How gamification motivates people to do extraordinary things (sometimes)

One of my recent reads has been Gamify: How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things by Brian Burke.

Gamify book cover (by Brian Burke)
Gamify by Brian Burke

The concept of Gamification has been around for a long time, it’s nothing new. But, how can Gamification be used for good?

In the realm of education and EdTech, does Gamification have a role to play? Sure. But, it needs to be used properly and with careful forethought.

As Burke highlights in “Gamify”, successful Gamification will engage users (players) at an emotional level, not just at a transactional level.

Trying to make a boring task more “fun” by turning it into a game-like experience is not what Gamification is all about. Of course, this is why so many projects fail to sustainability engage users. “Gamification” has been thrown at a problem in the hope of it being a miraculous cure to user engagement.

The key elements to Gamification are:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose


Users must feel like they are the master of their own destiny. They should be able to choose and traverse their own path. There may not even be a path!


Mastery is a journey, not a finite goal. Gamification should enable a user to feel the journey towards mastery. Help them get better at something.


“By definition, gamified solutions are distinguished from traditional games by their purpose.” Users should be able to feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves otherwise engagement won’t last: it will be ephemeral and transactional, not purposeful.

Avoiding Failed Gamification

If you are looking to embark on a project that involves Gamification, make sure you have these key elements covered. If these are missing, you need to rethink!

Don’t go all in on a solution without any form of validation that it works. This is a standard rule for business and entrepreneurship.

Run pilots, test prototypes, involve users, design… for the users! The desired business outcomes of the project must be a by-product of the successful use of Gamification. They should not be the focus. They’re usually not the users’ concern.

Fancy a chat?

Get in touch! I’m always keen to talk to interesting people working on worthwhile problems.

I’m on LinkedIn and Twitter, but you can drop me an email too.