Gamification: Everything is a Game

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Gamification is the transformation of an activity into a game or, at least, integrating a game-like aspect into that activity. For example, gamification can involve giving points for correct answers during a lecture or having a leaderboard to motivate competition among participants. These are just examples, but there are countless techniques you can apply to make an activity more fun and engaging, or even to transform a boring Virtual Reality learning application into something exciting that keeps users from realizing they are actually learning.

Mechanics of Gamification: What makes the Gamification Work

A mechanic in gamification is like a secret ingredient in cooking. It’s a specific element or rule used to make an experience engaging. Think points, levels, badges, and all those cool features that make games fun. Just like there are endless ways to cook a dish, there are endless ways to use mechanics to make something more engaging. Mechanics are the basic building blocks that form the structure of a gamified experience.

In the case of gamification, there are plenty of well-studied mechanics. But first, why gamify? Well, you don’t want people to get bored while playing or using your application, right? You want people to enjoy it, to want to play again and again, and to speak positively about it. To achieve this, you need to get them engaged. And for that, you need to gamify to make the brain somehow addicted to the game or application. This kind of addiction stems from our primitive instincts, which are completely related to the reward and pleasure mechanisms of our brains. These promote certain behaviors that enhance survival and reproduction. What makes us feel good are hormones like dopamine.

Firstly, motivation is crucial for the release of dopamine. We can find two types:

  • Intrinsic Motivation: This comes from within the person and includes interests and likes. It makes you autonomous, capable of overcoming difficulties, and feeling satisfied with success.
  • Extrinsic Motivation: This comes from external factors. Here we find rewards, punishments, and incentives like money. This can make you dependent on these things, obliging you to complete tasks, even if you don’t enjoy them..

So, it’s clear that motivating the player is crucial to engage them, and the goal is to increase both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

  • Intrinsic Motivation: This can be increased when the user learns and feels capable of passing levels, or when they can customize their avatar or environment as they prefer.
  • Extrinsic Motivation: This involves rewarding the user somehow when they perform well, such as giving points, avoiding punishments, or offering special items or offers that they can unlock at certain points in the game. Rewards can also be given intermittently and unpredictably.

Secondly, having a superior status historically gives access to resources and better opportunities for finding a mate. It’s in our nature to want to be better than the rest to gain these rewards. To enhance this feeling, the game must provide enemies to defeat, which can be players or non-playable characters, and also a ranking system to see your position among all the players.

Thirdly, humans are social animals. We live in communities and need to belong to survive, at least historically. To increase the feeling of community, it’s essential to provide social interactions, either within the game or through related social media.

Key Mechanics:

  • Points (score)
  • Levels
  • Badges as visual rewards
  • Progress bars
  • Missions
  • Leaderboards
  • Rankings
  • Avatars
  • Challenges
  • Other rewards

But let me help you a bit more with some techniques! Continue reading!

Gamification Techniques: Technically Transforming a Good Game into a Great Game

Unlike mechanics, techniques are the methods and strategies that use mechanics to motivate and engage players. Let’s see how to apply them!

  • Reward-Punishment System: Give positive rewards for good behavior and negative consequences for bad behavior. This keeps players from getting bored. Rewards can be given instantly or even randomly to increase engagement.
  • Storytelling: Engaging stories maintain interest in what happens next. Apply this with a captivating plot, missions, and levels!
  • Competition and Cooperation: Both are effective but depend on the type of application or game. Cooperation allows players to share experiences by collaborating to overcome challenges. Competition does the opposite but increases intrinsic motivation.
  • Immediate Feedback: Provide audiovisual feedback to let users know when they are doing well and when they are not, helping to control behaviors.
  • Customization: Allow players to personalize their environment and avatar. This gives them control and makes them feel part of the game, as they are shaping it according to their preferences.
  • Time Challenges: Time constraints increase intrinsic motivation, as players feel capable of successfully meeting challenges within a limited period, without undue stress.
  • Content Unlocking: Players can unlock content that seems inaccessible to everyone else, making them feel special and elevating their perceived status.
  • Virtual Economy: Reward users with virtual currency they can use to buy items from the in-game store.
  • Mini-Games: Let players step out of the main game to reinforce learning concepts or create a more social atmosphere.
  • Gamified Learning Theory: Apply game principles to learning applications to make them enjoyable, increasing intrinsic motivation, providing constant feedback, setting clear objectives, and allowing customization.

Now you can apply all these gamification mechanics and techniques to your video games or any other games you want to make more fun and engaging, resulting in serious games! If you want to see an example where some of these mechanics were applied, check out our article “Design and Development of a Gamified Tutorial for iVR Serious Games”. Let us know in the comments which gamification mechanics you like the most and which ones are unforgettable in video games!


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