Summary : Gamify by Brian Burke

What follows are salient extracts from the book Gamify by Brian Burke.

1. Gamification engages and motivates people across all kinds of activities using game mechanics such as badges, points, levels, and leaderboards.

2. What’s new about gamification? Who is getting it right? How can your organization be successful with gamification? When should you think about using gamification in your organization? In this book, I will answer those questions and dig much deeper to explore the motivational power of gamification.

3. What I found out is that gamification success is really all about motivating players to achieve their goals.

4. Gartner defines gamification as: the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.

5. Game mechanics describes the key elements that are common to many games, such as points, badges, and leaderboards.

6. Experience design describes the journey players take with elements such as game play, play space, and story line.

7. Gamification is a method to digitally engage rather than personally engage meaning that players interact with computers, smartphones, wearable monitors, or other digital devices. 

8. The goal of gamification is to motivate people to change behaviors or develop skills, or to drive innovation. 

9. Gamification focuses on enabling players to achieve their goals—and as a consequence the organization achieves its goals.

10. Much of what is written on gamification today reinforces the perception that it can make anything fun. There are limits to what can be achieved with gamification, and the broader trend requires a course correction.

11. Gamification is about motivating people to achieve their own goals, not the organization’s goals.

12. If business can identify the goals it shares with its audience or provide its audience with goals that are meaningful to them, and can leverage gamification to motivate these players to meet those goals, then the company will achieve the business outcomes it is looking for.

13. The challenge in getting children—or most people, for that matter—to do mundane or tedious tasks is to engage them at a deeper, more meaningful level.

14. One way to motivate people is to present them with practical challenges, encourage them as they progress through levels, and get them emotionally engaged to achieve their very best.

15. At its core, gamification is about engaging people on an emotional level and motivating them to achieve their goals.

16. For example, dozens of research papers on employee engagement demonstrate the correlation between high levels of engagement and increased productivity, profits, retention, and quality, among other benefits.

17. Recent research indicates that engagement is not one-dimensional, and it is important to distinguish between emotional engagement and transactional engagement.

19. Transactional engagement is “shaped by employees’ concern to earn a living and to meet minimal expectations of the employer and their coworkers,” while emotional engagement is “driven by a desire on the part of employees to do more for the organization than is normally expected and in return they receive more in terms of a greater and more fulfilling psychological contract.”

20. We need to shift our focus to emotional engagement if we want to truly motivate people.

21. Pink concludes that intrinsic motivators have three essential elements: “(1) Autonomy—the desire to direct our own lives; (2) Mastery—the urge to make progress and get better at something that matters; and (3) Purpose—the yearning to do what we do in service of something larger than ourselves.”

22. Gamification uses primarily intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards.

23.Between intrinsic and extrinsic, rewards is one of the ways we can distinguish gamification from rewards programs.

24. Autonomy—the desire to direct our own lives. In effective gamified solutions, players opt in to participate, and once they do, they make choices about how they will proceed through the challenges to achieve their goals. Players are given the opportunity to discover and learn using different paths through the solution. In some gamified solutions there are no paths at all. Players are given goals, tools, rules, and a space to “play” without being directed on the next steps to take.

25. Mastery—the urge to make progress and get better at something that matters.

26. But mastery is not an attainable goal, it is a journey. There are many signposts along the way that indicate progress, but there is never an end point. Gamification is about getting better at something.

27. Purpose—the yearning to act in service of something larger than ourselves. Gamification is focused on one or more of three objectives: changing behaviors, developing skills, or driving innovation. Gamification must start and finish with a purpose that is centered on achieving meaningful player goals. It’s a goal much larger than themselves.

28. One of the key problems in many gamified solutions is that they are focused on getting players to achieve the organization’s goals rather than players’ goals. Gamified solutions must put players’ motivations and goals first and make them the primary design objective.

29. Sometimes players must be provided goals to adopt as their own. As we saw with Foursquare, the goal of becoming “mayor” of a location was not one that came to people naturally, rather it was provided to players and they adopted it as their own.

30. The motivation to reach goals is often created through the community, where social norming motivates people to achieve goals that are valued within the player community.

31. But there may be cases where player goals and organizational goals are simply not aligned, nor can they be aligned.

32. At a detailed level, there are many different approaches to making new habits, but at a high level there are some common characteristics:
• Set goals 

• Use triggers 

• Take baby steps 

• Find kindred spirits 

• Enlist support from friends 

• Build complexity over time 

• Repeat until new habits are formed 

• Keep it fresh

33. Set goals. The first step in changing behaviors is to set a goal, one that meaningfully engages the players. For example, if the objective is to lose weight, then the goal may be to lose twenty pounds. Keeping an eye on the longer-term goal can help people take all of the small steps along the way.

34. Use triggers. Until an action becomes part of a routine, people need to be reminded to make a change in their behavior. A gamified solution can provide those triggers by reminding players of the specific actions they need to take and when.

35. Take baby steps. Often, when we think about making a change in our lives, we think in terms of big goals such as getting in shape or reducing energy consumption. And sometimes the enormity of the long-term goal is overwhelming, preventing us from even taking the first step. As the Chinese philosopher Laozi remarked, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

36. Find kindred spirits. Implementing change is hard work, but it is easier if you are part of a larger group of people who are also making the change.

37. Build complexity over time. Most experts agree that change needs to start with simple steps, but more complex behaviors can be developed over time.

38. Repeat until new habits are formed. Once the new behavior is learned, it needs to be repeated over a period of time until a new habit is formed.

39. Gamification is particularly well suited to engaging communities of interest in changing behaviors. As we already know, the sweet spot for gamification is where there is overlap between player and organizational goals, and communities of interest exist because of shared goals.

40. Gamification and learning are a natural fit. As we learned from Dan Pink’s book Drive, mastery is a strong motivator. already do—it is helping them find the path to success. The solution is to break the learning process into small steps, so that every step stretches the player’s abilities but is still within her reach.

41. Gamification breaks the learning process into small, achievable steps and provides constant feedback and encouragement throughout the process.

42. STEP ONE: DEFINE THE BUSINESS OUTCOME AND SUCCESS METRICS. One logical question highlights the concept: How can an organization achieve success without first defining what success is?

43. The targeted business outcomes should be realistic, achievable, explicitly stated, and should include success metrics. For example:

• Increase customer testimonials by X percent in X months 

• Increase member online purchase value by X percent in X months 

• Increase new customer acquisitions by internal sales by X percent in X months 

• Launch X innovation projects in X months 

• Reduce average on-boarding duration to X days 

• Increase course comprehension by X percent

44. STEP TWO: DEFINE THE TARGET AUDIENCE. The intent in defining the target audience is to put boundaries around the people the organization needs to engage. This limits the number of different player types that need to be addressed with the solution, and therefore directs and guides design decisions.

45. Having a clear understanding of the target audience can avoid misaligned player objectives that result in solutions that engage the wrong target audience, or simply fail to engage people at all.

46. Once the target audience has been identified, expect to devote considerable time to learning about them.

47. Don’t underestimate how important it is to spend time with the target audience. Talk to them, get to know them, learn what kind of people they are. Ask them what they like and what they dislike, as well as what works and what doesn’t. If the target group is employees, ask them about their job and how they perform it. If the target group is customers, get to know what they value and what they don’t. Ask them why they buy your company’s product instead of the competitors’ offerings. Ask them how the product or service experience can be improved.

48. Organizations seldom design gamified solutions for a single demographic or personality type. Understanding the motivations of the target audience allows the designers to engage the largest possible audience. To understand the commonalities, categorize the characteristics and create personas to represent them.

49. A persona is an imagined individual who represents some of the common character traits of a group of people. For example, when designing We365, Free The Children and TELUS created a persona called Hannah. She is a fifteen-year-old girl who cares about causes. She lives in an urban environment in Canada and is active on social media. Then the team asked the question, “What would Hannah want?” After Hannah, the We365 team branched off to create personas for boys and other people.

50. Creating personas helps to avoid abstract discussions about the goal being quick returns


52. STEP FOUR: DETERMINE THE PLAYER ENGAGEMENT MODEL. After defining the scope of the gamified solution and determining the players’ goals and motivations, it’s time to address decisions about how to structure the gamified solution. The player engagement model describes how the players will interact with the solution.

53. Collaborative/Competitive. One of the basic parameters is the balance of competition and collaboration in the gamified experience. In collaborative gamified applications, players are rewarded for helping or encouraging other players to achieve their goals.

54. The most common way of combining collaboration and competition is to create team structures within the game. Players collaborate within the team, and teams compete with each other.


56. STEP SIX: DEFINE THE GAME ECONOMY Jessica’s team starts to work out a system of points and rewards that will motivate the players to leverage the community and its resources and help them achieve their individual investment goals.

57. The team must be creative in defining rewards that are both challenging to achieve and highly valued by the players. One key to the solution is to leverage the knowledge of the top performers to make them visible across the community. To do this, they will use leaderboards of “sages” that show portfolio performance over different time periods.

58. The structure they put in place offers some easily achieved badges for early participation, to encourage members to get started. These include watching five videos and completing the test questions. But they increase the challenge level quickly so that the top-level badges are very difficult to achieve.

59. There are four basic currencies that players accumulate in game economies—fun, things, social capital, and self-esteem—and these are implemented through game mechanics such as points, badges, and leaderboards.

60. Self-esteem and social capital are the primary rewards of gamified solutions.

61. In gamified applications, the most common use of fun is through surprise rewards—unexpected, random rewards that engage players with a feeling that they are never certain what will happen next.

62. Things. This currency includes the tangible items that can be collected and sometimes exchanged within the solution. These are often implemented as points that can be redeemed for cash or rewards. Tangible rewards are really the domain of rewards programs, but are sometimes used in gamified applications.

63. Self-esteem. As we have learned from author Dan Pink, autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the primary intrinsic motivators, and gamified applications use a number of different game mechanics to recognize accomplishments.

64. Social capital. People are motivated when others within their social circles recognize their achievements. Designers of gamified applications can motivate players with recognition as a reward within the gamified application.

65. Social recognition of our achievements is a powerful motivator.

66. STEP SEVEN: PLAY TEST AND ITERATE. Gamified solutions should evolve over time to add new functionality, to engage the audience in new ways, and to keep it fresh. From the first day of the launch, you will start to learn a great deal about the audience and how they interact with the solution. This knowledge will guide the evolution of the solution over time.

67. One of gamification’s fundamental attractions is that it provides transparency. It’s demotivating to make any change that has a negative impact on the players. Players know what rewards they can expect for the effort they invest. Tinkering with the game economy damages trust, which in turn damages engagement.

68. Points, badges, and levels are some of the many game mechanics that are used in gamification, but they represent progress and achievement. They are not the achievement itself. They are simply signposts on the journey to mastery.

69. Angry Birds, like most great video games, does not require players to read extensive manuals to get started. Video games can become extremely complex, but the challenge builds over time. Creating a simple on-boarding experience is one of the things that video games really excel at, and one thing that designers of gamified solutions can learn from.

70. The first steps should be obvious, and early achievements should be very easy to reach. Sustaining engagement requires balancing skill and challenge over time.

71. One problem that sometimes arises in gamified solutions is targeting the wrong audience with imagery and rewards.

72. Gamification solutions are most likely to be successful when players opt in to use the system.

73. Often, gamification is implemented as a game layer on top of an existing process. To the extent possible, the game mechanics should be transparently integrated into the solution that supports the process rather than implemented as a separate solution.

74. “The greater the risk, the greater the reward” is a common expression to describe the risk/reward profile of investments. In gamification, the converse is true: the greater the reward, the greater the risk—the risk that someone will try to game the system.

75. When winning becomes the objective, some players will look for a loophole in the solution that allows them to progress and achieve goals without performing the activities.

76. To mitigate the risk, gamification designers need to think like a hacker and work to analyze the structure structure and rules of the solution to try to find the loopholes before players do.

77. Plan the promotion of the solution and invest in building the user base from the outset of the project.

78. Early in the project, a measurement system must be identified or established to baseline the measures that will be used. The baseline enables you to determine if the project was successful in achieving the target business outcomes that were defined at the beginning of the project. Once the project finishes, benefits must be harvested, tracked to schedule, and communicated.

79. More effective systems integrate with social networks to reinforce motivation with social recognition.