Gamification By Design: Designing For Engagement Part I

Gamification By Design: Designing For Engagement Part I


Gabe Zichermann, GSummit Chair and author of the brand new book Gamification by Design (O’Reilly) shares some remarkably doable action points as outlined in the book.

He begins by introducing Eric Goldberg, a 30-year industry veteran, who has been creating gamification designs since long before they were on trend. Goldberg explains that in early on in the movement they were expected to treat audiences as lab rats – But today it is about moving forward from users as lab rats to users as humans- or groups of humans.

Goldberg then hands the floor back to Zichermann with a glowing introduction – as one who adds to the running dialogue about as well as cheerleads for gamification.

Zichermann begins by saying, “Time marches on, moves on no matter what we do. But people change pretty slowly.” (He shows an image of an old fashioned mustachioed man, and a hipster with a matching mustache from today.)

Computers will very soon be as smart as people, he continues. It looks like it’s a fast moving change system if you look at it on paper. It looks like huge exponential change. But for each of us individually, he points out, change is totally linear. It’s a step by step process.

People have a desire to learn and there is a process to mastery: Incentive, challenge, achievement/reward, feedback, and then mastery.

It is actually a loop, Zichermann says. Incentive, challenge, achievement, feedback and then back again until the thing is mastered.

This process underlies games and gamification. Games can make us smarter. They can change us physically. In one study people were given the task of learning how to juggle. Brains scanned in an MRI after 12 weeks of learning how to juggle had noticeably increased gray matter. It was actually visible on an MRI! Why did this happen? It wasn’t how well a person learned to juggle but the act of playing– the attempt at learning– that caused the gray matter to increase.

People are hardwired to respond positively to challenge and achievement. Dopamine is at the heart of motivation. It is why we go through the change at all, to be challenged and rewarded.

Gamification is not just the application of badges to a crappy website. If you don’t have a good experience, gamification cannot make a bad experience fundamentally good.

Similarly it is not a rallying cry to go out and become a games company. If a business makes cars they should take the best lessons from games and use them to fit their customer base.

This concept is a big idea. Increasingly, there is reinforcement that there’s something here. Gartner Group says 70% of all major companies worldwide will use some gamified ap by 2016.


Need help with behavioral science and gamification? Get in touch with our boutique consulting agency Dopamine.