Debunking Gamification Myths

Gamification, being a fairly new field of study, has been through a lot. Some tout it as a miracle cure to engagement woes, while others (rightfully) are skeptical of its potential, especially in traditional industries. With so much information floating around, we’d like to cut to the chase and debunk some common misconceptions.

Gamification is a Game.

Often, people heavily associate gamification with games – they’re gimmicky, childish and patronising. However, the best kinds of gamification usually don’t even look like games. What they do do is tap into the intrinsic motivations of their users to engage them, the same way a game would. Reddit’s karma system, for example, is their version of a scoreboard. It rewards users who post more popular content, and takes that score away when the user’s comments and posts and downvoted. This makes for an experience that engages users on a simple knowledge-sharing public platform.

Just slap a badge on it.

Badges are one of the most common forms of gamification. What they don’t do, however, is guarantee engagement. Gamification needs to correspond to your needs and goals. What does the badge mean? Why would your users care about earning it? Perhaps your users are achievement hunters and feel proud displaying these achievements. Good! Then badges to encourage certain types of behaviour would work – for example, collaborating with a fellow user or exploring more parts of your product. Always think about your users’ needs and motivations against their own. Then, apply your gamification tactics accordingly.

Gamification won’t work on older audiences.

As the old saying goes, age is just a number. From The Drum’s data, various types of gamification have engaged users over 55 as much as those under. We’ve all enjoyed games, and at its core, a player’s motivations and desires remain similar, regardless of age. That being said, while the demographic’s preferences might differ, their innate natures do not. If you have a specific target market in mind, they can be engaged through well-thought out gamification tailored to them.

Just let it run.

The true potential of gamification lies in long-term engagement. Human motivations, needs and desires are constantly evolving. Thus, by letting a program “run” itself, the result over time is boredom and engagement. In applying gamification, one should constantly be thinking long-term and about how to pivot and expand. Regardless of the industry or structure, long-term engagement and all its benefits can be captured this way.


Gamification ultimately isn’t a fix – It’s a strategy. You need to think about what resonates with your users and apply gamification tactics accordingly. Gamification is an effective engagement tool, but like any tool, it’s how you use it that will determine its effectively.