Gamification: Set up your game at work

Today we live in a “gamified” world. If you want to survive and compete in this world, you better adopt gamification.

Words by
in 04.06.2020

Today we live in a “gamified” world. If you want to survive and compete in this world, you better adopt gamification.

If you aren't familiar with gamification, chances are you may be losing opportunities every day. Even if you know about it, can you be sure you have a correct and efficient implementation?

Today we live in a “gamified” world. If you want to survive and compete in this world, you better adopt gamification. Yes, I’m also talking to you, this “gamification” stuff is not only for the “managers” and “designers”… it is for everybody!

In this article, we will explore gamification and mainly its definition: where this name “Gamification” comes from, where the concept can be applied, why you should know all about it and, finally, explore the bases that make a true and successful gamification implementation stand from the average 80% failed attempts out there.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is the process of making any system/activity more enjoyable, considering people performing tasks and not just the task itself.

In simple terms, “Gamification” is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts.

By design, gamification systems explore human drives for socializing, learning, mastery, competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, closure, … and many more. 

Gamification is the process of making any system/activity more enjoyable, taking into consideration the people performing the task and not just the task itself.

Most of the time, gamification uses a set of design elements that we identify right away since we know those elements from games, such as:

  • Points
  • Badges
  • Leaderboards
  • Avatars, and more.

This is called “Explicit Gamification”, however, there may be implementations that hide those elements and use indirect methods to give the needed feedback to the users, that is called “Implicit Gamification”.

Human-Focussed Design

I’m Yu-kai Chou is the Gamification pioneer, creator of the Octalysis
Framework, and author of Actionable Gamification. 

A well-known author in this area: You-kay Chou, wrote, back in 2014, the book “Actionable Gamification - Beyond Points Badges And Leaderboards”. In his book, he introduces the term “Human-Focussed Design”. 

Traditional system focus on functions. They don’t care if people are happy or sad if they are motivated or not for the task, the system just needs the task done in time. 

In opposition to “Function-Focussed Design”, “Human-Focussed” is a revolutionary way of designing systems, processes and activities, optimizing for human motivation.

In this perspective, the name “Gamification” is automatically associated to any “Human-Focussed Design” system, simply because the “Gaming” industry was the first one to use the “Human-Focussed Design” approach.

Why Should I Care About Gamification?

If you are reading this, chances are you are alive. Being so, you probably have several tasks at home and/or at work that you don't enjoy doing. If you are over 3 years old, you probably have a set of goals you never accomplished due to lack of time and/or motivation. There is also the possibility that you are managing people (employees, siblings or family members), products or a company and defining methodologies and planning for best and more efficient ways to accomplish your goals.

Gamification can help you with all of this. Looking at your challenges with the gamification goggles may let you see completely new solutions and probably more interesting ways for everyone involved. In the long run, if done correctly, everyone will win with gamification and the tasks will be completed on time.

No One Ever Has to Play a Game

Number One Rule of Gamification: No one ever has to play a game.

Gamification rule n.r 1 is the fact that: “No one ever has to play a game. The moment the game is no longer fun, users leave.” However,  people play games all the time. Better yet, people pay to be allowed to play a game.
The gaming industry has tremendous success and profit, with “games” - a product that no one really needs…

So if you have a life, a family, a team or a company to manage, you better allow yourself to learn something from the most powerful motivation tool: Gamification.

“But why do I need motivation? A small lack of motivation can do no harm…”

Well… sort of… if you are talking about life and family, I think you agree that motivation equals happiness and that’s what live it’s all about, right?

For teams and companies, there is an interesting study by “Gallup”, showing that in average, only 13% of employees are naturally engaged and 24% are “actively disengaged”, spreading negativity and sabotaging work. Companies with “disengaged” and unmotivated employees obtain only 50% of their potential profits.

You have a product or a service, note that we are already living in a gamified world. Gamification will be elementary to allow your product or service to stand a change in today’s world.

Be aware, however, there is an estimate of 80% fail in gamification attempts. That is a clear indicator that most of the people are implementing gamification incorrectly. So how can we aim for a success gamification implementation?

Why 80% of Gamification Implementations Fail?

As in many things in life, people only care for the appearance: Many gamification implementations is no more than a scoreboard or some meaningless badges.

The fact is that simply incorporating game mechanics and game elements do not make a game fun.

Game elements are just a mean to an end, instead of an end itself. The secret is to design processes considering the “human behavioural core drives”.

The Octalysis Framework

You-kay Chou presents the “Octalysis Framework” in his 2014 book - a very useful tool to ease the design of gamification systems.

This tool, however, will not make the job for you. A gamification solution must be implemented with a lot of good common sense, imagination and the opportunity to be dynamic - lear with errors and evolve.

This picture is the classic representation of the Gamification Octalysis Framework.

The Octalysis Framework reduces the human core drives to 8 main vectors. Everything we do is somehow based in one or more of those core drives. If none of those drives is present, there is no motivation and no action takes place.

For a gamification system to be efficient it must evoke one or more of those core drives in the people involved.

Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling

This core drive is present whenever a person believes they are doing something greater than themselves. Also if a person believes to be chosen to perform a special task or role because he/she is special or very lucky.
A well-known example of this core drive exists in “Wikipedia”, people give their best efforts and time to keep it as something bigger than themselves.
The same feeling happens when you are new to a game and you luckily find a weapon or a tool that puts you in advantage inside the game.
Having your system implementing this core drive (but not in a deceiving way) will aim for a long and healthy relationship with the people involved.

Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment

This core is about our internal drive for making progress, developing skills, achieving mastery, and eventually overcoming challenges. 
We mostly will perform tasks implementing this core drive for free and with great pleasure.

Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

Engaging users in a creative process where they repeatedly figure new things out and try different combinations is to evoke Octalysis’s core drive 3.
A great example will be playing with “Legos” and “making art”: it is just fun.

Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession

This drive is about the feeling of owning and/or controlling something. The ownership over a process, project, and/or the organization will bring this core to the users. The main point being that people will engage if they own part of the system and/or if they believe the way the system works is a part of themselves.

Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness

This is probably one of the most powerful core drives, but also one of the most tricky to implement. Usually, this core is in hands with some other drives inside Octalysis.
Drive 5 is all about mentorship, social acceptance, social feedback, companionship, and even competition and envy.

Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience

Wanting something simply because it is extremely rare, exclusive, or immediately unattainable.
Human history is full of cases like this: Gold, diamonds, go to mars, … 
This is where badges can be successfully implemented if, in fact, they are not easy to attain and represent a great deal of work or merit.

Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity

You will be implementing this core when you engage your users because they don’t know what is going to happen next.
As in life, we don’t really know what’s going to happen next. When a system is too much predictable, people will get bored with it. But be careful not to make the system so unpredictable it will be unusable… 

Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance

Aiming for core drive 8 is to design a system where people must act in order to avoid something negative from happening. Not necessarily “losing something”, but also “not gaining”… as for example a “Special offer for a limited time only!”

I’ve given you a tool that you may use to (re)design your system.

If you are not designing a system, well… you should! You can start by your daily tasks, exercising, waking up on time, eating healthier, … 
The best approach is to look at the Octalysis Framework and start creating sub-systems inside your main system that will evoke each one of the 8 core drives. 
Make the fulfilment of your system’s goals a consequence of the subsystems usage.
The more the subsystems interconnect, the better. If one subsystem can evoke more than one core drive, it's great! 
Your system does not need to evoke all of the core drives, some evocations can be stronger than others, but keep in mind that those callings are what keeps your users engaged, not the (also needed) scores, badges and leaderboards.

MD3's experience with Gamification

Last week, a session about Gamification was set by Sérgio to promote this Human-Focussed Design in our company.

At MD3 we follow the latest technologies and trends. Last week, Sérgio invited us to join him in a Gamification Session. He developed an online real-time game for all participants that involved us in this Gamification world. It was an enjoyable time and a really interesting subject. We are in the making for more of this and next time, we will invite you too!

This is an article written by Sérgio Bernardo, Senior Software Engineer @md3

With over 20 years of experience, Sérgio had the privilege of being present in some of the most remarkable national projects. He was part of the team that created SAPO (, at Universidade de Aveiro; then continued to work for companies such as: Telepac, ONI, Galp, Repsol, Lift Group, Bayer, IMPRESA Group, Cabovisão, IKEA and NOS, where he contacted (and keeps in touch) with the most advanced and varied technologies. He follows the technological evolution very closely and is aware of the latest technologies, platforms and methodologies, in order to respond clients challenges with modern and efficient solutions.

Know more about us.