GSummit 2014 Highlights and Takeaways

Logo for the GSummit 2014 Gamification conference in San Francisco 2014

GSummit 2014 Highlights and Takeaways

by finneycanhelp aka Mike Finney of CARFAX, Inc.

Phew. The wonderful GSummit 2014 has come and gone and because there was a lot to process, I decided to share a few things that I learned at GSummit as well as a few links to presentation slides, Twitter accounts, and some key resources.

Reader beware: Since some of the material is from my notes, mistakes are possible. In any case, I encourage you, the reader, to dive deeper where possible. Finally, I credit all the great knowledge to the excellent presenters- thank you for sharing your wisdom!

We begin with the first official day of the conference, Wednesday, June 11th, 2014.

First Day: Wednesday, June 11th

After some breakfast, hugging old friends and meeting new ones, it was time to watch the fun begin on the main stage. The friendly “Welcome to GSummit 2014” by Gabe Zichermann came and went. The first presentation called “GAMIFY: What is the Future of Gamification?” began.

GAMIFY: What is the Future of Gamification?” by Brian Burke

Brian points out that digital business is forcing organizations to figure out how best to engage and motivate others both internally and externally. The physical and digital worlds are being blurred together.

Weight Watchers was an example of a struggling company in this Digital Business age. Weight watchers is commonly pointed out as a Gamification example that’s been around for about 50 years.

Lately, its stock and revenue have been doing worse now that certain solutions like MyFitnessPal, FitBit and other digital solutions have become available.

There may come a day when work / life balance is achieved through a digital dashboard with a virtual assistant named Samantha to help you. I look forward to that day.

My key takeaway is:

Persuasion, Motivation, and Behavior: The Science of When and Why the Rules Don’t (Always) Work by Andrea Kuszewski.

Moving ahead to Andrea’s presentation, we take a deep dive into some science backed thinking on motivation.

The principles of human behavior can fall into three categories: Identity, Context, and Personality.

Cognitive Dissonance can occur when “our identity is being threatened by the outside world.” We end up holding on to our challenged beliefs even stronger. If it is an outsider or “outgroup” challenging the belief, our sometimes minor belief becomes a strongly held belief! The solution is to have someone in the “ingroup” present the idea for better consideration.

Jumping into the topic of extrinsic motivation, providing an incentive such as money for something that is creative, yields a worse result. That’s because money is an extrinsic motivator. It’s best to just let the creativity flow.

Punishment is a short term solution. Punishment doesn’t work for motivation in the long term. Sometimes it doesn’t ever work. When the threat of punishment is removed, the chances of doing improper behavior is higher than before.

So what does this mean for Gamification design?

Happiness and Meaning are primary drivers for Approach Motivation. When people go after goals or positive emotions, they are driven by Approach Motivation. The behavior of Meaningful Masochists is self-sustaining.

However, the Happy Hedonists have less loyalty and don’t exhibit self-sustaining behaviors. Please see the slides using the link above for a deeper look into these behavior profiles.

We’re left with this final note of wisdom: “The only way to guarantee long-term sustainable behavior change is to make them want to change their behavior.” So, inspire the Meaningful Masochist inside of the individual by making the desired behavior meaningful.

Puzzle Solved: How to Create Long-term Change from Short-term Motivation by Dr. BJ Fogg

Moving on to the highly respected Dr. BJ Fogg who presented the Behavior Model. The model’s equation is “B = m a t” where a behavior will occur in response to a trigger if motivation and ability are high enough. In addition to the Behavior Model, a Behavior Grid was passed out to all and its proper use reviewed.

As a side note, Dr. Fogg says, we should not use terms like intrinsic and extrinsic. They cloud things up. There are better ways of talking about things. However, I believe the two terms have value at this time. For a description of the two terms, see Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation—Clearing the Fog (not Fogg!) by Dr. Mike Wu.

Finally, Dr. Fogg says that if a desired behavior is not being done, you can troubleshoot it by looking at the following things; trigger, motivation, and ability.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

At GSummit 2014, Nir shares that there is a distinction between a habit and an addiction. He says, “A habit is a behavior done with little or no conscious thought.” An addiction is a “compulsive dependence on a behavior or substance.”

We want to create good habit-forming products and not design for addiction. We can create a habit-forming product if the user uses the product with enough frequency to solve a problem so that a positive habit is formed.

The Hook Model was shared which consists of the following sequential design steps: A Trigger, Action, Reward and Investment. This forms the acronym ATARI. Of special note, the investment phase loads the next trigger and the cycle continues through a second hook model loop.

He referred to BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model of “B = m a t” described above. Ways of affecting motivation and ability are shown. Also three types of variable rewards were reviewed; 1) Rewards of the Tribe 2) Rewards of the Hunt 3) Rewards of the Self. We build variable rewards to scratch the users itch (solve a problem) but leave them wanting more.

Finally, he challenges us to “Build the change you want to see in the world.”

He gave a shout out to the user created Hook Model discussion group, his blog at and several GSummit 2014 audience members commented on Twitter that they looked forward to reading his book, titled Hooked.

Second Day: Thursday, June 12th

After a tasty breakfast at GSummit 2014, the fun continued.

The Science of Fun: 3 Ways Games Make Us Happier by Nicole Lazzaro

Nicole presented the DOSE acronym of Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphin. The parts of DOSE apply to the four different kinds of fun: Hard, Easy, People, Serious. Each kind of fun has unique emotions felt for each.

She handed out a piece of paper that the audience used throughout the presentation in order to understand better what ties together the 4 Keys to Fun and DOSE. Part of the exercise involved hand shaking and hugs which was certainly an audience favorite!

Data-Driven Marketing, Loyalty & Gamification by Jeff Hawley

Jeff described the journey for tying data from different places together. There are different kinds of data that can be gathered up across different situations. You can get behavioral data from web data, demographic data from social data, and transactional data from game data.

A key take away for me was to not operate loyalty in a silo. You can connect data to CRM and CRM to sales data. Also, loyalty, Gamification and marketing lines are getting blurred.

The Internet of Things: Using Technology to Engage by Jerry Filipiak

Mobile is hot. We all know that. Due to micro-location beacon technology such as Apple’s iBeacon, people using their mobile devices will interact with their environment with the precision of a few millimeters as opposed to GPS which is 3 feet or more.

This opens the door to a “physical graph” where everything is interact-able. Beacon technology also can provide a heat trail for A/B testing in physical stores. Cheaper smartphones are coming out too so more people can interact with the beacon technology. It is important that these solutions be designed in an engaging way as opposed to being creepy.

Level Up Your Gamification to Solve Big Business Problems by Dr. Michael Wu

Author’s note: (For some Wu slides, see section 10 at where it says “Michael Wu taught us..”)

Michael covered some Gamification basics and then quickly moved into deeper Gamification. He also impressively showed how to design a sustainable Gamification project over time and how the game choices are introduced along the way.

As Michael said, some common uses of Gamification are to deepen engagement, sustain loyalty, and onboard new users.

He reminds us that most games have an end. People don’t, won’t and can’t play continuously. I have seen successful Gamified systems that have an end date. So, I know where Michael is coming from especially in the domain of loyalty programs.

Angry birds has feedback, control, physics, and points. You can achieve things like leveling up and be high on a leaderboard. You can acquire skills and get into a state of flow.

How to get into flow?

The player’s skills increase so the difficulty also needs to increase. So, give players baby steps to conquer at first. Those steps are key to habit formation.

As said above, throughout the presentation, he also highlighted how one can create a Gamified solution in a sustainable way. As opposed to picking one key takeaway, I have to say that all of the above items were excellent lessons to continue reflecting upon.

Game on! How wearable fitness tech is changing employee health and wellness by Shawn LaVana

As was said, 70% of employees aren’t engaged, 75% are not eating well, 79% are not getting enough exercise. This all impacts companies.

Their company, Virgin Pulse, approaches things based on the question “What can we do to help employees be their best?” They want to empower employees with energy, focus, and drive.

There are over 100,000 consumer health and fitness apps with over 1.5 billion downloads per year. These devices are not just for fitness fanatics. Consumers of all sorts will come to rely on them. They figure out a baseline, help them improve, and get them engaged.

Through Gamification, employees will be able to see progress, feedback, receive recognition and rewards, reminders, and receive social support. Since I am a fan of Gamified fitness, the future looks bright indeed!

Gamestorming Wikipedia: An Experiment in Playful Onboarding by Jake Orlowitz

Wikipedia’s core ideals are Neutrality, Verifiability, Consensus, Civility, and Openness. Supporting these ideals is the on-boarding solution called The Wikipedia Adventure.

The strategies behind this solution are:

  • Invite
  • Acknowledge
  • Show off the people by showing their pictures

Showing people’s faces makes them feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Empathy is also encouraged by this. 

The playful design lowers the fear of failure, encourages you to try new things, and have fun. You learn the skills and enjoy yourself.

They key takeaway for me is that the on-boarding experience is “saturated” with positive reinforcement. Something good to emulate indeed!

The Co-op Revolution: 7 Rules for Collaborative Game Design by Dr. Amy Jo Kim

Amy Jo Kim’s collaborative design approach was well received at GSummit 2014.

Although the “Co-op Revolution is Here”, it’s not everywhere. There’s a move towards “non-zero-sum” games and experiences. A zero-sum game is where one player wins and the other player loses. In contrast, the players are partners in a non-zero-sum game. It’s possible to have more fun and even accomplish more working together.

There are 7 rules for a Co-op design:

  1. Compete with the System
  2. Shared Goals & Outcomes
  3. Inter-dependent Roles
  4. Co-op Social Gestures
  5. Shared Resources
  6. Non-Zero Stats & Spotlights
  7. User-generated Content

A main takeaway is that “not everyone is motivated by zero-sum mechanics.” 

Space Race – Yellow Team Won

Soon after Amy Jo Kim’s presentation, GSummit 2014 set up a “Space Race” between Live Cube teams that were in the audience. People would click as fast as they could to fuel their team’s ship and make it go up. It was a lot of fun! I say with pride that my team, team yellow, won the space race. 

GSummit 2014 Closing Keynote

Gabe Zichermann: Fun Makes Hookups and Workouts More Fun from Gamification Co on

There were several interesting points shared during the GSummit 2014 Closing Keynote. One interesting focus was on habituation. Habituation allows us to take external stimuli and turn the volume down on it. Otherwise, we would be overcome with it all. It also is what makes yesterday’s exciting thing boring to us today. As Gabe said, “all the easy problems are solved.” We will need to continue to advance and “level-up” in our engagement strategies.

GSummit 2014 Gamification Awards

Some of the GSummit 2014 award recipients included: T-Mobile, Ready Set Jet, Air Canada, SaveUp, GT Academy, ClassDojo, XPRIZE, and Jane McGonigal.

The Science of How Games Make Us Stronger by Jane McGonigal

Jane is applying the science of SuperBetter herself to help her write a book. Specifically, she writes “I love writing this book” on her calendar. On another personal note, she has sage advice which is “know your neighbors.” She recommends really nourishing the neighborhood relationships. You never know when you may need their help.

While talking about relationships, she points out that people who play games with you will support you in real life. Online communities combined with reality is a good thing. She referred to the earlier GSummit 2014 presentation by Amy Jo Kim where giving a person an extra life in a game will make a person more likely to help you in real life.

Multiplayer games in general are good with one “public service announcement” exception that Jane pointed which and is echoed here: “playing very aggressive, competitive games against strangers online (think call of duty) can boost your testosterone levels way too high for your own good.”

On an upbeat note, playing Tetris within 6 hours of a traumatic event reduces the likelihood of PTS, Post Traumatic Stress. Jane, we all thank you for your “..goal of ending suffering on Earth..”

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson!

Neil was funny, inspirational and reassuring for all science lovers. Science is popular as evidenced by people embracing symbols of science. He showed several symbols that are products with his face on them.

One call to action that he shared was that we need to support programs that will identify asteroids that may smash into earth. I agree that it’s important.

Final Day: Friday, June 13th

Anyone who didn’t attend the Friday workshops missed out. One extremely popular and packed workshop was “Actionable Gamification: The Octalysis Framework.” 

Hands-on Lab: Actionable Gamification: The Octalysis Framework by Yu-kai Chou

There was lots of excitement as people filled the room from end to end. Great Gamification examples were given from the Speed Camera Lottery to a highly successful project that Yu-kai had worked on called Geomon. The audience loved the Gamification vision that Yu-kai shared:

The Octalysis Gamification framework was introduced and shown how it applies to successful products and life in general. People were extremely impressed on how the framework clearly highlights 8 core drives of motivation.

Yu-kai even shared the Octalysis Tool which is an interactive tool for analyzing motivation using Octalysis. On LiveCube, some mentioned the full-day Octalysis workshop that Yu-kai gave the next day. People stated that they wished they could go too (spoiler: it was awesome).


GSummit 2014 was fantastic! It was a mix of scientific backed information and practical actionable advice. In response to the question of “what do I do with this knowledge I have been given?,” I recommend people put this new found knowledge to good use. For many, the most straight forward thing to do is to choose one or two frameworks that help make this all tangible and actionable. Based on my experience, I recommend looking at the Hook Model and the Octalysis framework.

Thanks for reading!

finneycanhelp aka Mike Finney of CARFAX 

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