Where to Start Your Gamification Journey

This post is written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen. 

Gamification has evolved

As Yu-kai discusses in Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards, gamification has been around and has evolved to the point that many professionals have heard about or even engaged with at least elementary gamification material.

Some people immediately see the advantages of human-focused design in the creation of products, particularly web or mobile apps. But we know gamification as defined by human-focused design (thanks for this distinction, Yu-kai!) is applicable to so many other areas, like:

  • marketing gamification
  • lifestyle gamification
  • workplace gamification

We’re also seeing gamification taught in universities and online programs. With so many courses and books to choose from, it’s hard to choose what will be right for you.

Right for you might mean most applicable to achieving your goals of improving your lifestyle, whether your health or relationship with your kids. If this was your aim setting out, you might have fallen into the trap of a self-help book about fitness or parenting, so good for you for checking out gamification instead!
It’s so important to know yourself and know what you’re looking for.

In this post, I’ll start with my learning journey, then discuss a few options to starting or continuing your gamification journey. Who knows, it might last a lifetime!

My gamification story (Erik van Mechelen dips his toe in gamification)

To demonstrate you don’t need a strict plan to learn gamification, let me describe my journey (reminder, this is my story, not Yu-kai’s!)

To save your eyes, here it is in bullet form:

  • as a youth played Starcraft and SimEarth and Super Smash Bros
  • as an adolescent played and designed tabletop games, like Diplomacy (I loved diplomacy so much I started a club in high school)
  • read several game design books from Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman and Jesse Schell and McGonigal
  • designed a new card game, called Advantage, and published an iPhone app
  • designed simulation scenarios for an online game to train Target Canada’s new employees
  • continued using workplace gamification at Target (networking)
  • found Jun Loayza who recommended me to Yu-kai (I read Yu-kai’s Actionable Gamification and Nir Eyal’s Hooked in one week, synthesized, and told the story of Yu-kai’s rise through eBay selling ranks in a 15-page report, all in one week)
  • immersed myself more into Yu-kai’s work throughout the back half of 2016
  • every week I try new apps to learn how they are being used
  • every day I think about lifestyle gamification (chore designs w/ my girlfriend)
  • every month, I reflect upon and optimize my productivity (my writing routines)
  • through gamification, I’ve improved my relationships (with my Story Stadium community and with my family/friends in general)
  • because I’m so immersed in human-focused design, the lens I see the world through often starts with Octalysis and related frameworks–I’m excited to see where my learning journey takes me next!

Your journey and getting started

Why’d you decide to learn more about gamification?

If you found this post, you know there are plenty of resources available online and plenty of people trying to sell you the merits.

Defining your aim

Maybe you have a clear idea already, and can choose one of the following broad categories:

-product gamification
-marketing gamification
-lifestyle gamification
-workplace gamification

Remember, these are goal-oriented…think “I want to improve my health, so will learn about gamification and human-focused design in the context of approaching this goal.”

Know yourself (and how you learn best)

If you learn best by doing and getting feedback (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment and Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback), then a short dive into educational materials combined with application to your own project might be a great long-term approach to building your gamification knowledge. Seeing what you’ve learned work or not work in the real world is a great feedback mechanism for your learning.

Or perhaps you’re curiosity-driven (Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity). In this case, you’ll consume and learn with a more open and creative mind.

Defining your initial investment

It can be daunting to jump into a semester-long course. For others, this is exciting and the only way to ensure long-term commitment. Have a quick think about this, then browse the following offerings accordingly.

Coursera: Gamification (University of Pennsylvania)

This online university course is divided as follows: Gamification and games, deconstructing games, motivation and psychology, design, applications, and gamification in perspective.

As defined by this course, “Gamification is the application of game elements and digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges. This course will teach you the mechanisms of gamification, why it has such tremendous potential, and how to use it effectively.”

Use for: broad introduction to gamification

Master in Gamification and Transmedia Storytelling (IEBS)

IEBS – Escuela de Negocios de la Innovación y los Emprendedores

This 750-hour course combines online material and webinars. The Master in Gamification and transmedia storytelling is presented as a complete training program that unites two complex and absolutely contemporary areas: Gamification and transmediality.

As described by the course: “In these virtual collaborative environments are the games that comes with various disciplines around the 4 axis design memorable experience: good stories based on decisions made by users are counted; powerful visual aesthetic chords are designed to “target group”; game elements are assembled and final implementation platform is decided.”

Use for: introduction to gamification, product gamification, lifestyle gamification, workplace gamification


Whereas a university accredited gamification course requires a larger effort and commitment, Udemy is a way to get a taste of gamification basics and language before investing in something a bit more intensive.

There were other gamification courses, but each of the below is rated above 4 stars.

Designing Gamification Level 1 (Basic) + Certification

By Gabe Zicherman

Learn the basics of gamification and game design for customer and employee engagement & loyalty + get certified
Use for: intro to gamification (9.5 hours)

Designing Gamification Level2 (Intermediate) + Certification

This is a continuation from Level 1. Learn how to use game concepts to engage employees and generate consumer loyalty.

Use for: workplace gamification; extended intro to gamification (9.5 hours)

Gamification & Behavioral Design: The Octalysis Framework

Learn the 8 Core Drives that motivate us all (beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards)

Use for: intro to Octalysis design (3 hours)

Gamification: Motivation Psychology & The Art of Engagement

Learn how to motivate and engage anyone by learning the psychology that underpins human behavior.

Use for: marketing gamification (2.5 hours)

Leadership via Design

“We are a unique boutique instructional design, education, and leadership studio. We work with you to build and deliver the best, accredited learning and leadership programs and courses for the greatest value according to YOUR needs. We offer various types of leadership and learning resources to serve small businesses, independent learning institutions, and organizational teams.”

Use for: workplace and leadership gamification

Thanks to…
Nora Brennan from the Octalysis Explorers for sharing this and recommending Sharon Link-Wyer, Ph.D.

Octalysis Prime

A comprehensive approach to human-focused design.

Use for: workplace gamification, marketing gamification, product gamification, lifestyle gamification

From our community:

The Octalysis Explorers community has also shared a few more great places to start your journey.

Pusztai Ádám recently led a course in Hungary.  If you can read Hungarian, check out his blog here: It’s a great place to learn about gamification if you’re a Hungarian speaker.

Gaute Kokkvoll, also from the community, is currently setting up a course in Gamification for Westerdals ACT, a University College in Oslo that will be applicable for Bachelor and Master students (starting January 17). The curriculum literature is Actionable Gamification!

Actually getting started

Where have you learned about gamification? Share your story in the comments! Oh, and if I left out a great place to learn, please share that too 🙂

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