The Art of Gamification

As gamification’s practice and theory are derived from design principles such as game design thinking and user-centered design, we discover that it is an art to implement clever gamified solutions. The art places a strong focus on end users and how they interact with user interfaces. On the other end of the spectrum, gamification theory is a mass integration of multiple scientific disciplines. The science places a strong focus on designers and how they can use academic results to help determine best behavioral models. It is important to note that the art and science coexist to co-create best gamified solutions between end users and designer. However, the art is only truly experienced by the end user while the science is fully understood only by the designer. This discord between perspectives is what makes gamification design hard, especially when the target audience are digital natives—people who use technology as a sixth sense. Experiences need to seamlessly appear smooth and natural for people to “get hooked” on one gamified environment over another. In this two part series, we break down the art and science of gamification with the hopes to provide practical insight.

The art of gamification focuses on the core principles of identity, onboarding, scaffolding, and mastery. These principles are formed around the end users’ experiences and perspectives. Identity is manifested in the form of account creation. When users are creating an account for their gamified experience, what are the ways in which data is represented to describe you? Does the application make the user feel like a unique individual or a generic one? In RPGs such as World of Warcraft, we see identity take upon the form of multiple skills, guilds, clans, and character customization (physical features, clothes, etc.). The plethora of ways a user can create a character allows people to take on their own unique identity in the World of Warcraft realm. This uniqueness aspect to identity is what keeps people addicted to a game, and also helps for the next core principle, onboarding.

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