CX Insights

User Experience Report: Does The Application of Game Elements Result In Improved User Engagement?

3 min read

Whilst games have been around for Millennia (attested as early as 2600 BC), their mechanics have only recently been applied to non-gaming activities. The biggest reason for this is video games immense popularity across all age groups. Companies are curious whether the elements that make games fun or appealing (such as levelling up, rewards and leaderboards) can be applied to non-gaming applications, as well as increasing engagement

Gamification has real potential of improving user experience over numerous applications, but this has to be done with care.

Ender Wiggin facing the Battle Room in the movie ‘Ender’s Game’

For example, in Ender’s Game – a science-fiction classic recently turned into a movie – the main character ‘Ender’ gradually learns military strategies and tactics in order to defeat an alien invader through the use of gamification. Despite being fictitious, past military generals such as Napoléon Bonaparte were big fans of chess, which is of course a classic strategy game.

This begs the question; can gamification be applied to any type of application successfully? To find out, we’ve tested a number of different ‘gamified’ applications.


61% of participants were at least somewhat familiar with gamification

Most participants were rather well versed in gamification with 57% able to produce an example. Overall women were slightly more familiar with gamification than men.

People appreciate game elements (ie. Badges) when they are well designed

Participants praised the badges of Duolingo and Officevibe highly, because of appealing design and visuals. Other game mechanics, such as progress or experience bars were also praised when well designed.

People don’t appreciate game elements that are unrecognizable

Nike+ makes use of achievements (badges) that were ignored because people didn’t know their meaning. Volkswagen’s SmileDrive makes use of a ‘smilescore’, which was often interpreted as a score gained for driving with a smile (which it wasn’t of course).

The reason for implementing game mechanics needs to make sense

For example, Volkswagen’s SmileDrive didn’t appeal to participants because they didn’t understood how the inclusion of game elements enhanced their drive.

With the correct resources, it’s worth going the extra mile and incorporating more complex game elements, which require more time to develop

Some of the typical game mechanics (e.g. progression, leaderboards) that Nike+ employs appealed to our participants, but others were simply ignored. Zombies, Run! which is also a running application, creates an immersive story-driven application instead. This results in more motivated users via a different technique.

Apply social elements in addition to game mechanics to further increase UX

Duolingo offers the ability to let friends follow you so they can keep track of your progress in a way similar to Twitter or Facebook. This instantly appeals to people, because they want their friends to know how they are doing.

Gamification elements should be used in the correct context and add something

In Toshl, the application’s focus is on personal finance; but distracting placement of various visuals meant users were unable to perform even basic but crucial tasks.

Download the full report on Gamification below, or click here:

Randy Lek
Studying Applied Cognitive Psychology in Leiden, but doing my internship at Usabilla in Amsterdam right now. Gives me an excuse to visit the lovely museums they have there. =)