6 Tips for Short Term Gamification

A question I get asked a great deal is “Are points, badges and leaderboards enough?” The stock answer from me is usually a resounding “No, you must consider motivation and the needs of the user, think RAMP and more…” In fairness, this is good advice and you should consider intrinsic motivation over extrinsic and the like. However, the answer really should be “Sometimes, it depends what your goals are.” You see, if you are looking for a short term or short sharp engagement, PBL may well be fine. Very often in gamification we are trying desperately to get people to consider long-term motivations and engagements. Really, it is likely that it is just a single simple task that people want completing. Read a new policy, complete the training, check out a new product.

If you are not after a long term engagement, then there is less need to push people towards an intrinsic level of mastery and therefore an intrinsic reason to stay on. You just need something done and want to encourage user to do it and try to give them something engaging or at least bearable to work with.

So here are some tips that I have picked up over the years to help with these kinds of short engagements.

1. Points

Points are fine, but will not drive any level of engagement unless they lead to something. This could be prizes (more on that in a moment), it could be social recognition, employee recognition etc. They need to have some meaning to the user in the long run.

2. Badges

Badges are also fine – if they have meaning OR are entertaining. I have spoken about that in the past. A badge saying “well done, you clicked a button” really means nothing to the user. “Well done, you have mastered level one of the training and this will go on your permanent record of achievement” has more meaning. “Well done, you got 42 points and now know the meaning of life, but what is the question” may at least make a few smile!

3. Prizes

Prizes have a place, but can be very, very dangerous. If the prize is too valuable, it can encourage very bad behaviors in the system. People cheating or bending the rules to make sure they win, irrespective of whether they have done what was initially being asked for. Consider moving away from physical or financially valuable prizes and think about what might mean more to people. In the enterprise, you could look at giving people time off, team dinners, a team trophy, a meeting with the CEO, recognition in the company. You could also consider making use of altruism, converting points into charitable donations.

4. Leaderboards

Leaderboards can be fun for the right audience. If you have a particularly competitive culture in the organisation they can be great. However, they can lead to divisions in teams as well as feelings of inadequacy and exclusion for some. If you want to use leaderboards often it is best to make them team boards. This encourages collaboration in the teams, whilst keeping some friendly competition. One note though. If you are considering team competition, but part of the task is to generate knowledge – be sure to promote and reward knowledge sharing between teams!

5. Narrative

Narrative and communication. I love a good story and have in the past used simple story lines to engage people without the need for anything else. This can be tough and really you need to try and make the story or narrative not just compelling but also branching. This gives people the feeling that they are in control of the outcome. My top tip for working with branching narratives is to get TWINE, which is a text adventure engine! I have used this and my own similar tools for a few games but also to build prototype narratives for people.

6. Curiosity

Curiosity is also powerful, as I was explaining recently. Just getting people to explore and discover things in their own time. They feel that they have control and are not being forced into things.


As ever, the key is to take your time, think about your goals and be willing to spend some money. If it is important, that should not be an issue. This is an investment after all!

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