Gamification: Integrating gaming into your brand strategy


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Gamification (or gameful design) is not a new concept, but it has been mishandled by marketing consultants. This presentation will outline the concept for you through the perspective of game design.

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Gamification: Integrating gaming into your brand strategy

  1. 1. GAMIFICATION: INTEGRATING GAMING INTO YOUR BRAND STRATEGY ISSAM HEDDAD STRATEGIST TP1Thank you for reading the annotated slides of my presentation for RDV Web 2012, a recent conference organizedby InfoPresse. Gamification (or gameful design) is not a new concept, but it has been mishandled by marketingconsultants. I will outline the concept for you through the perspective of design. If you have any questions orcomments, please share them with me on Twitter at @issamheddad or by email at
  2. 2. MY CAREER PATH ➡ 5 years of experience in web ➡ Passionate about video gamesI’ve always been passionate about games and I’ve been lucky to work on a few small Flash and HTML-5 games.But I have also felt that games, as media, have enormous potential to engage users. Jane McGonigal, a creator and designer, believes that gaming has broken our reality and that we can use it to make ourselvesbetter people and save the world. She explains her vision in the following TED conference, “Gaming can make abetter world” ( is also the work of Ian Bogost, who talks about the media microecology of gaming in different spheres ofsociety and culture. According to him, the term “gamer” will one day disappear as games will soon be all aroundus.
  3. 3. I wanted to learn how games shape the world. And the only way to explore this idea is to create games!
  4. 4. GAMING DESIGN STRATEGIST ➡ Université de Montréal (ex-Ubisoft campus) ➡ D.E.S.S. in Gaming DesignI enrolled in a program to obtain a D.E.S.S. in Game Design from the Université de Montréal ( - French only). This program was created byUbisoft five years ago to do something about the lack of talented game designers in Montreal and support thegrowth of their own development studio. This program is very appealing because it covers all aspects of gaming(not just video) and because students come from all backgrounds, including film, literature, interactive design andeven neuroscience.
  5. 5. GAME DESIGNER ➡ Level designers ➡ Mechanics and systems designers ➡ Narrative designers ➡ User interface designersPeople often ask me why I’m studying game design. Do I code? Do I draw? Truth is, it’s a little of everything. Agame designer must be able to see the game as a whole and put him- or herself in the role of the player. The mostapt analogy would be to say that a game designer is like a movie director. The designer creates a vision for thegame, including its rules, mechanics and player dynamics. Game design is becoming increasingly morespecialized because games have become increasingly more complex. There are now designers specifically forsystems, levels, narratives, user interfaces and even natural interfaces if (for example) it’s a Kinect game.
  6. 6. SOME STATISTICS ➡ 59% of Canadians are gamers ➡ 47% own at least one console ➡ 62% are men ➡ 38% are women ➡ 76% play online Average age: 33 years old - SOURCE: ESA 2011There are plenty of interesting statistics about games. I recommend reading the “Essential Facts 2011” report bythe Entertainment Software Association of America, which is available here:
  7. 7. SOME STATISTICS In the United States, the number of people who play at least one hour of games per month has risen from 56 million in 2008 to 135 million in 2012. - SOURCE: PARK ASSOCIATESLook around you... Everyone is playing games. How could they not? Games are now available on four screens.People are playing more because accessibility is growing. In fact, nine times out of ten, the top ten apps in theApp Store are games. (
  8. 8. MY GAMING HABITS Way too much 1985 2006 2008 2012Since 2008, we have seen a revolution in gaming; a fact reflected in the title of the book written by Jesper Juul, aDanish expert in the study of video gaming: “A Casual Revolution”. (
  9. 9. Brands have always been closely associated to the gaming world, whether through the creation of advergames,real games, in-game advertising or even pervasive games and alternate reality games.
  10. 10. BURNOUT (XBOX 360)An example of how gaming, communication and culture can converge: the Obama campaign infiltrates theconsole. In this case, a campaign poster that appeared in Burnout, an XBOX 360 game (in-game advertisement).
  11. 11. Global agency BBH collaborated with Chupa Chups (Pefefetti Van Melle) to create a new organization thatdevelops social games for the candy brand. In addition to extending the “fun” aspect of the brand and reachingout to fans where they live (i.e. Facebook), this initiative also enables the company to explore new models forgenerating additional revenue through free games and monetization systems. For more information, read thisarticle:
  12. 12. THE FIRST REAL INSTANCE OF GAMIFICATIONFoursquare is considered to be a precursor of gamification as we know it today. For those of you who knowFoursquare, it’s an application enabling users to tell their network where they are located at any one time. Thesecheck-ins are rewarded with points, which let users compare their scores with that of friends, and badges(unlocked after a specific action). These badges help Foursquare create additional engagement with users,because as humans, we are motivated to complete things and to compete for glory. This is what we call a “glory-based system”. The high score in arcade games is a good example of this concept. Users gain glory through themachine.
  13. 13. GAMIFICATIONThe first graphic shows the search volume for “gamification” on Google. This word did not exist before 2010.The second graphic represents the “hype cycle” of technologies, as proposed by Gartner, a firm specializing inresearch on information technologies ( In July 2011,gamification almost reached the peak of inflated expectations. I believe that in the first half of 2012, the “hype” willstart to roll down the descending curve and that people will become more genuinely interested in gamification.
  14. 14. GAME MECHANICS “WILL BE THE MOST VALUABLE SKILL IN THE NEW ECONOMY.” - MARK PINCUS, CEO ZYNGA IN 2014, 70% OF GLOBAL 2,000 ORGANIZATIONS WILL HAVE AT LEAST ONE GAMIFIED APPLICATION. - GARTNER GROUP BY 2015, HALF OF ALL INNOVATION PROCESSES WILL INCLUDE GAME MECHANICS. - GARTNER GROUPSome quotations to add gas to the fire. Mark Pincus is CEO of Zynga, the monumental social gaming companyresponsible for Farmville, Draw Something, Zynga Poker, etc. At the last SXSW, there was even talk that “gamedesign is the new MBA”.
  15. 15. GAMIFICATION: SO WHAT IS GAMIFICATION?It’s important to ask this question, because there is no standard definition that everybody agrees on. We’ll oftentalk of game dynamics and mechanics, such as points and badges, being used in non-gaming contexts. I don’tlike this definition, because a mechanic is (from the game design point of view) an action that permits players totrack their progress in the gameplay and to reach their objectives. In Mario Bros., for example, the mainmechanics are going forwards, backwards, running and jumping. This is certainly not a points system!
  16. 16. “GAMIFICATION IS THE USE OF GAMING DESIGN ELEMENTS IN NON-GAMING CONTEXTS.” SEBASTIAN DETERDING Associate Researcher of the Hans Bredow InstituteI like this definition, mostly because it’s not the other definition we hear so often; that is, gamification as the use ofgaming mechanics, like points and badges, in non-gaming environments. I recommend that you follow SebastianDeterding on Twitter (@dingstweets); he’s a German designer who is interested in gaming design, as well as theethics of persuasive design.
  17. 17. Too frequently, when we talk about gamification, we just talk about points and badges.
  18. 18. And this is my reaction.
  19. 19. GAMIFICATION: TWO IMPORTANT RULES FOR GAMIFICATIONThings that you’ll need to know in order to move forward!
  20. 20. RULE #1 = DON’T JUST GIVE POINTS AND BADGES! RULE #1 = DON’T JUST GIVE POINTS AND BADGES!Gamification is not just about points and badges. It has a far broader reach than that. Games can teach us to gobeyond this understanding and perhaps change how we think about engaging users.(Film fans will know that I just tipped my hat to Tyler Durden explaining the rules of Fight Club)
  21. 21. I believe that it’s important to go beyond awarding points and badges (especially the latter), because it helps us toavoid the pitfalls of pointification and badgification. Badges and points are not a miracle solution. An importantaspect of gamification is to ask ourselves if what we’re proposing makes sense to the user-player.
  22. 22. GAMIFICATION = DESIGNTo successfully apply gamification, you have to think like a designer, because gamification, at its essence, is aboutdesign. Not the design of complete games though; rather, it’s designing elements that are usually found in single-player, multi-player or online games.
  23. 23. FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS ➡ Level of difficulty ➡ Feedback systems ➡ Reward systems ➡ Types of playersTo understand gamification, it is necessary to understand its fundamental concepts. These fundamentals comefrom diverse disciplines, including sociology, economics, psychology, anthropology and cognitive science.
  24. 24. DIFFICULTY VS. SKILLS Difficulty ANXIETY w F lo BOREDOM SkillsAll actions come with a level of difficulty and require the player to apply a certain level of skill. The ideal is topropose an action with a level of difficulty that is in line with the player’s level of skill. Video games do this verysuccessfully. For example, a game like World of Warcraft starts off with quests that are just hard enough for theplayer and that increase with difficulty as the game progresses. The designer seeks to keep the player engaged foras long as possible.The Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (pronounced chick-sent-me-high) proposed the idea of flowin 1990. “Flow” is the optimal psychological state for intrinsic motivation, in which the individual is entirelyabsorbed by the task at hand. This is a state that we can all achieve. “Flow” is imbued with feelings of freedom,joy, accomplishment and competence, and while we’re in it, times seems to disappear. (
  25. 25. DIFFICULTY VS. SKILLS Difficulty PREPARING YOUR TAXES w F lo TIC-TAC-TOE SkillsIn online multi-player and role-playing games like World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic, theconcept of flow is perfectly embodied by how the missions and quests are designed. When you begin playing,your quests are just hard enough to keep you engaged. As you gain skills, the quests become more difficult.
  26. 26. Tetris was one of the first games to offer a highly-sophisticated feedback system (relatively speaking of course, itwas 1984). The goal of this game is to create and eliminate solid lines by aligning geometric shapes that fall fromthe top of the screen. Players can track their progress on screen and can consult the head’s up display (HUD) thatshows their score, level, number of lines eliminated and the next piece to fall. Also, when a player eliminates fourlines at the same time (thus scoring a “Tetris”), he or she hears audio feedback. All of these elements worktogether to positively reinforce the player during gameplay.
  27. 27. FEEDBACK SYSTEMS - SOURCE: LINKEDINLinkedIn features an interesting feedback system with its progress bar, which tracks how complete your profile isand ultimately provokes your human instinct to complete tasks. Just below the progress bar, you are also givensuggested “quests” to help you complete your profile.Warning! Do not overuse progress bars in an effort to give users the impression that they’re moving forward.Check out this satirical website to see what I mean:
  28. 28. REWARD SYSTEMS ➡ Extrinsic motivation ➡ Instrinsic motivationWe’ve seen how games create positive reinforcement and that’s exactly what gamification attempts to do: find anadditional motivation for players to continue. There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.
  29. 29. EXTRINSIC MOTIVATIONS Points, badges, rankings, stars, progress bars, penalties, etc.Extrinsic motivation comprises all rewards that are external to the experience. In real life, for example, salary is astrong extrinsic motivation. In the game context, it consists of points, badges, progress bars, penalties or a loss ofprivileges.
  30. 30. INTRINSIC MOTIVATION Engagement, self-determination, mastery, directives, learning, quests, setting objectives, etc.Intrinsic motivation arises from the pleasure of the experience. In the gaming context, this translates as feelings ofmastery and self-determination within the game, and the quests and goals that we give ourselves when we play.All of these elements keep us locked in the gameful experience - especially if the game has been well designed.Gamification works best, in my opinion, when the gaming design elements support the intrinsic motivation to usethe application or service.
  31. 31. TYPES OF PLAYERS Action KILLERS ACHIEVERS Players Worlds SOCIALIZERS EXPLORERS InteractionThe next time you play with your friends, observe their behaviour. There are different sets of behaviours associatedwith different types of players. Professor Richard Bartle has defined four types: achievers, killers, explorers andsocializers. Read more here:
  32. 32. Action Players Worlds InteractionThe Nike+ application features activities that appeal to all different types of players. An achiever will enjoy thetools to measure performance and track activities. The killer will love to challenge his friends and reach the top ofthe podium. The explorer will likely use the app to find new routes or new neighbourhoods to run in, while thesocializer will also want to challenge his friends but only because it enables him to keep in touch with them andsee how they’re progressing.It’s important to note that one person can have different behavioural reactions depending on what’s happening inthe game. When you play Minecraft, for example, you are forced to be an explorer in the first stages, but as you goon, your achiever and socializer instincts (for online play) will kick in.
  33. 33. “GAMIFICATION IS BULLSHIT.” IAN BOGOST Author, Persuasive GamesIn his blog, game designer Ian Bogost destroys (and rightly so) the kind of gamification that simply exploits users.
  34. 34. THE DARK SIDE OF GAMIFICATION ➡ Badgification ➡ Conditioning ➡ Extrinsic motivation > intrinsicThe other pitfall with gaming is how easily we can become conditioned. If we give the user extrinsic rewards, werisk diluting the effect of the intrinsic motivations for playing and making users addicted to getting badges, pointsand instant gratification.From an ethical point of view, this is a serious risk. For example, the eco-driving systems found in certain cars is aform of gamification that helps drivers to reduce the amount of gas consumed. However, this system is sogratifying for the user that the driver may begin to behave differently in order to reduce gas consumption evenmore. For example, running yellow lights. This is calling “hypermiling” and it is an example of how gamingelements can provoke users to endanger their own safety, as well as that of passengers and other drivers on theroad.
  36. 36. PROJECT FOLDIT FOLDIT PROJECT - 2011Fold It ( is an application that allows users to create proteins. The application becomeincredibly successful when a group of users managed to create a configuration of proteins that scientists hadbeen trying to find for years as a potential treatment for various maladies. (
  38. 38. CHROMAROMA PROJECT - 2011A very nice example of gamification! Chromaroma uses your public transport travel data to create a game. (
  40. 40. KHAN ACADEMY - 2006Khan Academy is an online learning platform based on videos generated by its community. To learn more aboutthis platform, watch the TED conference by founder Salman Khan: site adequately uses all elements of game design. I particularly like the tree of knowledge. If you playCivilization, you’ll know what I mean.
  42. 42. I believe that gaming design will evolve rapidly and go on to influence all spheres of society and transform all existing systems.To conclude, I believe that gaming is transforming the world and that all current systems (political, social,educational, economic, healthcare, etc.) will soon be seen through a new perspective - that of gameful design.To explore these ideas a little further, you may want to read Sebastian Deterding’s presentation for Lift 12, entitled“Ruling the World: When Life Gets Gamed”:
  43. 43. GAMIFICATION THANK YOU! ISSAM HEDDAD STRATEGIST TP1 @issamheddad, @TP1mtl www.tp1.caI hope that you’ve learned more about gamification and its potential, as well as its risks. I believe that the moregame designers become involved in the web - and vice versa - the greater the diversity of products and servicesthat will be created that can truly engage users.