Most of us love games. But games are more than pure entertainment. Games can influence user behavior and help companies reach important milestones.
Gamification is a way to use game design elements in non-game contexts. The term “gamification” has become trendy over the past few years.
Why do businesses use gamification?
User emotions play a big role in how users think and feel about your product. A positive emotional response to a product can increase user satisfaction. Gamification works because it engages users emotionally.
Well-designed gamification triggers the release of dopamine. When people interact with your product, they are happy and excited. These sentiments motivate users to continue using the product and have a positive effect on user retention. Users return to the product to get a new release of positive emotions.
The Psychology of Gamification
Psychology exists in any activity that influences user behavior, and gamification is no exception. When gamification permeates your product naturally, you don’t force users to make decisions. Users do not feel that they need to perform routine tasks, but instead feel that they are playing a game where tasks are a natural part of interacting with the product.
Here are four psychological factors that can help create good gamification:
Investor and behavioral economist Nir Eyal developed a methodology called the hook model. This model describes the creation of habitual behaviors through a four-step cycle consisting of triggers, behaviors, rewards, and continuous investment. Basically, the hook model is designed to create user habits. However, such a habit can only be created when the user receives a reward that they deem as valuable. As such, it’s important to understand what drives customer behavior and what’s really important to them. A simple example of a habitual behavior cycle in digital products would be adding loyalty points to a product that users can redeem for a discount, or introducing different membership tiers for the number of tasks completed (e.g. bronze, silver and gold) and in turn, offer relative rewards to users (eg 5%, 10%, 15% discount).
- A sense of achievement
A sense of achievement is one of the most powerful psychological drivers of human behavior. Named after Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, the ‘Zeigarnik Effect’ states that people remember incomplete or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. It elegantly reminds users that there is still work to do, motivating them to complete that task. A good example of the Zeigarnik Effect in digital products is a progress bar that visualizes the progress of an action initiated by the user. For example, you may be making progress in learning a new skill or language. Learning a new language is a huge task. Break it down into steps, show users progress towards a goal, and add a fun reason to motivate them to complete the task.
Another example is the introduction of milestones in product design. For example, a product might have a system of levels through which users must go (starting at level 1 and progressing to level 10). When each next step is more difficult than the previous one, it motivates users to work harder for the next goal. Users feel a positive sense of accomplishment each time they reach the next level and develop positive habits to use the product.
Humans are competitive by nature. Competition is in our DNA. Competing with others can increase our motivation and improve performance. Psychologists often refer to competition as “extrinsic” because the motivation to perform a particular task comes from outside rather than inside. This means seeing other people working in a particular activity will make them work harder for better results, but you can stop when the competition is over. The leaderboard is a good real-world example of this driver. Leaderboards help you decide who performs best in a particular activity. However, it’s possible to incorporate leaderboards into digital products to motivate users to complete specific tasks. For example, introduce leaderboards in your fitness tracking app to encourage users to improve their workout results. This technique can lead users to master certain exercises. As players master the game and achieve better results, the community also receives positive feedback.
Gamification is rooted in social influence. People need to see the results of their work before they can share in their inner circles. Users can motivate themselves to complete certain tasks by providing badges, which are visual representations of achievements that can be displayed to friends and family. Icons become virtual status symbols because they serve as a visual representation of the user’s performance in specific actions.
- Social Relatives
A person must belong! We love being part of a particular community. Making users feel like they are part of a community when they interact with your product can improve user engagement. In digital products, social attachment can be developed by adding membership to a specific group in return for a specific behavior. For example, a user must complete X number of tasks before being invited to the Premium Members area.
Gamification is a powerful tool that, when used correctly, can have a very positive impact on the bottom line of your business. Psychological factors such as reward, achievement, competitive spirit, and social attachment can help create a more engaging user experience. If people enjoy interacting with your product, they are more likely to be motivated to continue using it. But, like any design technique, the real magic of gamification is in the details. If you are developing a new product and want to implement gamification, you should always start by identifying the main drivers (the actions users want to take with your product). Only then should game elements be introduced to enhance these tasks.