Why Understanding Gamification is Prerequisite to Implementation, featuring Steve Sims (Badgeville)

Why Understanding Gamification is Prerequisite to Implementation, featuring Steve Sims (Badgeville)


I’m always on the hunt for insightful conversations with leaders in the tech industry including deep dives into the gamification space, digital media strategies, data visualization trends and much more. At Gsummit I was able to have numerous conversations with the top leaders in the gamification space, including one of Gsummit’s biggest 2014 sponsors Badgeville. In fact, I also had the chance to talk with their CEO about Engagement and the Future of Gamification.

At GSummit we spoke with the Badgeville’s Chief Design Officer, Steve Sims (@stevebadge). His main focus is solving the unique problem sets companies present to Badgeville, and to do this Steve draws on his wealth of experience in the gaming industry.

He worked at EA Games for 10 years, eventually moving his way up from programmer to production manager on large projects. He even had a hand in the popular John Madden series. The move from gaming to gamification works well for Steve since he enjoys seeing people use and emulate his games in real life. For example, Steve once watched an NFL player run up to the endzone, turn, and run along the end line before diving in for the score, something that Madden gamers had been doing for years.

Now, Steve gets to see companies and people utilize his gamification tools in real life all the time. Although, the way Steve looks at these interactions has changed somewhat. His role at Badgeville now more closely resembles a psychologist than a game designer. He observes and collects data on users’ behavior, approach to challenges, and the emotions evoked by his gamification tools.

Given Steve’ position in the gamification field, we asked him a few questions about his view of the industry. What he revealed is both insightful and cautionary. Listen to the whole podcast below and read on for key takeaways:

The gamification industry is still young and developing, but already has a huge market. Steve says the danger of a large market is that everybody thinks they know how to do gamification, so they try to come up with their own solutions, but misunderstand how the tools work and how to handle them in the long term.

According to Steve, this is why Gartner believes 80 percent of current gamification applications will fall short of expectations.


It reminds him of the advertising industry and how some companies believe they can do their own ad without a professional company, then later won’t understand why the ad failed. Likewise, company’s developing in-house gamification tools need to consider scalability, social features, feedback, and analytics. Plus, a good system needs a user interface designer, and takes time to build. By then, Steve argues, a company has spent enough money and time that it may just be easier to pay a company such as Badgeville to do it for you.

Outside of the implementation process, getting users engaged (and keeping them engaged) is the most difficult part of gamification. In Steve’ observation, companies frequently default to the stereotypical “points, badges, and leaderboards” even though they aren’t necessarily in a competitive workplace environment. Companies begin with individual competition right off the bat, even when the better way to start a gamification system, according to Steve, is to place users into teams. Team success leads to comfort with the system, and, when comfort is achieved, people begin to feel more confident competing on an individual basis.

Ultimately, professional research into the right systems for different business scenarios with yield higher success rates and longer lasting adoption.

To find more podcast interviews from similar events, check out Clark Buckner’s list of tech conferences at TechnologyAdvice.com.


  • Steve Sims’ game design experience helps him with gamification design at Badgeville

  • Further understanding of the behaviors and psychology of gamification will drive the industry’s success

  • Gartner’s 80 percent fail rate for gamification applications results from the misunderstanding of gamification tools

  • People work better in teams when new to something, and become more capable of individual competition as confidence rises


This interview was provided by Gsummit media partner TechnologyAdvice, an Inc. 5000 company that is dedicated to educating, advising, and connecting the buyers and sellers of business technology. Interview conducted by Clark Buckner.


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