Gamification Expert &

Behavioral Designer

yukai chou gamification

High-Fives and Crowning: Two Game Design Techniques for your Win-States

Introduction to High-Fives and Crowning

Today, we delve into two straightforward, yet crucial game design techniques: High-Five (Game Design Technique #17) and Crowning (Game Design Technique #18).

A High-Five, as game technique number 17, is an emotional reward presented to the user after accomplishing a relatively minor task or achievement. On the other hand, Crowning, game technique number 18, is a more substantial emotional reward granted after a significant accomplishment.

High-Fives and Crowning in Win-State Moments

Gamification Strategy Dashboard

Drawing from the Octalysis Strategy Dashboard, every Desired Action steers the user towards a Win-State, which can be rewarding, neutral, or punishing. As gamification designers, our task is to make that Win-State extremely rewarding. There are many ways to create this reward: tangible rewards, emotional rewards, or even simple acknowledgment.

Emotional rewards serve to excite the user, providing them with a positive context or feeling. Depending on the achievement, we can design High-Fives or Crowning experiences into the Win-State.

When to use High-Fives

A High-Five, being a small reward, could be triggered by a simple action such as uploading a photo. A pop-up message saying “Congratulations, you’re awesome!” is a simple example of a High-Five reward.

Consider MailChimp, the email platform we use. It gives you a high-five once you send out an email, even allowing you to play a High-Five game as an Easter egg within the platform. This instantaneous reward doesn’t take up a lot of time but keeps the experience exciting and rewarding.

When to use Crowning

However, for significant achievements, a High-Five just won’t cut it. This is where the Crowning experience comes in. A Crowning is more intensive and time-consuming. It makes you the center of attention, acknowledging your significant accomplishment and giving you your well-deserved moment of glory.

In movies where a person gets crowned, it’s a process that commands everyone’s attention. This momentous experience is a far cry from a quick high-five. Thus, in your designs, it’s essential to apply the High-Fives and Crowning experiences judiciously. Overuse of Crowning for insignificant actions can cheapen its impact, and similarly, using a High-Five for a significant achievement can be anticlimactic.

It’s about striking a balance and understanding what the user perceives as an achievement. Small victories can trigger High-Fives, while larger accomplishments should lead to Crowning experiences. Of course, you can balance this with the concept of scarcity and impatience, where you only give Crowning experiences for truly exceptional accomplishments.

These techniques predominantly tie into Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment. The High-Five could be a pop-up or a small mechanic like getting likes, while a Crowning experience would typically take longer, commanding the user’s attention for at least 5-10 seconds. It’s about taking the time to honor the user’s achievement and giving them their moment of glory.

Emotional Rewards are Essential in Gamification Design

We should note that these rewards do not necessarily have to be tangible. For instance, opening a treasure box could lead to a Crowning effect, followed by the user receiving a random item. This could work with Status, Access, Power, or Stuff, or even Easter Eggs or the Mystery Box mechanic. What’s crucial is how rewarding the Win-State is, not necessarily the reward itself.

Companies often neglect to include such rewards in their designs. They might have users perform Desired Actions and then simply move them on to the next page without any acknowledgement of the user’s success. Yet, motivation is a finite resource. Each click, each scroll, every paragraph read depletes some of that motivation. If we don’t replenish it through the 8 Core Drives, including Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling, Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment, or Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness, users will eventually burn out and leave the experience.

Conclusion: High-Five or Crowning?

Placing High-Fives in frequent places can help maintain motivation. When users hit significant milestones, a Crowning experience can top off their engagement. As described by Daniel Kahneman in “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” our brains typically remember three moments in an experience: how it started, the peak or highlight, and how it ended.

While we have much literature about creating an amazing onboarding process, we often overlook defining the highlight of the experience, the moment where it feels truly awe-inspiring.

The Crowning is about creating that unforgettable highlight. When people recall your experience, they should think back to that Crowning moment and say, “Yeah, this experience was amazing. It was so much fun.”

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Share examples of good High-Fives and Crownings. How have you used them in your current experience, or how could you implement them in the future? We can all learn from each other’s experiences.

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