The science behind gamification

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Gamification is the application of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to encourage users to solve problems. A 2015 study by Research and Markets has forecasted that Gamification in E-Learning growth will reach $319 billion by 2020.


How and why are game mechanics and game dynamics touted to be capable of achieving what other, more direct forms of training can’t? An interesting model might answer that:

Fogg’s Behavior Model (FBM) states that for a specific behavior to occur, three elements must converge at the same moment. These are: motivation, ability and triggers.

Motivation: When the personis naturally motivated to perform the behavior because of pleasure, pain, hope, fear, social acceptance, rejection, etc.

Ability: When the person perceives that carrying out the behavior is simple.

Triggers: When the person is triggered to do the behavior by being signaled, cued, reminded, asked, etc.

Games provide a mechanism to converge all these three elements at the same time. They drive players above the activation threshold (motivation) and trigger them to do certain actions by gradually enhancing their ability to do those actions. However, it is important to remember that gamification is NOT about the game. It is about taking the essence of what makes games so appealing, decoding the mechanics that make them work and applying them to achieve learning or behavioral outcomes.

Accenture identified seven elements of gamification that makes it so alluring. Let us explore how they support Fogg’s Behavior Model.


The possibility of status and recognition among peer players creates the right motivation to play games.

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Milestones or levels in games gradual build players’ ability and competency. Milestones also act as motivators when a player completes a particular level, because he wants to explore further and gain a higher status.


When players have both the motivation and ability to play a particular game, the competitive element acts as a trigger. It serves as a reminder that they must improve their skills to do better than the others in mastering the game.


Rankings are a measure of competitiveness. By adding a ranking system to your e-learning games, you are essentially creating a socially driven motivator which will continuously trigger participation.

Social connectedness

Social connectedness in a competitive game-like environment releases endorphins. When endorphins are released, a learner is mentally more involved (by being ‘excited’) in the process which leads to better retention of knowledge. The ‘social acceptance’ or fear of ‘rejection’ also act as factors to motivate learners. (“When everybody does, I will look stupid to not know/learn this”)

Immersion reality

By presenting immediate, doable and often life-like problems, players are immersed in the virtual world. Exciting animation and interactive graphics trigger the right notes of ability and motivation.


Games that are customizable to the extent that players can manage and track their progress, comment on one another’s performance and share their experiences are able to create a sense of ownership.

“Gamification is serious business” might seem like an oxymoron. But it is.

What do you think?

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