5 gamification theories to level up your business success

People really like playing games. Anytime. Anywhere. As a business or marketeer, you should really take advantage of this by creating an engaging, gamified experience for your employees and your clients.

Thanks to successful gamification projects, you can level up your business success by:

What’s not to like, right? Right.

But there’s a catch…

The Secret to Succesful Gamification: Your Game Plan

At OJOO, we know a thing or two about gamification. Every day, we develop solid, fun, interactive games for our clients. And every day, partnering studios, agencies, companies and other clients use our Gamification Studios to gamify their content in order to boost business results.

That’s why we’ll let you in on a little secret: the foundation of each and every successful gamification project, time and again, is a solid game plan. No plan? No success. Define your goals, game concept, reward structure and design first, win later.

Be sure to ask yourself the following strategic gamification questions:

  • How will your game engage people to perform a certain action?
  • How will your game educate your target audience or enhance their skills?
  • How will you reward players?
  • How will you create a likeable game and motivate people to play?
  • What will be the structure of your game?

No clue where to start or how to answer these questions? No worries. These 5 gamification theories will keep you at the top of your game – pun intended – when drawing up your strategic game plan!

Be sure to read on: success awaits!

Need help with your gamification plan?

Do you want to gamify your marketing or business and do you need help creating a successful gamification plan to boost results? Do not hesitate to contact us. Let’s combine forces and reach for top scores together!

5 Gamification Theories to Gamify Your Success

1. The behavioral gamification theory

B.J. Fogg's behavorial model - Gamification theories - OJOO

As a business or marketeer, you want (people) to get things done. You want employees to learn important skills, for example, and you want clients to visit your website, click that contact button and/or buy something.

But how do you get people to perform a certain action? How do you change or influence their behavior? According to B.J. Fogg’s behavioral model, there are 3 requirements for people to perform a certain action:

  • Motivation: the person desperately wants to perform the behavior (i.e. he is highly motivated)
  • Ability: the person can easily carry out the behavior (i.e. he considers the behavior very simple)
  • Trigger: the person is triggered to do the behavior (i.e. he is cued, reminded, asked, called to action, etc.)

Keep in mind that all 3 elements have to be present and occur at exactly the same moment to successfully engage people: Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger.

So gamification is not simply adding game mechanics to existing content. It’s about providing people with powerful psychological motivators in a fun and interactive way.

In short: How do you engage people to perform a certain action by using gamification? The core of a successful gamification project is figuring out the right motivators, simplicity factors and triggers, not the used technology.

Behavioral gamification theory: examples

When designing your game, you can use ‘Ability’ to establish and deepen engagement. Some games may be intentionally easy to invoke confidence in the player. This way, early quick wins may inspire a desire to take more risks and play again, play longer and play at a higher difficulty level.

In a typical Pokémon RPG game, for example, users need to train and level-up their Pokémon in order to become stronger and defeat ever stronger enemies.

Pokémon battle - GROW gamification theory - OJOO

Levelling up will go fast at first, but will require more and more experience points by defeating stronger enemies, striking a perfect balance between ‘Motivation’ and ‘Ability’.

Good game triggers make clear what is necessary in the moment of game play. A social game like FarmVille, for example, prompts you to do one of 3 things – plant, harvest or buy seed.

FarmVille 2 - Behavioral gamification theory - OJOO

2. The GROW gamification theory

Gamification theory #1 - GROW Model

Gamification and e-learning are like two peas in a pod. The applications are endless. You can use gamification:

  • to educate your target audience (marketing) in a fun, engaging way;
  • to create interactive HR courses and trainings and bring new and existing staff up to speed quickly and efficiently;

How? By applying the GROW model. The GROW model is a gamification theory that focusses on teaching people knowledge and skills in the most efficient way possible. GROW stands for:

  • Goal: what do you want to achieve?
  • Current Reality: what is happening now?
  • Options (or Obstacles): what are your options?
  • Will (or Way forward): what will you do in order to proceed?

Your game acts as a mentor/facilitator, creating an educational setting. If your setting is right, people will ask the right questions and come up with the right solutions and actions on their own. This way, they learn a lot in an engaging, interactive way.

The key takeaway of this gamification theory is that you should correctly balance the difficulty of actions. When challenges are too easy, people get bored and stop learning. But when they are too hard, people get demotivated and quit.

In short: How do you educate or train people by using gamification? When you create a game, you should create an educational experience consisting of small incremental learning phases and never make it too hard or too easy.

Example of the GROW gamification theory

In Alto’s Adventure, a beautiful Belgian indie game, players embark on an endless snowboarding odyssey. The game’s learning curve is divided into several small chunks or levels, and each level presents a tougher challenge or higher difficulty level.

Alto's Adventure - Grow Gamification Theory - OJOO

This way, players gain experience and skills through a process of trial and error until they become skilled veterans. Players receive awards for completing goals, and can also collect coins that can be used to purchase upgrades and increase their options.

3. The reward gamification theory

5 gamification theories to level up your business success - The reward gamification theory - Bartle's taxonomy of player types - OJOO

No player is alike. You should realize that when using gamification, or else: it’s game over.

Bartle’s taxonomy of player types is a great framework to figure out how and when you should reward players. This gamification theory divides players into 4 categories:

  • Achievers: want to show their skill and strive for 100% completion rates
  • Explorers: enjoy discovering new areas and finding glitches and Easter eggs
  • Socializers: love interacting and working together with other players
  • Killers: thrive on competition and beating other players

Keep in mind: this is not a black and white story. Each player might fit into one or more categories, but not always to the same degree. It’s important to satisfy your target audience by rewarding them appropriately.

In short:  How will you reward players? When designing a game, always keep your target audience in mind and adjust your reward structure to the player profile of your audience and to what you want to achieve.

Example of Bartle’s gamification theory

In Nintendo’s Super Mario Odyssey, Mario’s princess once again is in another castle and Mario and his companion Cappy need to find Power Moons to fuel their Odyssey (vehicle) and chase Bowser, the villain.

Super Mario Odyssey - Reward Gamification theory - OJOO

Super Mario Odyssey is a fun example of a game that combines all 4 elements to some extent:

  • Achievers: Achievers are invited to find a whopping 1000 power moons. On top of that, they can find special coins in each world to buy items.
  • Explorers: The world map and individual worlds of Super Mario Odyssey are vast. Explorers can explore the game for hours and find hidden presents, Easter eggs or levels.
  • Socializers: Super Mario Odyssey has a two-player-mode. One player can be Mario and one Player can be Cappy.
  • Killers: Super Mario Odyssey is not an online multiplayer game per se, but for some challenges in the game, players get to see international leader boards, motivating killers to get a global top score!

Need help with your gamification plan?

Do you want to gamify your marketing or business and do you need help creating a successful gamification plan to boost results? Do not hesitate to contact us. Let’s combine forces and reach for top scores together!

4. The motivational gamification theory

Gamification theories: Octolysis framework

Games are fun, but why? Well, gamification pioneer Yu-kai Chou came to the conclusion that all games appeal to core drives that motivate us to do certain activities.

His Octalysis Framework breaks down all gamification elements into 8 core drives and best practices:

  1. Accomplishment & Development: allow players to develop skills and complete challenges in exchange for a reward
  2. Ownership:  motivate people to customize characters, accumulate virtual goods or complete a collection
  3. Scarcity: make game aspects only available to a limited number of players or restricted in time
  4. Avoidance: add risks like losing progress to make players avoid certain behavior
  5. Unpredictability & curiosity: add random elements to appeal to players’ curiosity
  6. Social influence: include mechanics to stimulate player interaction, make them work together and learn from each other
  7. Empowerment: engage users to figure things out and be creative with game mechanics
  8. Meaning: give players the feeling they are chosen, lucky or have to do something

Yu-kai Chou divides these core drives into 2 categories:

  • positive motivators (white hat gamification)
  • or negative motivators (black hat gamification)

White hat gamification makes people feel good and powerful and encourages them to use their creativity and master something. Black hat gamification uses fear of losing opportunities and uncertainty about what’s going to happen to drive behavior.

Although both can be very efficient to achieve your goals, black hat gamification mechanics typically won’t perform well in the long run. On the other hand: white hat gamification elements can lack a sense of urgency and might perform worse short-term.

In short: How will you create a likeable game and motivate people to play? Players can be motivated in many different ways. Carefully consider which game mechanics you want to use to motivate your target audience and always keep in mind your ultimate goal.

Example of the motivational gamification theory

Duolingo is a great example of a language learning game that uses “Avoidance” to keep players motivated. In Duolingo, players learn a new language step by step by completing small tasks and challenges. This way, they get rewards and gain experience.

Duolingo App - Motivational Gamification Theory - OJOO

However, if those players fail to train on a regular basis, some gained experience points will vanish and some progress will be lost. This keeps them coming back on a regular basis.

5. The player’s journey gamification theory

Gamification theory: 4 phases of player's journey

The “4 phases of a player’s journey” provide a gamification theory and framework:

  • to understand how you should introduce people to your game,
  • to explain how they should play it,
  • and to motivate them to play as often and efficient as possible.

This gamification theory divides each player’s journey into 4 phases:

  1. Discovery
  2. Onboarding
  3. Scaffolding
  4. The endgame

PHASE 1 – DISCOVERY

The discovery phase is when players first hear about your product or game. It’s the actual moment the whole gamified experience starts. During this phase, 2 elements are important:

  • Make sure as much people as possible get to know your game
  • Motivate people to try and discover it

Are you gamifying your marketing, for example? In that case, there are many ways to engage players using different core drives:

  • Social influence: encourage people to share and spread the word about your game
  • Scarcity: make your game available to a fixed number of people or provide product reductions for a limited amount of time
  • Curiosity: tease people

This phase ends when your client starts to play your game.

Example

During Facebook’s early gamification days, games like Restaurant City, FarmVille and Country Story prompted people to send friend invites in order to unlock new features (and frustrate a lot of non-players).

Example of Discovery Phase - Player's Journey - OJOO

PHASE 2 – ONBOARDING

During the onboarding phase, you should make people familiar with the rules of the game, the options, the mechanics, and the win-states. A win-state is a state within a game or level which designates successful completion of a predetermined task or goal.

The onboarding phase should be as short as possible and people should feel smart while they are learning your game. This phase ends when players are ready to take on the journey on their own.

Example

When you start playing angry birds, one screenshot suffices to illustrate the mechanics and goal of the game. Talk about short and quick instructions!

Angry Birds - Example of Onboarding - Player's Journey - OJOO

PHASE 3 – SCAFFOLDING

The third phase of the game is where players use all the rules and options they learned during onboarding to try to achieve as many Win-States as possible. Read: this is where the fun happens!

This phase is all about motivation: encourage people to use your product as much as possible, on a regular basis and motivate them to come back. Getting your win-states right is key to drive player motivation, engagement and commitment. High engagement and retention are great indicators for success.

Use the DAU/MAU formula (Daily Active Users over Monthly Active Users) to calculate how sticky your product is and how often users are coming back. This formula indicates how often players engage with your product.

If you are unsatisfied with your players’ stickiness, you should adjust your win-states to motivate and engage people more.

This phase ends when players believe they have tried everything the game offers at least once. Now, they are ready for the endgame.

PHASE 4 – THE ENDGAME

This phase is all about engaging your most loyal clients, the veterans. These are the users who pay the most, so it’s important to give them good value for their money. The key to engaging veterans is adding meaning to your game: a clear goal that will keep them playing.

In short: A typical player journey consists of 4 phases. Introduce your business and game to your target audience, explain the rules, let them have fun and keep them coming for more with a solid endgame.

Great games consider the player’s needs in each phase of the player journey. Gamification will help you find solutions for problems in each phase.

5 gamification theories, 5 tips for your game plan

Do you want to create a solid game plan to level up your marketing and or business results? Be sure to consider the 5 gamification theories above and the insights they provide:

  1. How will you engage people to perform a certain action?

The core of a successful gamification project is figuring out the right motivators, simplicity factors and triggers, not the used technology.

  1. How will you educate your target audience or enhance their skills?

When you create a game, you should create an educational experience consisting of small incremental learning phases and never make it too hard or too easy.

  1. How do you choose the right rewards for your game?

When designing a game, always keep your target audience in mind and adjust your reward structure to the player profile of your audience and to what you want to achieve.

  1. How will you create a likeable game and motivate people to play?

Players can be motivated in many different ways. Carefully consider which game mechanics you want to use to motivate your target audience and always keep in mind your ultimate goal.

  1. What will be the structure of your game?

A typical player journey consists of 4 phases. Introduce your business and game to your target audience, quickly explain the rules, let them have fun and keep them coming for more with a solid end game.

Great games consider the player’s needs in each phase of the player journey. Gamification will help you find solutions for problems in each phase.

Need help with your gamification plan?

Did you like this article about gamification theories? Feel free to share it with your network!

Do you want to gamify your marketing or business and do you need help creating a successful gamification plan to boost results? Do not hesitate to contact us. Let’s combine forces and reach for top scores together!