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August 24, 2023

Gamification – A Brief Introduction To Super Design

Introduction – “How do we get users coming back for more?”

Gamification is not just for digital games. Many of the most successful apps on the market have used gamified elements to garner success. Great design utilizes gamification to continually keep users engaged and motivated in the activities within the designed system (whether an app or game). It's the answer to: “How do we get users coming back for more?”

Additionally, this notion can be extended. Since gamification uses behavioural hacks to motivate users, its rationale can be extended to many real-world problems that require changing human behaviour for positive outcomes.


Games are designed to be engaging

Have you ever thought critically about the incredible power games have in producing positive psychological experiences?

  1. Games are repetitive, but always fun.
  2. The goals are always clear.
  3. Failure is encouraged.
  4. Users are rewarded in a meritocratic manner.
  5. Mastery of skills is part of the process.

The gaming industry was the first to hack these mechanics to produce user experiences of sustained engagement. One does not need to cite the countless examples of gaming addiction to prove that well-designed games produce a powerful psychological hold (although ethically dubious). Games, simply put, engage us.

Imagine attaining these benefits in how we drive, work, eat and connect? Gamification is providing a means for this in real-world settings.

So What is Gamification?

In short, gamification is about understanding the motivational drives of players in games/settings.

It is not merely a points system with leader boards. Designers who gamify apps or systems in this manner, without understanding the player’s motivations, design poor apps and games.

Gamification is oriented around player-centred design. Before game mechanics can be effectively used in a design, one must ascertain:

  1. What is the profile of the user (their context, personality, and processes)?
  2. How does the user's profile fit into the system’s grander purpose (or business strategy)? – i.e. what behaviour does one want to encourage?
  3. How are the users motivated to action?
  4. What sort of mechanics in the app/system can be used that speak to these user’s motivations?

From above, we can see that user motivation is a central tenet of good gamification.

What Motivates?

User Motivations in the Octalysis Framework – Yu-Kai Chou

Yu-Kai Chou has set a framework that utilizes 8 common motivational drivers to simplify motivational considerations. You can find his book here. He has called this framework the “Octalysis Framework” and it consists of:

  1. Epic Meaning and Calling: Users need a purpose to use the app or play the game.
  2. Accomplishment: Users desire accomplishing activities and gaining rewards for their endeavours.
  3. Empowerment from Creativity: Here, results from a user’s good work are fed back immediately. (Minecraft is a good example of using user motivation to create new things.)
  4. Ownership: If a user owns something, they are motivated to maintain it or be engaged with it. (Customized profiles are a good example here.)
  5. Social Influence: The power of comparison cannot be understated as a massive psychological driver (LinkedIn is a good example of using this driver.)
  6. Scarcity and Impatience: This occurs when users desire something because of its rarity or exclusivity.
  7. Unpredictability: Not knowing what will happen next keeps users constantly engaged. (This is a core motivational driver behind gambling addictions).
  8. Loss Avoidance: Users can be motivated to stay engaged to prevent loss or something negative from happening (sunk cost fallacy).

Each motivational driver has a complementary game mechanic. For instance, users that are motivated by accomplishment respond well to being rewarded with points and badges. One must carefully consider the motivational drivers of the users of their system when designing with gamified elements.


If more systems are player-centred and use the rationale of designing specifically for their motivation, many applications of gamification can be extended beyond gaming and app design. Gamification will provide behavioural solutions to pressing issues like living greener and revolutionizing the way we work.