What Makes Gamification Fun?

What Makes Gamification Fun?


In the past, I have been surprised to come across a number of people working on gamification that have never designed games and don’t play them regularly. Luckily, there are also people like Tony Ventrice who works at Badgeville and is a veteran game designer. In the past, he has made games with Playdom and Zynga, and he has since turned his attention to bringing the most motivating and fun aspects of games and applying those techniques to businesses. In an ongoing series hosted by Gamasutra, Tony has been looking at framing the discussion on gamification and uncovering what makes games fun.

In the first post, Tony seeks Jesse Schell’s help in defining games in general, “A game is a problem-solving activity, approached with a playful attitude.” Remember that Tony worked for Zynga, the makers of Farmville, but he goes on to say that the Ville-series and Foursquare along side them are barely games, where “decisions are vapid and the learning is simplistic.” Many gamification campaigns focus on the game mechanics of Farmville and Foursquare (leaderboards, badges, scheduled rewards), but there are also deeper and more engaging elements of fun that have yet to be tapped.

By gathering the work of game theorists Salen and Zimmerman, sociologist Roger Caillois, game designer Nicole Lazzaro, and others, Ventrice settles on a list of seven categories that make games fun and are also key to making any gamification campaign engaging:

  1. Growth
  2. Emotion
  3. Choice
  4. Competition
  5. Identity
  6. Story
  7. Flow

In his second article, Ventrice concentrates on the first two of the seven: growth and emotion. Growth, also called “progress to mastery” or more basically “learning”, is key to engaging players in the long term. Learning and overcoming challenges are important motivators and can be applied to many different types of content. Emotion is much more difficult to include in a system, especially beyond the confines of traditional story telling. The emotion of suspense may be the easiest one to build into a gamification campaign followed by comedy, drama, and romance.

The series continues on Gamasutra, and be sure to read both the first and the second parts to learn more about how fun can support gamification.


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