Isn't Gamification Really Expensive?

It doesn't have to be.

When we think of gamification, we often think of online applications – something akin to a video game. While partnering with a gamification vendor may be the gold standard, it also can cost between $1 and $6 per user per month — a cost that can quickly reach into the six figures. 

Gamification doesn’t have to be that expensive or complicated to implement. Instead, you could take almost any existing communication tool and make it more engaging by applying gamification concepts.

Gamification really just means using principles of gaming (“game mechanics”) to teach and motivate your audience. Different game mechanics produce different game dynamics. So, it’s important to take a step back from the idea of incorporating gamification and ask, “What dynamic do you want to achieve?”

  • Do you want to foster community or collaboration?
  • Do you want your employees to compete with each other?
  • Do you want to reward achievement or progress?
  • Do you simply want employees to explore new ideas?

Once you know your goals, it’s easier to determine which game mechanics to implement. 

Examples of game mechanics and the game dynamics they can produce

Points = achievement or progress

Points are like gold stars from elementary school. Players earn points by completing small tasks and trade in the points for a reward. 

Levels = achievement or progress

Levels can be built on points and demonstrate greater achievement. Once you accumulate a certain number of points, you progress to the next level. Reaching a new level also might unlock new game features or rewards.

Missions/Quests = competition or community, achievement or exploration

A mission or quest gives the player more autonomy – it puts them in charge of finding a way to complete the mission. Players can simply explore and be exposed to a new concept, or you might create a more challenging mission to create an achievement dynamic. And since missions can work for individuals and teams, you should decide if you want to encourage collaboration and a sense of community or if you want to spark a competition.

Challenges = achievement or exploration

A challenge is a more directed version of a mission. While a mission might name a goal that players figure out how to achieve, a challenge gives players a daily or weekly bite-sized goal to accomplish. When the challenge is over, players will have completed a larger goal. In the process, they will have established a new habit or learned a new skill.

Badges = community, achievement or progress, exploration

A badge is a public reward – a sign of achievement that can be displayed on a player’s profile. Badges are useful as rewards when a player completes a certain set of challenges or masters a new skill.

Leaderboards = competition, community, achievement

A leaderboard ranks your players so everyone can see who’s ahead or behind. Depending on how you position the leaderboard, it can encourage competition (who is ranked highest?) or community (are we all pulling our weight and working together towards our shared success?).

Push Notifications = community, progress

Pop-ups built into a game can provide reminders to complete an action or offer congratulations on successfully completing a level or mission.

Quizzes = competition or community, achievement, progress

A quiz can help cement learning, prove completion of materials, and measure comprehension. After a player completes a learning module, they would take a mandatory quiz for a pass/fail grade. The quiz also would explain the correct answer when a player gets an answer wrong.

Lower-cost gamification implementation

If your budget doesn’t permit an online gamification implementation, here are some lower-cost ways to incorporate game mechanics in your existing communication strategy.

Points – Imagine an Annual Enrollment campaign where employees accumulate points from reading materials or watching campaign videos. This might be as simple as including a checklist or as involved as asking employees to scan a QR code when they finish reading a document.

Levels – Providing employees with a process map can be one way of both explaining levels to be achieved and the steps inside each level. 

Missions/Quests – A mission is like the Choose Your Own Adventure version of benefits education. Give employees a fill-in-the-bank worksheet when they attend a presentation. The worksheet will guide them to record the most relevant information from the presentation. 

Challenges – Just like an influencer runs an Instagram challenge, you can run a challenge using email. Invite employees to opt-in to the challenge, then send them one email a day or a week with their instructions. If you can set up a blog on your intranet dedicated to the challenge and open it for comments, even better.

Badges – When employees earn a badge, provide them an icon to add to their email signature.

Leaderboards – Create an online dashboard using Google Sheets so your employees can check their performance against others.

Push Notifications – Send a congratulations email or text message when your employees complete levels, missions or challenges. If your email system has the capability, set up these emails to be triggered and sent automatically.

Quizzes – Use SurveyMonkey, your Learning Management System, or even a PDF quiz to test your employee’s recall and understanding of content.

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