How to Use Missions, Challenges, and Quests in Business Gamification

Missions, challenges, and quests are essentially different words for the same thing in gamification. They require users to perform a prescribed set of gameplay 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, missions are about discovery or education.

Sometimes, the actions in a mission must occur in a certain order. These missions are called progression missions. Other times, actions can occur in any order. These are called random missions.

The tasks in a mission might revolve around the same gameplay behavior (reading five posts, for example), or could be an around-the-world variety, where different gameplay behaviors are performed (for example, reading a post, commenting on a post, and adding your own post).

As each action is completed, users are generally given a reward. The user is also given a reward — usually status-based — when the mission is complete. At the same time, the next mission is unlocked. Successive missions contain harder-to-earn rewards.

From the player’s point of view, completing missions is a lot like leveling up in a particular topic. As players complete each mission, their perceived status will likely increase.

A track is a collection of missions. Like missions, tracks can be ordered or unordered, although if the track centers around expertise, then ordered tracks are the way to go. Why? Because the ordered progression of missions represents increasing mastery or advancement in a particular topic or specialization. In other words, the user must complete the first mission before progressing to the second mission, and so on.

Unless your goal is immediate disengagement — which is unlikely — you should not place newbie players into advanced-level missions and tracks. Always develop different challenges for different levels.

You can design missions, challenges, and quests for single players or for cooperative groups. Although the single-player model is easier to design and support, cooperative designs can be more powerful in a social sense. If you have a boatload of active players, consider the cooperative approach.

Alternatively, tweak your single-player design to work in a group setting. For example, set it up so that users play alone but their score is combined with others’.

You can spice up a mission, challenge, or quest by turning it into a contest where you reward those who finish most quickly or effectively. Typically, contests involve a time frame — in other words, an expiration date.

Maybe users need to finish the mission by a certain date. If they do, they win a prize. Or maybe completing the quest in the set time period makes them eligible for entry in a sweepstakes. Contest prizes might include early access to products, discounts, or other privileges.

Speaking of prizes, scarcity and exclusivity are often factors when it comes to contests. For example, the prize could be a limited-edition item that’s unavailable to others.

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