success.

When you first sign-up to Dropbox, it tells you that you could either 1. Pay to get a lot of storage space, or 2. Invite your friends to get more space. At the beginning, most people started inviting their friends (as well as complete a small list of Desired Actions). Dropbox Gamification Eventually, many of those users who are committing the Desired Actions decide that inviting/harassing their friends is a lot of work, but they still need a lot of space, and they end up paying. Again, because of the Anchor Juxtaposition, users commit both the Desired Action, and pay for the full product, just like I did.

Dropbox’s viral design, along with a great seamless product, accelerated the company to reportedly raise over $300 Million with a valuation that is around $10 Billion and revenues above $200 Million in 2013. Not too shabby for a company that didn’t exist seven years prior.

The Value of Rare Pixels

Continue reading How Games Compel You to Pay them Obsessively