What is the definition of gamification, how does it work and how to use it effectively



The term gamification has been around for more than 10 years, it is however still relatively new and the term is used quite ambiguously. You’re probably here trying to figure out what gamification is exactly and what it can do. This article will shed some light on the subject and will clarify the term gamification.

The definition of gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. Gamification works by employing techniques to leverage our natural desires to improve activities or processes. These improvement can be related to user engagement, organizational productivity and learning. Socializing, learning, mastery, competition are examples of these levers. To be able to successfully implement gamification, it is important to learn about its strengths and weaknesses and use a data driven approach for its design and iterative development.

What is gamification?

Gamification is the method of enriching educational content, marketing or business processes with game mechanics. These game mechanics are used to motivate users or to enrich their experience. Gamification uses game-design techniques for player engagement and applies this to other fields than video or mobile games.

When these game mechanics are properly applied, gamification takes an aspect of your personal or working life and turns this into a game.

How does gamification work?

Gamification works because it triggers human emotions that are linked to positive user experience. There are several different mechanics in gamification that can be used in combination to develop specific behavior. These game mechanics form the basis of each gamification solution. Typical game mechanics include points, badges and leaderboards.

What are points?

Points are typically rewarded for successfully completing a task or activity. These points can be used to visualize progress of a player. The primary function of points is to provide feedback. A player can assess his or her performance based on the amount of points received for a given action or performance.

What are badges?

By completing all requirements for a specific achievement, the player is rewarded a visual or iconic badge. Badges have two main functions. Firstly, to act as a goal, something a player can work towards. Then, after reaching this goal and earning the corresponding badge, it serves as a virtual status symbol and a visual representation of mastery.

What are leaderboards?

Leaderboards rank players by their performance. They are a visual representation of determining who performs the best. This element is an effective motivator to outperform and thus outrank your competitors. It provides virtual status.

What are examples of gamification?

To help you form a clear image of gamification, I’ll give you a few examples.

Piano stairs

A famous experiment in Stockholm transformed a flight of stairs into a giant piano. When stepping onto the keys of the piano, it’s corresponding tone would be played. This motivated people to prefer using the stairs over the escalator and stimulate exercise.

This works as it is more fun to create music while walking the stairs and also challenged more musical people to try to compose a tune or music.


I’m a long time user of Todoist to manage my personal and professional tasks. This app uses Karma to measure how well I’m doing. If I finish a task I’m rewarded with Karma, and if I postpone a task I will lose Karma.

This works well because the app clearly shows my progress over time and gives status rewards at set levels. Also, as I do not want to lose status, I try not to postpone my tasks.


You probably use LinkedIn. Have you ever noticed the annoyance of having a profile completeness of less than 100%? LinkedIn successfully employs progress and rewards to stimulate users to complete their profile information. This is a nice example of how game mechanics also can be applied to small parts of your content or process.

Applications of gamification in different areas

Gamification has been used on a multitude of different subjects and in different areas.. The previous examples should give you an idea of what is possible. To expand your horizon even further, I will give an overview of three other areas where gamification is used.

Health and healthcare

To improve your overall health, gamification can be used to encourage people to exercise more effectively and more regularly. Users can be awarded points for performing activities, completing quests. Awarded points in turn can be used to level up or to gain status in an online ranking.


In education and training gamification can be used to make learning more engaging for and more relevant to the current generation. Research shows gamification can even help students with dyslexia.


Gamification has also widely been applied in the field of marketing. It can help increase customer engagement, brand awareness and customer loyalty.

How to effectively implement and use gamification

If you’re looking at gamification as a solution to a challenge, it is important to check if the problem is a good fit with the solution. Is it a good fit? The first step is to understand the problem you’re trying to solve. What are the reasons behind a particular behavior? What would improve this behavior?

Gamification is mainly used to enrich a process or activity. So motivational challenges or repetitive actions which are prone to human error, are particularly suited to gamify. Also learning or training activities can be elevated by fun and competitive components. And finally, improving user engagement or customer loyalty are also areas well suited for gamified solutions.

By carefully matching your challenge to the strengths of the specific game-design elements, a well-designed gamification solution can be developed.


Gamification is great tool to enrich activities, processes or learning. If developed thoughtfully, together with the end users and in a iterative manner, it can be a powerful tool to improve motivation, engagement or just the overall fun.

Grendel Games has been developing serious games and gamification for over 15 years. If you want to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Tim Laning

Business developer

Do you want to know more about the possibilities of serious games? Let’s discuss what serious games can do for you.


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