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Architaa Pandey
Architaa Pandey November 17, 2022

Whenever we talk about Gamification, we hear terms like game design elements, game mechanics, and game dynamics used repeatedly and often interchangeably.

But what do these terms mean, and how do they differ? 

Game mechanics and game dynamics are unique properties behind gamification that work in tandem to make gamification a success. Let us recap what gamification is.

Gamification is applying game mechanics to non-gaming activities to try and influence people to change their behavior and motivate them to perform certain tasks. 

Business experts are just beginning to realize that Gamification is a winning strategy for better customer engagement. It can build loyalty and incentivize employees and customers to perform at higher levels and particulate in otherwise mundane activities. 

Product designers get excited by this sure-shot solution of increasing engagement and sometimes forget the primary element of what made gamification successful today. 

That is the ability of gamification to make stuff fun!

Game Elements

The reason gamification came into existence was to extract the “fun” elements of gaming and introduce them to other “boring” activities. Gamification is basically creating an engaging ludic experience in non-gaming scenarios, so it is essential to focus on not only the gamification elements but also on the fun.

You must be aware of the basic elements of gamification, like rewards, points, levels, badges, leaderboards, and challenges. Some less common elements include avatars, teams, treasures, and ranks. But what are these Gamification elements or game elements that we talk about?

Game elements are the interaction points between a human and the game. Anything designed in the game to increase these interactions are dubbed as gamification elements.

Gamification elements are categorized into game components, game mechanics, and game dynamics.

Gamification elements are categorized into game components, game mechanics, and game dynamics.
Gamification Elements

Game Components

These are the building blocks of game mechanics and game dynamics, as in they are the specific feature that represents the game mechanics and dynamics. Game components are the chosen materials and tools to implement or run certain dynamics and mechanics.

Game Mechanics

These are the processes responsible for making the game exciting and engaging, as game components alone won’t be able to generate user engagement for long. Game mechanics are the different control mechanisms, behaviors, and actions used in a non-gaming context that makes the app or website fun and engaging.

They gamify an activity by enabling product designers to layer compelling user experiences into existing activities. These activities satisfy basic human needs and desires. Using game mechanics individually or in combination allows websites or apps to have a highly motivational user experience and motivates users to complete certain tasks.

Game mechanics motivate behaviors.

Some common game mechanics elements include

1. Points

Everyone loves earning points for a job well done, as they are a quantifiable measurement of accomplishment. It makes earning more points an incredible motivator.

To know more about motivators, read our Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation blog.

Gamified platforms use points to reward users across different verticals and drive desired behaviors. Even if no monetary value is associated with points, they can be used as status indicators, to unlock different perks, or as a virtual currency to buy gifts. They also help users monitor progress.

2. Levels

Levels are an indication of accomplishments and receiving milestones. Higher levels deserve a certain amount of respect and status from the community. Users automatically level up based on their participation and performance in accordance with pre-defined points thresholds.

Users on higher levels have reached a point of progression, elevating them to a more advanced stage of goals and objectives they can now achieve. Leveling up means a higher status and the ability to unlock new badges, activities, and rewards and help maintain a user’s progress through a system. It is vital to see where you can go next as it is to know where you came from.

3. Challenges (Trophies and Badges)

When participation seems down, and users feel like they have mastered all that there is to master, challenges act as a refresher and keep people interested. A challenge gives people a mission to accomplish and then rewards them for completing it. 

It gives people goals and the feeling that they are working towards something desirable and rewarding. Gamified platforms track desired actions and reward them with trophies and badges.

Visual recognition, like badges and trophies, goes a long way in motivating users to take up these challenges. A forum to showcase all the awards won, for example, a virtual trophy room or a user profile page, further motivates the users.

Gamification is all about increasing user engagement, and challenges make the job feel less mundane and robotic. It encourages people to get off autopilot and focus on the task in front of them.

4. Leaderboards

A ‘high score’ table or leaderboard is an excellent gamification tool to show people where they stand or rank compared to others. Leaderboards foster the social part of points and badges. Leaderboards cultivate a sense of competition in users and push them to prove their merit against others. 

A spot on the leaderboard brings a sense of achievement and fame. Gamification uses leaderboards to drive the desired behavior using competition.

The figure shows the interaction of basic human desires and gameplay. The green dots signify the primary desire a particular game mechanic fulfills, and the blue dot shows the other areas it affects.
The figure shows the interaction of basic human desires and gameplay. The green dots signify the primary desire a particular game mechanic fulfills, and the blue dot shows the other areas it affects.

Game Dynamics

Why do users feel motivated by game mechanics? It is because of game dynamics. Game dynamics are the core game design principles that create and support aesthetic experiences. They are the overarching elements that drive the player further. 

Humans have fundamental needs and desires – the desire for status, reward, self-expression, achievement, competition, altruism, etc. Everyone has these universal needs irrespective of age, demographics, culture, or age. Game designers address these needs of people using gamification. Gamification allows these human needs to be addressed and fulfilled. 

The Octalysis framework also explains these eight core drives that motivate users and are used extensively in gamification.

Octalysis Framework by Yu-Kai Chou
Source: Yu-Kai Chou

The game dynamics are taken care of by adding a layer of game mechanics, thus creating an experience for users that takes care of these needs and drives a behavioral change.

Game dynamics satisfy desires.

Some common game mechanics elements include

1. Reward

Humans love receiving rewards given as a recognition of some kind of action. A reward in a game, tangible or intangible, is often given with the intent of motivating users to repeat the action. In gamification, the most common way to reward is through points. 

Rewards are positive motivators that identify accomplishment, and how the rewards are structured in an app or website plays a significant role in its success. Frequent rewards for unimportant tasks tend to decrease their effectiveness and value in the eye of the user. Earning rewards would become easier, and it won’t be as special.

2. Status

People desire to be held in high esteem and regard by others. It is to gain fame, recognition, social status, attention, and prestige. It is based on the basic human desire to be valued and accepted by others. 

All game mechanic elements drive this game dynamic of achieving a higher level like gold or platinum.

3. Achievement

The world has a high number of completionists who have the ingrained desire to achieve, accomplish, or complete tasks that are not easy and that others have not achieved. People put in prolonged and repeated efforts to ultimately win these situations.

Achievement-driven users seek challenges, set moderately difficult yet achievable goals, and then work hard to cross the line. Their biggest reward is the sense of achievement.

4. Competition

Rewards aren’t the only motivating factor in competitions but they are a big part of it. The status and achievement dynamics are also strongly interwoven in competitions and are a huge reason why competitive environments witness higher levels of performance.

The sense of satisfaction is also a contributing factor to the enhanced performance of users while testing their skills against others. All game mechanics, especially leaderboards, are key to displaying the competition and celebrating the winners. 

Game mechanics and Game dynamics

The MDA Framework

The MDA framework is a formal way of understanding and making sense of games and helps comprehend how gamification works. The framework breaks down a player’s game consumption into three parts: Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics.

Game Aesthetics

Game aesthetics cover the sensory phenomenon of games that a player experiences. These sensory stimuli could be visual, aural, haptic, and embodied. It determines how appealing the game is for the players and how it makes them feel.

Some common game aesthetics elements include fantasy, sensation, challenge, discovery, fellowship, expression, and submission. Experts believe that game aesthetics don’t play a significant role in game design, but that is not true.

Games or gamified platforms are generally entertainment media, and game aesthetics are vital in elevating the user experience. Beautiful visuals and animation are therefore important as the more engaging and appealing the game aesthetics elements are, the more fun the user has while using the gamified app or website.

Game Aesthetics
Comparison of aesthetics of the same game. The one on the right is more appealing.

Conclusion

The use of gamification is widespread and gamified products are seen nowadays in virtually every industry, from fintech to edtech, healthcare, OTT, and eCommerce. It has seen its application in every scenario where individuals need to be incentivized or motivated to perform desired actions or tasks.

Before you start the gamification of your product, you need to understand and know more about game components, game mechanics, game dynamics, and game aesthetics. Understanding these terms allows you to design a well-planned and user-engaging gamification experience. Upshot.ai can help you with this!

The Upshot.ai Advantage

Upshot.ai is an omnichannel, user engagement, and gamification platform that helps digital product owners and marketers improve product adoption and conversions.

With Upshot.ai, banks, Insurance, OTT platforms, and FinTech firms can enhance their digital experiences with pre-built gamification features. It can provide personalized insights, actionable recommendations, and contextual nudges designed to deepen its relationship with its users. Book a demo of the most comprehensive user engagement and gamification platform to achieve your digital product goals. 

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