Rawstone Gamification Lab


Theory of Gamification - September 9, 2021


Now that you’re getting familiar with the concept of gamification, we want to dedicate the next set of articles to help you understand the concept of game mechanics, dynamics and elements. 

To build a successful gamification strategy indeed, we need to go down this sort of “revised funnel” (marketers will catch the citation):

funnel of game dynamics mechanics and elements
Funnel of Game and Gamification Design

If you aren’t feeling confident with general knowledge of gamification yet, we suggest you to read this article before diving into more theoretical matters. 

In today’s article instead, we’ll start off with game elements.

chunck of the funnel: the elements

How to build a game

As we’ve mentioned in our previous articles, one of the most important components to consider when building a gamification strategy, are emotions.

There is no way that a user will become passionate and engaged with your brand if you aren’t able to fulfill his/ her emotional needs. To this goal, belong everything that regards game dynamics.

Once we have clear in mind which dynamics we want to use ,we can pass on to game mechanics. That’s a complicated matter, often object of confusion and that’s why we will dedicate a whole article to it.

But for now, we can say that game mechanics are defined as:

“A distinct set of rules that dictate the outcome of interactions within the system. They have an input, a process and an output”.

These practical rules that basically “move” the game forward.  But we’ll further discuss that.

Finally we get to “game elements“.

The game elements

Now, game elements are basically the first encounter for the user. They’re the practical tools that are used by the “player” to unlock the mechanics and dynamics.

 There’s a wide range of these elements and the website “GamifiedUK” accounts even 52!

Of course, we won’t describe them all, but it’s useful to check out a few of them to better understand the meaning of game elements. We’ve chosen the ones that can be used not only when designing games, but also in gamification strategies. 

Let’s take a look at a few of them: 

  • Tutorials: when landing on a new platform, whatever the goal is, the user can be often confused by the many actions he/she can undertake. That’s why an initial tutorial, that is pleasant to follow and easy to understand, is essential. Remember that the user has at the beginning, a very low focus and that’s why you shouldn’t build the tutorial as a long list of information that’s boring and demanding to read.  Keep it simple, keep it fun. 
  • Progress bar: or any form of instant feedback really. The user needs to understand in every moment where he’s at the moment and how long it takes to the next achievement. That’s also a way of triggering motivation. 
  • Scarcity: that’s a principle that marketers know (and use) very well. When we perceive something as rare, it makes us want it. We feel the pressure that the object might not be available for a long time and pressure is a big motivator. Plus, obtaining something that is rare, adds up to our status. 
  • Flow: We’ve already talked about it in this article, but just to refresh. The state of flow is the perfect spot between “too challenging” and “too easy”. The right balance will give enough stimulations to keep going without making the user feel overwhelmed or bored by the activity.
  • Rewards: an old classic. They can be random (surprise the user with unexpected gifts), fixed (every time he/she levels up) or time-dependent (“enter the app again tomorrow to get the gift”).
  • Easter egg: don’t you love them? They encourage the user to wander around and discover new features. It’s unexpected and for this reason, exciting.
  • Boss battle: a big fat challenge at the end of a path, where the user is asked to show all the skills he/she has acquired. In gamification it can be translated into a specific action that is complex and relies on previously learned knowledge. 
  • Levels: a quick way to understand how much you’ve done so far, but it’s also a way to see what’s next. In gamification we could use a mix of rewards linked to specific levels. Higher the level, better the reward of course. 

…Ok we’ll stop here. But just to give you an idea of how many elements there are, here’s a revised periodic table of gamification elements by GamifiedUK. Isn’t it lovely?

Periodic table of gamification elements
Periodic table of gamification elements

In this article, we’ve spread some seeds that we want to water in the next articles. There we’ll go deeper in the fundamental concepts of game mechanics and game dynamics.

Stick around!

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