Gamification can be so much more than points if we let it.

Customer experience 3024488 1920 Gamification can be so much more than points if we let it

Just a short plea to the games based solution industry, be it gamification, serious games, VR whatever.

If you are going to use gamification as a selling point, please (please please please) don’t use a phrase like “we gamified the experience by adding points”

I was recently on a webinar where a developer was showing off an amazing VR experience, which had narratives and gameplay and was really superb. They then used the above phrase. “We gamified the experience by adding points”. Read More ...

Are Points and Badges Dead in Gamification?

I suppose an alternative title to this could be “Should Points and Badges Be Dead in Gamification”

When you look at gamification, you will see two main streams of thought on the use of points and badges in gamification.

The first and probably most prevalent is that the simple addition of points and badges to a problem will make it more engaging and fun. The second is that points and badges have no place in “good” gamification.

I have sat on both sides of the fence over the last few years and have come to the conclusion that the answer lies somewhere in the middle.


Adding points and badges (and leaderboards etc) to a problem with no strategy, is not the way to get a good result with gamification. That is an undeniable truth. However, if you only need a very short term engagement, they can work, but there are better and more enjoyable ways to achieve short (and long) term engagement.

The same can be said of most gamification related elements though. Just throwing a narrative or a clever mechanic with no strategy, will not give you great results. I wrote a long time ago about GaaS – Gamification as a Strategy!


Plan out what it is you are trying to achieve and then build a solution that best fits that need. Guess what? Points and badges can be part of that solution and that strategy if they are well planed and used well.

Using them as part of a player onboarding phase can have great outcomes. Each point and badge can be seen as pats on the back, nudges to show the user that they are doing the right thing, learning, improving and headed in the right direction. Once they are at a stage where they are no longer in need of little nudges, stop giving them. The points and badges can ease off, or change their intended purpose. Maybe they become part of an overall virtual economy within the system – for instance.

Are They Dead?

Of course, points and badges are not dead. They still form the core of much gamification. The solutions that are going to succeed are the ones that get their use right and don’t rely on them (or any single element or concept) for long term success!

Is the use of points and badges gamification? Of course, it is! Don’t be afraid of them, just use them correctly and with care 🙂

Introduction to Gamification Part 5: Goals and Feedback

The core of gamification can be boiled down to two key components. Goals and Feedback. Of course, there is more going on that supports these, but those are the two keys of gamification.

Gamified systems need to set specific tasks for users to complete, and then provide them with feedback as they progress towards completing those tasks. A good gamified system then uses other techniques, elements, mechanics etc to support the user towards those goals.

The hard bit is setting good goals, creating good feedback mechanisms and wrapping the experience in something that is engaging! But that is for later.

Let’s start by justifying the statement that gamification can be broadly split into two main headings, starting with goals!


Games are great at setting goals. They start with one big goal, “save the planet from destruction”. That is a pretty big goal though, so that goal is split into small goals. “Get to the end of the first of ten levels”. That is then split into smaller goals. “Find the magic sword”. This is then further broken down to smaller real-time tasks. “Kill the bad guy, navigate the map” and so on.

We can consider these in the following way.

Quest –> Levels -> Missions -> Task

In our example, the quest is to save the planet. The levels are the stages within which the action is. Collecting the magic sword is a mission. Kill the bad guy is a task. Not all games can be split this neatly, open world and RPG games often don’t have specific levels, just collections of missions (sub-quests) and tasks.  Your quest may be to save the planet, but first, you have a sub-quest to return all of Miss Mable’s chickens. To do that you will need to have 100 experience points, so you will have to complete multiple tasks in the form of killing rats (grinding).

You get the picture, games break up large goals into much smaller and palatable chunks. This is one of the core aims we have in gamification, to make an activity easier to achieve in some way. That may be technically easier or psychologically easier, where the gamification makes the task less of a pain to do.

The core component of goals, in this context, is challenge. Every part of the overall goal completion is a challenge of some type.   Be it grinding to get experience points or fighting the big boss at the end of the level, they are all challenges. The trick is to make sure that the player has the right skill level to meet the challenge as set out in Flow mentioned previously.

If you are interested in diving deeper into the theory of goal setting, check out Goal Setting Theory by Locke and Latham, who set out five considerations that help an individual achieve a goal, Clarity, Challenge, Commitment, Feedback, Task complexity1. It is also worth looking at my Attainable Maintainable goals model.


Feedback is both easier to talk about and harder. It is easier because it seems obvious. Feedback is what a system tells someone when they act. If a player succeeds, the system says, “well done, keep going”, if they fail the system says, “bad luck, try again”. But that is just one type of feedback.

Rewards, points, progress bars, badges, leaderboards, certificates, prizes, social status and more are all forms of feedback.

You must decide what feedback types will work best for your solution and what schedule you will use to provide the feedback. Will it be just in time (i.e. as the activity is completed), will it be later as part of a larger report, will it be random feedback like rewards for actions the user may not be expecting rewards for? I will explain reward schedules in more detail later, but it is worth being aware that it does have to be immediate or linear!

Whatever the type of feedback is, it needs to follow a simple rule RIM, Relevant, In-Time, Meaningful.


Feedback should make sense, it should have context. If a user gets a quiz question right, the expect to see a tick or a “well done”. They are not expecting a 5-minute fanfare and a million points whilst unicorns sing “You are the king of the world”! Actually, that sounds pretty cool, but you get the idea!


Just as feedback needs context, it needs to be delivered at the right time. Again, if a user gets an answer correct, they expect to know about it then and there, or at least at the end of the test. Unless it is an exam, they don’t expect to see the feedback weeks and weeks later! At the same time, a leaderboard does not need to update every 10 seconds if it is measuring large shifts in large sets of data. It could just update once a week at a set time, and users can go and look at it as and when they want.


This is essential, especially when considering rewards as feedback. If it has not meaning it has no value to the user. A badge for clicking a button 100 times will have less value to a user than their degree certificate! That is not to say feedback has to be as epic as that, progress bars as feedback don’t do a great deal, but the feedback is meaningful to the user!

Building and Supporting the System

When building a system, you have to start with what the main goal is, what is it that you need the user to do or achieve. Then you can think about how that goal can be split up into smaller goals. After that, you look at what challenges you can set to get the user closer to each goal.

After that, you consider how you are going to provide feedback to the user so that they understand their progress and achievements. Will points and badges help. Do you need a leaderboard, a progress bar etc? What reward schedules will work best for this situation.

Finally, you can look at how to support this. Is there a narrative or a theme that would fit the system? Do you need to include social mechanics to create a sense of community or competition, avatar building tools, strategy, time pressure etc?

I will go into much more detail about these in time.

Key Learning Points

  • Gamification is all about Goals and Feedback
  • Goals should be attainable and maintainable.
  • Goals should be broken down into lots of small goals
  • Feedback can be many things from points to progress
  • Feedback should be Relevant, In-Time and Meaningful
  • There is loads more to it, but that is a good place to start!
  • Read More ...

    Gamification Advice: Points

    Generally speaking, in gamification, a reliance on nothing but the unholy trinity (Points, Badges and Leaderboards) is a guaranteed recipe for eventual failure.

    However, that does not mean they should be ignored – especially not points!

    Points are how a system records activity, tracks progress, understands achievements – they are the currency of gamification. That said, they don’t need to be the central focus of the user experience in a gamified solution. In fact, they can be totally hidden from view at all times, just ticking away in the background making other more interesting things happen for the user.

    So my advice. Points are cool, you just need to use them wisely and you don’t need to show them to the user in every project! See if you can do it without them being visible, However, if you don’t have them running the background, hidden from view, you will never be able to show them if you decide you need to!


    Gamification is not just points and badges

    Ok, quick rant, move along if you don’t care about the future of our industry.

    I recently read an article, that said the following

    … gamification, the concept of points or rewards through the completion of tasks …

    It is 2018, gamification has been maturing for several years now and most of the respected leaders in the industry have been trying to dispell this concept for some time now.

    So why does it persist?

    Because the industry does not speak openly about what it is actually doing. Case studies I am using now are the same ones I was using in 2011. This either means that people are so successful that they don’t want to share the goods, or they are failing so badly they are embarrassed to share.

    There is fabulous research being done now, but so many in the industry still refuse to accept that academic research and even the rigour provided by research methods are important to the future of the gamification industry. This is can only be driven by laziness, ignorance or arrogance.

    It is up to us to drive the industry forward and we can’t do that if we keep allowing our work to be misrepresented in lazy press releases or by lazy journalists in this way. We certainly can’t do this if we refuse to adapt and evolve.

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