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Gamification for Growth Hackers : Thought Process

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

25th March 2020

A beautiful morning and three days into the nationwide lockdown.

I got up at 7:30 AM and saw a notification on my phone that two buildings had been abandoned in my city due to fire.

I felt terrible because I was the mayor of the city in the game SimCity.

It was my responsibility to keep the citizens safe.

This is how I realized the real power of Gamification.

What is Gamification?

Simply put, Gamification is the act of making something game-like.

Today, we can see it in every aspect of our lives. Be it education, work, marketing, scientific research, and more –

For instance, A platform for GMAT tests increased the participation of students by 370% using Gamification.

And then 70% of the major employers are already using gamification to enhance performance and training at their companies according to Engagement Software Association.

Also In 2011, Gamification led to a breakthrough in HIV research. Gamers playing a protein-folding game called Foldit have helped unlock the structure of an AIDS-related enzyme within three weeks that the scientists could not do for a decade.

And the list goes on.

Growth Hacker’s Approach

In the last few years, gamification has become a really hot topic among entrepreneurs, growth hackers, marketers, and product managers.

As a result, a lot of them have reached out to me and asked for help in applying gamification to their product.

Hence, I decided to write this article.

My goal here is to explain the thought process required and also help you to avoid common pitfalls of gamification.

So, let’s get started.

Creating a good gamified experience is much more than simply implementing game mechanics like points, badges, and leaderboards in the product.

They aren’t compelling unless you are improving along some personally meaningful dimensions.

Think character transformation

All successful applications of game mechanics provide an intrinsic joy of skill-building.

It feels good to engage our brains and improve our skills and make progress along a path towards mastery.

Personal transformation is the backbone of great gamification.

Points & Leaderboards are just markers along the way and never the goal. These markers help your users gauge where they stand and how far they’ve come.

They are meaningless as a standalone system without something to master.

To build a compelling product experience — forget points, leaderboards, and badges and think about character transformation.

Khan Academy has the best example of gamification for Edtech apps. They have used badges as rewards.

The badge’s names have been picked up from Astronomy and are given as the user completes certain challenges in the platform.

Gamification in Khan Academy App

Gamification with Badges in Khan Academy

The badges level starts from Meteorite and goes all the way to Black Holes. As the level of skill that you learn in the platform increases, you get higher-level badges.

They have also implemented variability in the badges. Meteorite badges are common, Earth Badges are rare, and Black Hole Badges are legendary. This keeps the user’s excitement up in getting the higher level rewards.

When the level of challenge increase to match the user’s evolving skill, you get a perfect setup for flow — the ultimate goal of every gamified product.

There would be no flow without learning, practice, and challenge.

Intrinsic Motivation

To create a truly engaging experience, you have to tap into your user’s intrinsic (genuine) motivation.

In his book, Drive, Dan Pink tells that the three important ingredients of intrinsic motivation are: Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose.

Autonomy — is the feeling of controlling your own destiny.

Mastery — taps into the feeling of getting better at something.

Purpose — is about connectedness and relatedness – with other people, with a shared cause, with something bigger than yourself.

You have to understand that magic is not in points, badges, and levels. They can easily be implemented in your product with our plug-and-play platform FLYY.

Your time should be spent in understanding your customer’s intrinsic motivations and connect these rewards with them.

Dream11 and How they tap into user’s intrinsic motivation

Dream11 is a fantasy sports platform that allows users to play fantasy cricket, hockey, football, kabaddi, and basketball.

Before any match, a user can pick players from both the teams and create her own Dream11 team within a budget of 100 credits.

As the players in the team perform in the Match user earns points that are used to rank her team with teams created by others.

This is the perfect example of Autonomy where a user is given meaningful choices with interesting constraints. She feels in full control of the outcome.

The user has to use her sports knowledge to create the fantasy team. As her predictions about player’s performance get better, she gets the feeling of Mastery in the fantasy sport.

Have you ever considered the reason you support your Favorite IPL team? People from Bangalore or Karnataka support RCB. People from Mumbai or Maharastra support Mumbai Indians. I support CSK because of Dhoni. Because I am also from Jharkhand like him.

We all want a sense of connectedness and relatedness. This is what we call Purpose. When users create their own team in Dream11, they feel connected with something bigger than themselves.


You have to ask some of these important questions before you start implementing gamification in your product —

Why is a user doing a particular action in the product?

Why do users return to use your product?

What do they care about?

Digging into intrinsic motivation will help in designing compelling experiences and avoid some common pitfalls of gamification.

You have to connect Points, Badges, Levels, Leaderboards, and other reputation/reward systems that you decide with the intrinsic motivation of your user.

Keep these learnings in mind and you will be able to create a powerful gamification system for your product.




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