Ten ways to gamify your grid

“Gamification” is the process of adding game-like elements to something without actually turning the whole thing into a game. Social grids can be gamified, for example, but even grids dedicated to education, non-profits, or business meetings can add gamification elements.

The goal of gamification is to increase engagement. For commercial grids, this leads to more time spent in-world, more money spent on virtual goods, and more land sold. But gamification can also increase engagement on other types of grids as well.

(Image courtesy John Burke via Flickr.)

Here are ten suggestions for ways you can gamify your grid.

1. Achievements

In case you’re not a big gamer, achievements are a way of rewarding the player for completing a series of tasks, sometimes very small, sometimes very complicated. Achievements aren’t usually linked to any kind of tangible reward, although they can be. Usually the reward is the unlocking of the achievement itself, and recognition for a task completed.

Achievements also give bored users something to occupy themselves with. If they have nothing else to do, they can always spend time trying to unlock achievements. And, of course, everyone enjoys the satisfaction that comes from completing something.

A few possible achievements could be having been a user for a certain amount of time, logging in a certain amount of times, or buying something from an in-world shop.

2. Leaderboards

Leaderboards are sort of the natural progression from achievements. You can use them to rank users on anything, and convince users that they will be recognized for their achievements, which will motivate them to achieve more. Leaderboards are usually accompanied by some kind of reward for being on top, like a trophy of some sort. However, often the reward that comes from being the best at something is enough.

Leaderboards could be used to track who owns the most land, who’s spent the most money in-world, or who’s been on the grid for the longest.

3. Pet Ownership

Pet ownership isn’t something you see in games as often as achievements, but it’s still been a part of gaming for a long time. The act of getting a pet — or a plant — that the user has to take care of is often a powerful motivator in getting people to stick with games. A lot of the time people will even being feeling affection for their virtual pet, and treat it the same way they would a real one.

However, pets may be more difficult to include than achievements or a leaderboard. If pets are done wrong, and they start looking creepy instead of cute, then obviously they won’t have the same sort of lasting effect.

4. Progression

Progression is something that is already starting to be used in a lot of non-gaming settings. When completing a profile on a social networking site, for example, users will often be told that their profile is some percentage complete, and to “click here to complete your profile!”

By quantifying what the users are doing, and by showing them how close they are to achieving something, like a level or an achievement, it encourages them to stay and finish. Instead of the rewards being far off in the distance, they’re easily reached if a few simple tasks are completed.

5. Quests

Not only are quests an easy way to introduce new residents to a grid, they’re also a good way to get users to interact more. Give multiple users a common goal, and by working together they’re more likely to make lasting connections that will keep them going back to your grid.

Quests are also an easy and engaging way to introduce users to new functionality when it’s added.

6. Exploration

People love discovering new things, and having that as part of your grid could help keep it fun and exciting. Offer bonuses for visiting a region for the first time, and every so often include a region with something strange or unique on it, to make users feel as if they’re actually discovering something interesting, rather than the same region over and over.

Still, users are going to eventually become bored, and it’s always good to add fresh content — like new and exciting destinations — on a fairly regular basis.

7. Rewards

Rewards, such as a freebie or a coupon for an in-world store, are often a good way to keep users interested. However, regularly scheduled rewards are predictable, and when that happens, users will only come as long as the reward is still available.

Instead, offer intermittent random rewards. This way not only can they not be scheduled for, but they’re more of a surprise, and therefore more valuable in the eyes of the user.

8. Time-Sensitive Events

Another way to increase user interest is to hold an event at a specific time, or have users complete a task at a certain time of day for an extra reward — think happy hour in a bar. Add negative consequences to missing the time slot, although if they’re too negative users can get disgruntled and leave.

Time sensitive events could include sales at shops, or large events held in a public space.

9. Meaning

Instead of just offering achievements for the sake of achievements, try to add an underlying meaning, something people are working for or towards. In role playing games, for example, there is usually an underlying storyline that adds a sense of purpose to otherwise menial tasks.

This can get a little tricky, since it toes the line to actually making something a game, but giving your grid a theme or a common cause can go along way to keeping users interested.

10. Virality

Games are often more fun when they’re social. Users enjoy something more when they’re enjoying it with their friends, whether they’re real life friends or not. So one way to increase your user-base is to encourage users to invite their friends, by offering some sort of reward, or by encouraging them to announce what they’re doing on a social networking site.

Not only is the publicity good, but users are more likely to stick with something if their friends are doing it too.


Amanda Green

Amanda Green is a freelance writer who loves to write on the topics of business and entrepreneurship. In her spare time she maintains a healthy lifestyle, and always is trying new dishes in the kitchen.

4 Responses

  1. paul.andrew.wilson@gmail.com' Paul says:

    Gamification is great way to add fun to a grid, or even just an event.

    The list is a great list of game elements, but Gamification is much more than just adding in game elements to something. A major part of gamification lies in combining game elements and non game activities to create a directed play experience for the users.

    You could have an 11th way with: “Meaningful Choice”. This means giving players choices in the game that have a meaningful impact on the game. An example of a bad choice (meaningless choice) might be: There are two chests, you can only open 1 one of them, The left chest hold 10 gold pieces and the right chest holds nothing. Clearly this is not a choice as you would chose the chest with 10 gold pieces in it. Thus it is not a meaningful choice. The same would be said about a choice between chests that have exactly the same things in them.

    A 12th would be Unnecessary Obstacles and Arbitrary Restrictions. When players play a game, they choose to undertake unnecessary obstacles and to abide by the arbitrary restrictions to receive rewards within the context of the game. These obstacles are unnecessary because a person could usually achieve them easily under normal circumstances, however, a player chooses to attempt to overcome these obstacles using the arbitrary restrictions given to them by the game. For example: The common children’s game of “The Floor is made of Lava” the players chose to undertake the unnecessary obstacle and arbitrary restriction of moving around a room (obstacle) without touching the floor (restriction). Without the restriction, it is trivial to move around a room.

    Because a player must choose to attempt to overcome the obstacles and to abide by the arbitrary restrictions that people can not be forced to play games, but much choose to do so. This makes a 13th concept, that of: The choice to participate by the players.

    • Paul —

      How would this apply to a non-game grid? Say, a social grid or an educational grid?

      — Maria

      • paul.andrew.wilson@gmail.com' Paul says:

        Classes in schools are typically run as necessary obstacles, that is the students must complete the tasks set for them (assignments, etc) and failure goes on the student’s permanent record.

        A good example where they have used gamification to break out of this paradigm is Quest to Learn ( http://q2l.org/ ). They have turned as many aspects of learning into gamified tasks as they can.

        Students are able to choose to take on tasks to advance their standings in the game. They can discover secret mission hidden in books in the library, “level up” (raise their grade) by completing in class tasks, etc. And, failure does not mean the same as normal classes, as the students can retry the tasks or undertake other similar tasks to get their “level” up.

        So this school utilises all of the 10 methods plus the 3 extra I indicated:
        – Meaningful Choice: As the students can choose what tasks to undertake
        – Unnecessary Obstacles and Arbitrary Restrictions: Tasks are not just handed to the students, but they have to seek out hidden and secret tasks as well.
        – Choice to Participate: The students choose to accept the obstacles and restrictions of the “game”.

        For an educational grid, they could create a similar system. Visitors to the grid could find activities available for the to undertake and accept that there will be arbitrary restrictions and unnecessary obstacles to overcome, but by accepting them they will get rewards (level ups, badges, clothing, etc) that gives some value to them (in or out of the educational game grid). These activities might be to learn about a particular subject and to construct a model, or solve a quiz, etc to earn those rewards.

        An example for geometry could be to construct an object(s) that demonstrates the principals of Pythagoras’ theorem but without using triangle prims. Here you have Arbitrary restriction (in the prims you can use) and Unnecessary Obstacles (the construction of the objects), and Choice to participate (they don’t have to do this task). Although I didn’t say in the example, there would also be Interesting choices as this would be one of many different tasks available and the player would be choosing the tasks to seek the rewards they wanted (badges, character advancement, etc).

        Another grid might be set out to run a eco system simulation where predator prims seek out and eat herbivore prims (which just graze for food). The prey prims will reproduce at a set rate, and the predator prims would eat the prey prims and only reproduce when they have eaten enough prey prims (a very simplistic eco system – a more complex one could be implemented on a real grid if desired).

        Visitors could then try and discover how the eco system responds by letting the players change the various setting (how many prey prims the predators need to eat before reproducing, the reproduction rate of the prey prims, etc). Players (those who participate in the game) would be issued challenges (obstacles) to make the eco system enter various states (boom bust, collapse, stability, etc) and these could be by only allowing them to manipulate a restricted set of variables (the arbitrary restrictions).

        And so on. The 3 aspects I talked about are in every game (card games, board games, computer games, etc). they turn a set of tasks into a game. You can be rewarded for doing tasks, you can make tasks social and you can apply any of the first 10 aspects to a tasks, but it won’t turn it into a game. It is only by having the players Choose to abide by the restrictions and to undertake the obstacles and to give the players meaningful choices can you tun a task into a game.

        Those first 10 aspects can enhance the fun of tasks (game or not) and so are very important for Gamification, but games are a special mindset, and thus need the players to wilfully choose to accept the context and challenges presented to turn the arbitrary and unnecessary tasks into a game.