The Psychology Behind Gamification

Earlier this year, we released a new gamification feature for our mobile app event. Now, we’re diving into the psychology behind gamification – what it is, why it works, how it works, and why you should be using it at your next event.

There’s a 99.9% chance you have either played, witnessed, or been trampled by somebody playing Pokémon Go. The game’s July release ignited a craze. In its first month, it generated $206.5 million in revenue and was downloaded 130 million times. It broke Apple’s all-time record for the most App Store downloads in its debut week.

What is gamification?

The Pokémon Go craze amplified the power and pull of gamification, where game design elements are used in traditionally non-game contexts. In doing so, it successfully motivated millions of people to get off their couches and explore their communities.

Gamification also works well in business, education, and other settings as a way to engage audiences and build brands. The US Army uses gamification for recruiting. Nike uses it to encourage competition and physical fitness among participants. A hospital in Toronto developed a mobile app called Pain Squad that helps monitor and research pain levels in children with cancer. Airlines have used gamification for years through their frequent flyer programs. And of course, the CrowdCompass app uses gamification to encourage attendees to increase engagement during events.

The gamification market is projected to grow from $242 million in 2012 to $2.8 billion in 2016, reports Business.com.  The mobile app market is huge and, according to another report, is expected to surpass sales of both PC and console games for the first time ever to capture $36.9 billion of a $99.6 billion market. Mobile apps are also expected to continue their market domination to gain larger shares of the market over the next four years.

How does gamification work?

Gamification is spreading like wildfire because it yields results. But how? What is the magic formula that makes a game successful? While the answer to that question may vary by industry, there are several common denominators.  Gabe Zichermann, co-author of Gamification by Design and a leading expert on the topic, says gamification is “75 percent psychology and 25 percent technology.”

According to Business.com, successful gamification tools work best by:

  • Motivating users to do something by providing a reward or some kind of recognition.
  • Inviting users to complete a task in a user-friendly manner, which might mean simplifying it in a way that increases the “perceived capability of the user.” (i.e. makes them feel super-smart).
  • Providing a reminder or reason for them to complete the task.

Successful game design taps into our intrinsic lust for motivation, competition, reward, and status. On top of that, players love things that are free especially prizes. They love connecting on social media, racking up points, and seeing their names on leaderboards. Young professionals raised on a steady diet of video games are especially partial to fast-paced, accessible (hello, mobile apps), reward-heavy games that deliver a sense of achievement.

For businesses, there are endless possibilities for applying game-playing technology and tactics to market products raise brand awareness and earn customer loyalty. Zichermann notes, “if you can make something more fun, and include notions of play, you can get people to do things they might not otherwise want to do.”

Why you should be using gamification at your next event

Gamification equals engagement, and the ways in which gaming can be incorporated into a mobile app for events are practically limitless.

Ask yourself: what is the ultimate goal or purpose for this game? Then design accordingly. It could be that you want to create a way for participants to connect and socialize either ahead of or during your event. Perhaps you want to find an easy and fun way for attendees to retain content they’ve learned. Maybe you hope to maximize the players’ experience and knowledge of the venue or city that is hosting your event.

Whatever your objective, “gamifying” your event’s mobile app can be one more key element that leads to audience involvement, which means you’ve got people’s attention while increasing engagement rates.

So are you ready to play? Game on.


Written by Cvent Guest