September 24, 2019 | Last updated on March 1, 2024

What Is Gamification and Why You Should Leverage It

Written by Mark Coulstring

Gamification is the act of using game design elements and characteristics, and applying them to non-game circumstances.  The goal of gamification is to boost user engagement, improve content flow, and increase productivity. When companies employ gamification, they are able to create meaningful interactions that produce customer loyalty, an increase in sales, and ultimately a larger ROI.  


Game Design Elements

Popular game design elements include: points, badges, leaderboards, progress/performance graphs, avatars, and missions.


Points are typically awarded upon completion of a certain task or mission.  By assigning a certain quantity of points to different challenges, you can positively reinforce a user’s actions and increase a player’s level of engagement.  Users are more likely to perform actions that will get them the most points. Creating a strategic scoring system will keep your users hooked and constantly working towards the top of the leaderboard. 


Leaderboards spark competition. Everyone wants to be at the top. Creating healthy competition keeps users engaged and motivated to keep playing.


Badges are used as a goal-setting device.  Once a player receives a badge, they are motivated to earn more.  If badges are waiting to be “unlocked,” users will be more likely to engage with the application and accept the challenge of adding more badges to their collection.  

Badges can also be used to create competition between users.  For example, if one user sees that he does not have as many badges as another, he will likely try harder to gain more badges, thus promoting further engagement.

duolingo site

Duolingo, the language learning platform, makes extensive use of badges to motivate their users.  When users practice their grammar skills or verb tenses they are rewarded badges based on their performance. 

If a user completes a level, a badge is awarded and they are able to move onto the next learning session. This platform rewards users for their efforts and encourages them to continue practicing until they are proficient at a language.

Progress/performance graphs

Some apps include performance graphs to help a player track their progress over time.  As a player, it’s reassuring to view one’s improvements and be notified when performance is poor. By displaying a player’s progress over time, the player is able to see what they’ve accomplished and they can gauge the level of effort that is required for completion. 

This knowledge can help the player determine what strategy they can use to further improve their performance. Showing improvements can help players set new goals and encourage them to continue using the platform. 

Why Gamification Is So Effective

Gamification appeals to users’ competitive spirit.  When users reach their goals, they feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments, which drives them to continue forward in hopes of reaching a new goal.  

A good example of this is the Starbucks rewards program.  Every time a customer purchases a beverage from Starbucks using the Starbucks mobile app, they get a star.  After accumulating 30 stars, the customer is now a gold member. Gold members receive special benefits and can exchange stars for a free drink. This loyalty program keeps people coming back for more.

Gamification also has a psychological component. When a user is rewarded, it triggers a dopamine rush, which motivates people to continue interacting with the platform.  When people are “addicted” to your apps or websites, it increases user engagement and fosters brand loyalty.

Does Gamification Really Work?

A randomized controlled study tested the theory of gamification in an online environment.  The game design elements were varied to analyze their effect on human psychological needs. The results of this study demonstrated that badges, leaderboards, and performance graphs positively impact the need for satisfaction as well as competence.  Meanwhile, missions or teamwork affect social-related experiences.

If you are looking for an interactive way for users to engage with your platform and increase brand awareness, you may want to implement a gamification strategy. As a team who loves to play games and has experience in designing and developing digital applications, we’d love to help you craft a gamification strategy. Reach out to our team – – to discuss how gamification could help keep your users engaged.


Mark Coulstring
Written by
Mark Coulstring
VP, User Experience, Seamgen
Product Design & Strategy Leader, Worked with CVS, Aetna, Oakley, KIA, Intuit, ViaSat, AARP, Experian, and many more.
Top Application Development Company San Diego and web design company in San Diego

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