Final Fight and Relative Progress Bars

Finalfight arc image14 Final Fight and Relative Progress Bars

Progress bars

During lockdown and thanks to our newish dog, I’ve been playing a lot of Xbox in the early mornings. I try to play games when I can, but until recently have not really had time to invest much of my life into them. But, I’ve always maintained that to understand what makes games work, you need to play them!

Anyway, I decided to have my annual play through of Final Fight, one of the greatest games of all time (I’m my opinion anyway!). As I was playing, I was analysing what was making it enjoyable (the curse of a gamification designer) and realised one small but key element. The health bars of the bad guys. Rather than just the main boss fights having a health bars every baddie has one, no matter how weak. Read More ...

Getting Sh*t Done with A Little Gamification

Gamified Tasks Getting Sh t Done with A Little Gamification

I was recently chatting to a guy who was complaining that his task list was so long that he couldn’t even work out where to start from. He had all the tasks in Excel but just couldn’t figure out what to do first. Nothing had due dates, just he knew they all needed doing “at some point”.

We had a long chat and I gave him a simple algorithm to help get started.

Algorithm 1.0

  • First, prioritise each task with a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being vital and 5 being “whenever”
  • Next, give each task a difficulty rating of 1 to 5, 1 being easy and 5 being mega tough.
  • Finally, sort by priority then by difficulty.

You will end up with a list a bit like this

Get the kids bags sorted11
Fix iPad15
Paint the Fence22
Learn new song32
Tidy wiring in living room33
Wash the windows43
Mow the lawn51
Create an app55

Then, what you are looking for is a “quick win”. Look for the task that has the highest priority with the lowest difficulty, in this case, “Get the kids bags sorted”. This is an easy job that is very important and will get you started. The first step of any journey is always the most difficult and all that jazz.

Algorithm 2.0 – gamified

After this chat, I came home and decided to work it into a slightly more advanced version, that had a little sprinkling of gamification. From one perspective it is already gamified, you have many tasks, broken down into organised manageable tasks. I decided to add a little scoring system though, that would just add to the experience for some (not all of course).

In the new version, there is a little formula that assigns a score based on the difficulty and the priority, The higher the difficulty and the priority – the higher the points value for the task overall.

This allows me to create an overall score and % completion – providing a little progress measurement. This changes as you mark each task completed. This way, whilst there may be more tasks added, the overall score will always increase as you complete them, even though the progress may go down. This still gives you an overall sense of achievement.

What you personally do with this is up to you. You could set yourself some milestones so that at 30 points you may decide to go out for something nice to eat. Then you can decide if you do 2 or 3 low-value tasks or one high-value task.

So you have progress, goal setting and points – not a bad combo really!

The Spreadsheet

I attach the spreadsheet for you to play with, I’d love to see what you can do with it ūüôā

GSD Spreadsheet Download!

Progress: My Desert Island Gamification Element

Progress Progress My Desert Island Gamification Element

You want to use gamification as part of a solution you are building, but resources are limited and you can’t take a fully gamified approach. What is the one gamification element that you would insist was included, no matter what?

For me, it would be progress.

Start with Goals

This is not a single element, so this may be a bit of a cheat. Progress is linked to two main concepts. Goals and Feedback, something I spoke about at length in Part 5 of my Introduction to Gamification (which I will return to writing very soon!). So to include progress in a design, I need to be able to create goals for the user. As I mention in the linked article, these can be large goals that are then broken down into smaller goals:

Quest ‚Äď> Levels -> Missions -> Task

But you can’ have goals without feedback – otherwise, how do you know how close you are to completing goals. Again, as I say in the article, feedback comes in many shapes and forms, from progress bars to full virtual currencies!

Now Feedback

So that I don’t cheat too much, I will limit myself here to one simple feedback mechanic, a progress bar.

It isn’t glamorous or exciting, but it works a treat! It is a simple way to tell users how close they are to achieving their goals.

The nice thing about a progress bar is that it can be presented in so many different ways. From dials to pie charts to simple bars. But they don’t always have to be positive. Think about lives in a video game. They give you inverse progress. The further from your goal you are, the fewer hearts you have!

The only limit is your imagination really.


What would your one gamification element be – your desert island element if you will?

School Grades Are The Wrong Way Around

WiiU NSMBU scrn02 WP e1347569986894 School Grades Are The Wrong Way Around

I often hear people say that school is just a badly designed game. I have to agree. I also hear a lot that part of the problems is people chasing grades rather than mastery and that grades should be dropped. I have to partially disagree.

I totally agree that school should be about master, not grade chasing, but I don’t agree we should get rid of grades, just redesign them. For me, grades are the wrong way around. The assumption is that we start at an A* and we either maintain that or the grade can fluctuate wildly¬†assignment to assignment. If we were to follow a more game-like approach, we would consider progress and experience points rather than ever changing grades.

Each challenge that is set for the students would be assigned a maximum number of experience points that can be earned. These points would accumulate over the term, creating the equivalent of a final grade at the end of the year. For example:

1000 or MoreA*
200 or LessF

There are a number of reasons that I would suggest this. The first is that it makes it easier for students to track their progress over time. They know how much each assignment is worth and how many points they need to get to achieve certain grades (assuming you have to convert back to them). This means they can more easily set themselves goals. To make this easier still, at the start of the year you give them a level map or progress chart that shows when each

To make this easier still, at the start of the year you give them a level map or progress chart that shows when each assignment

will be set and how many points they are worth. This way they can tick them off as they go. They are then able to tell where they are and where they are going. To add to the fun (learning should be fun after all), you can add side quests to earn bonus points or special unlocks (like earn a week off homework if you unlock the secrets etc).


I am not talking about creating a whole fantasy world, just a different approach to mapping out how you grade the work of students. You don’t even need to change the need for a final A,B,C grade, if you create a conversion matrix. Obviously creating full fantasy experience would be cool and, as it is beginning to appear, beneficial.

The key is to give them a sense that they are working towards something and are always able to see where they are and where they are going. Transparency also is important. Grades are not very transparent, but seeing you got 80 out of 100 possible points for an assignment is much easier to understand. Knowing that you need 1000 to get an A for the term adds another level of clarity.

Target Gamification – My Top 9 Gamification Elements

Target Gamification V1 Target Gamification 8211 My Top 9 Gamification Elements

There are some questions I am asked more than others. Today I want to give a slightly longer answer to one of them than usual! The question? “What is your favourite gamification element?”

My usual answer fluctuates between feedback (which covers anything from verbal to full online economies) or progress, which I have written about in the past. Recently though I realised that this was just not enough of an answer anymore.

The truth is, I have no one favourite¬†element, every solution requires something a little bit different. However, there is a sort of process that I go through when designing a solution or strategy. It starts with my core or target (see – it ties in with the title!!). Then I have a few things that help to support that core, then finally something that embraces it all. Let’s start with an image.

The Target

At the centre of all my solutions, I try to make sure there are three things.

  1. Some form of feedback (often linked to progress)
  2. A way to measure and display progress
  3. A challenge

When linked with a system to measure and display progress, feedback becomes core to any gamified system. Without it, how does anyone know what is going on?? I remember talking to a dev team who were building a gamified platform. They couldn’t understand how a leaderboard, points, badges and a progress bar were “fun”. ¬†I explained that what they were building was not meant to be fun, it was the foundation for everything else that would be created going forward.

I also include challenge at this stage. Roman Racktwitz¬†once said, “if I’ ain’t learning, it ain’t¬†fun.” I couldn’t agree more. For me, the core of learning is having a challenge to overcome. It may be “reduce waste” or “learn about the bribery¬†code”, but it is still a challenge and I still have to learn something to be able to complete it – or at least I should have too. After all, if I don’t have to learn anything, why should I spend time doing it – I already know it!

(User Types: Player, Achiever)

Competition and Collaboration

Once the core is defined and solid, I look to integrating elements of competition and collaboration. I have seen good results from team-based competition between departments for instance.  This creates a nice balance of collaboration (the teammates work together to succeed) and a little bit of well-meaning competition. I to never, ever, set individuals against each other Рthis can be so detrimental to the system and the company!

Another key to the this is to make sure that even though there is some level of competition when the event is over, anything developed in the teams is shared with everyone. This way you still break down any potential silos that the competition may have created.

(User Types: Player, Socialiser, Achiever, Philanthropist)

Rewards and Exploration

Used responsibly, virtual and physical rewards can help to motivate certain behaviours, especially early on in the onboarding phase. As I have said hundreds of times before, rewards need to be meaningful! If a user does not feel they have worked to earn them, they will have no meaning to them at all.

Exploration is something that I try to include for those less interested in the rewards a system can give them, but rather the surprises or freedom it can offer them. Rather than linear tracks, offer branching choices. Include little easter eggs for the adventurous players and hidden bonuses.

(User Types: Player, Free Spirit, Achiever)

Narrative and Theme

Once all the other layers are handled, I like to try and wrap it all up in some form of theme and if possible a narrative or story. Creating a theme and a narrative can be tough, as it is easy to create something that is patronising or childish. You have to work with the client to build something that is complementary to their culture. I find it just holds all the other layers together nicely and elevates a simple system into something much more engaging.


The image I have used is not meant to show a priority or some sort of order to how you use the elements or concepts. It is more about building layers that support the core of the system, all of which complement each other.

I hope some of you find that useful, writing it down has certainly helped me a little!