Learn more with dummies

Enter your email to join our mailing list for FREE content right to your inbox. Easy!

Effective Game Mechanics in Business Gamification

By Kris Duggan, Kate Shoup

Part of Business Gamification For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Any good gamification guru will tell you: You’re only as good as the tools in your toolbox. When it comes to game mechanics, various tools are available to you — each designed to elicit a specific reaction in players. You can combine these tools in nearly infinite ways to create a broad spectrum of responses and experiences. These tools include the following:

  • Points: Unless a player receives points during gameplay, he or she may not even be aware that a game is afoot. Points help users know they’re in a gamified environment and that many of the small behaviors they take along the way are being recognized at a system level. Companies running gamification programs use points to spur desired behaviors. To really drive desired behaviors, game designers can weight points — that is, award more points for those behaviors deemed more valuable or that require more effort. Gamification efforts typically employ a few different types of points, including experience points, redeemable points, and karma points.

  • Leaderboards: The purpose of a leaderboard is to show players where they rank. Those at the top enjoy the notoriety it brings; as for everyone else, the leaderboard shows them where they stand relative to their peers. Often, the very presence of a leaderboard can elicit the desire to play. The simple goal of rising up the rankings serves as a powerful motivator to continue.

  • Levels: Levels serve two important roles in gamification systems: They indicate progress and they convey status. In a gamified system, a level is effectively a rank that corresponds to the player. It’s earned through accomplishments and represents additional privileges or abilities. The change in level occurs when the user reaches a set point threshold.

  • Missions, challenges, and quests: Missions, challenges, and quests are essentially different words for the same thing. They require users to perform a prescribed set of actions, following a guided path of your design. A mission, challenge, or quest might involve a single step (for example, creating an account on your website) or several steps — even as many as 20. Often, they are about discovery or education.

  • Feedback: One game mechanic that helps to encourage engagement is feedback, or the broadcast of well-written, helpful, engaging on-screen messaging in the form of real-time notifications within the game system and/or via e-mail when users perform a desired behavior, level up, unlock a reward, or need to complete an additional behavior in order to earn their next reward.