Gamification Examples 2020: Introducing Game Elements to Your App

With today’s growing popularity of mobile games, more and more companies are borrowing the game elements and integrating them into their non-game products.

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Mobile games are actively conquering markets across the world. A recent report by Statista has shown that there are currently over 2,300 million active mobile gamers worldwide, and this number will be growing.

So why are people addicted to games so much? In the following, we are going to show you gamification examples.

In 1998, British professor Matthias Koepp studied how games influenced the human brain. He found that as the players progressed through the game and encountered more difficult challenges, their brains were releasing more dopamine.

For mobile games, the dopamine levels can get even higher because such games can be easily accessed and played at any time, anywhere, and even offline.

That’s why gaming elements are crucial to the success of a mobile app. Gamification in a non-game app can help you retain users – they get hooked onto the app just like onto a game.

Today more and more mobile apps are introducing gaming elements for their UX hoping to boost user engagement and make users come back over and over again. But in order to do it right, one should follow some tips and learn from best practices, which we are going to share in this article.

Tip #1: Research Your Audience

It is important to carefully consider the needs, desires, and personality of your app community. As a result, you will better understand how to introduce gaming elements within the app.

For example, you can send a survey to people using your app and/or potential users, asking them which mobile games they typically play and what they like most about those games. A study by Marc Hulsebosch refers to four key types of players:

  • Achievers – those who focus on achievements within the game context.
  • Explorers – those who try to see as much of the game world as possible.
  • Socializers – those who use the game to communicate with other players.
  • Killers – those who see other players as competitors and aim at combating them.

Tip #2: Select the Most Appropriate Game Mechanics

You can use the gamer types described above to reveal which gaming mechanics you should incorporate into your app. For example, if your audience consists mostly of achievers, try using achievement-based mechanics, e.g. badges that visually represent the users’ accomplishments. 

Here are the most common and effective gamification examples that are already used in non-game apps:

  • Internal currency – awards that can later be used to “buy” in-game benefits, e.g. extra lives. Example: Duolingo, a language learning app, awards internal currency – lingots – for the completion of various activities. 
  • Levels – parts of the game world with different complexity. Example: Todoist, a productivity app, allows the users to unlock the levels by earning karma points for completing daily tasks.
  • Badges – a visual representation of users’ achievements within the app. Example: Fitbit, a fitness tracking app, awards badges for completing certain activities, such as walking 10,000 steps a day.
  • Journeys – a way of leading the user through the app in a personalized way, gradually unlocking new features as the user gets more experience with the product. Example: Singify, an app for those who want to learn and sing through karaoke, takes its users on a “music journey” by providing handy tutorials that help the user progress within the app.
  • Progress dashboards or progress bars – graphical representation of the user’s progress within the app. Example: Khan Academy, an educational app, shows the progress as a galactically themed achievement system.
  • Leaderboards – player rankings according to scores that show leaders in specific activities. Example: Peloton, an app that gives access to various fitness classes, allows its users to see who else is doing the same workout and compare the performance against others in real time.
  • Points – the most basic rewards that the user gets for each accomplishment within the game. Example: Todoist awards its users with karma points that they can use to unlock the next levels of the app.
  • Social interaction – a way to enable communication between users, i.e. in-app chats, user groups, or sharing. Example: MealLogger, a nutrition and fitness journaling app, enables its users to join groups and discuss their experience.
  • Challenges – events within an app that are dedicated to reaching a certain goal. Example: Snapchat awards its users the so-called trophies for achieving specific goals, often unexpected ones, such as sending a video Snap without audio or sending a Snap between 4 and 5 a.m.

Tip #3: Keep the Balance

Having started with gamification, it may become hard to resist the temptation of gamifying it more and more, until it actually looks like a game but not like an app. Therefore, it’s important to know the limits and not to try to completely transform the product into game. Your key goal is to learn from the gaming industry and implement only the necessary elements.

For example, if your app’s target audience are users that need to quickly find or learn something, do not overload it with too difficult tasks and levels. When the user gets stuck on one of those levels, they can lose interest and quit. Make the gaming elements optional, as not everyone may be interested in collecting points and earning badges.

Game elements can also distract the users from the actual value of your product. To avoid this, focus on how gamification examples can support your users in their journey through your app, rather than just distracting them for the sake of entertainment. This can be done with the help of the cognitive flow principle that game developers use.

According to this principle, too low skills combined with too difficult tasks result in anxiety. On the contrary, too simple tasks combined with too high skills lead to boredom. However, when the skill and difficulty levels are proportional, people enter the state of the Flow – and this balance is what you should go for when implementing gamification in your product.

Tip #4: Do Not Forget to Test the App

Mobile games are thoroughly tested at the development stage, and you should follow this pattern as well. Before you release your first gamification examples, make sure that they are seamlessly integrated into the app and perform well.

Remember that it’s not necessary to release all the planned gamification examples at the same time. Do it gradually and see how it impacts the user experience, engagement, and retention. A good idea is also to beta test the new features with a small segment of your app’s target audience. By the way, you can also add game elements such as awards to the beta testing process as well, so the users can become engaged from the very beginning.

Gamification Examples

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With today’s growing popularity of mobile games, more and more companies are borrowing the game elements and integrating them into their non-game products. Such gamification helps to keep users constantly engaged and hooked onto the app. Game elements can vary depending on the target audience, but in most cases, these are:

  • Internal currency, like lingots in Duolingo
  • Badges, like the Serengeti badge by Fitbit
  • Progress bars, like the “galaxy” achievement system by Khan Academy
  • Points, like Karma points in Todoist
  • Social interaction, like user groups in MealLogger
  • Challenges, like trophies in Snapchat

However, it is important not to “over-gamify” your app by adding too many game elements and thus disguising the real value of your product. Keep the balance, so the users can enter the state of “flow”, willing to stay with the app longer. Good luck with following our gamification examples and improving the UX of your app!

About the author 

GetSocial is an all-in-one solution to empower mobile app marketing and product teams with growth tools to maximize user acquisition, engagement, and retention. Our key benefits include: referral marketing and content sharing solution, community engagement, mobile marketing automation, push notifications, social graph, deep links. 

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