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I play so many games in my free time that it’s started to seep into my speech patterns. I’ll talk about “leveling up” my marketing skills, ask a friend if they want a player two on their road trip, and even refer to real-life problems as “boss fights” that I have to overcome.
Maybe it’s a little cringy, but at the end of the day I think it speaks to something important. Games have a lasting effect on people. They seep into our day and have a way of motivating us more than anything else.
What if you could harness that power for your mobile app? Sure, gaming apps have always been the most popular, but can the same concepts be applied to, say, a fintech app? Or a productivity app?
You chose to read this article, so you’ve probably guessed that the answer is yes, with a concept called gamification.
So what exactly is gamification, and how can you use it to level up your mobile app? I want to answer all these questions and more, so grab a controller and get ready to play!
What is Gamification?
At its core, gamification takes the ins and outs of game design and uses them in different contexts. From education to productivity and beyond, throwing a few game-like elements into your app design can instantly up how engaging and motivating it is.
While the concept itself has been around for a long time, it’s become somewhat of a buzzword. Research predicts the industry will grow to be worth over 30 Billion USD by 2025.
This growth is in no small part because gamification taps into our natural inclination for fun! Think about your ideal weekend. It probably includes some kind of game, be it sport or video game. Even reading can have elements of gamification if you track your progress with a bar, or take pride in collecting completed tomes.
It takes no convincing at all to get you to engage in these activities because they’re fun. If you can make your app fun, it will keep people coming back again and again in the same way.
Benefits of Gamification in Mobile Apps
Finding fresh ways to incorporate game elements into your app can take a lot of effort, but there are countless benefits to leveling up your design like this.
Some of the most notable benefits include
- Increased Engagement - Perhaps the most clear benefit of gamification, your audience will come back again and again when your app is fun!
- Customer Loyalty - When users associate your app with a good time, they will come back again and again.
- Positive Reinforcement - Gameplay elements provide a way for apps to reward certain behaviors, making users that much more likely to do what you need them to.
- Data Collection - By tracking and measuring actions, gamified apps gain valuable insights into user behavior and preferences.
- Social Sharing - Games inspire competitiveness and social sharing, making it easier for your app to gain exposure through word-of-mouth marketing.
- Personalization - With games, users can make choices and see the outcomes of their decisions, adding a personalized touch to the app experience.
- Innovation - Incorporating game elements into your app requires creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, leading to new and innovative features and updates.
Beyond all that, finding gamified ways to design your app is a lot of fun! Think about what would keep you engaged and excited about a project and try to pass that excitement on to your audience.
Key Elements of Game Design
If you’re going to use game design techniques to reach your audience, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of how games operate.
Game design on its own is a full and complex topic, but for our purposes you can get by with a few key factors
Every game needs a clear objective or goal that players are trying to achieve. This provides purpose and direction to the gameplay.
In traditional games, this can be to save the princess, defeat the aliens, or grow a successful farm. Your app might have similar theming, but sometimes topping the leaderboard is enough of an objective.
Games should provide an appropriate level of challenge to keep players engaged. Finding the right balance between difficulty and skill is important to ensure players are motivated to persist and overcome obstacles.
Setting the challenge level for your app depends greatly on what you’re trying to accomplish. A personal finance app might allow people to set their own goals and challenge themselves, while a walking app might present a particularly difficult distance to motivate people in the long-term.
Every time you successfully progress towards a goal, your brain gives you a little hit of dopamine. This keeps you motivated and on the path towards your goal.
In a game, this sense of progression can be achieved through unlocking new levels, earning rewards, gaining new abilities, or achieving higher scores.
One of the most common ways of showing this is with progress bars. Not only will this show people that they’re progressing, it will also tap into our innate need to finish a task.
Games need to provide clear and immediate feedback to players to help them understand their progress, performance, and the consequences of their actions. Feedback ensures players stay motivated and can learn and adapt their strategies.
Much like progression, there are lots of ways to provide feedback to your users to help them use the app as intended. The more feedback they receive, the more engaged they will become.
Incorporating social elements into a game, such as multiplayer modes, cooperative gameplay, or leaderboards, can enhance the player experience. Social interaction can foster competitiveness, cooperation, and community building, adding another layer of enjoyment and engagement.
This level of competition or collaboration doubles as a way to keep users engaged and encourage them to invite friends to use your app. Referrals continue to be one of the most effective marketing tools around, and allowing for social interaction within your app kick-starts the process.
Games that can create an immersive experience through engaging visuals, audio, storytelling, and interactivity are more likely to captivate players.
If you allow every design choice within your app to be effected by gamification, users will quickly get sucked in and invested in the experience.
Innovative Ideas For App Gamification
If you’re looking for an immersive, effective, and fun experience for your users, simply slapping a couple of these elements into your app isn’t going to be enough. Your gamification needs to be a little more innovative and fresh than that.
Focus on creating gameplay mechanics that are fully integrated, meaningful, and speak to the goals of your target audience.
Augmented Reality: Gamifying IRL
A unique feature of mobile apps is their ability to use augmented reality. This tech can make it look like fictional creations are appearing in the real world around you. Think Pokemon Go.
There are endless ways your app can utilize this tech to gamify different actions. From a monster hiding behind the mess in your home, to a mentor encouraging you on your fitness journey, to a buddy at the bottom of your water bottle, this tech adds a fun new spin to any app.
In-App Games: Combining the Best of Both Worlds
While many gamification initiatives focus on taking different gaming elements and implementing them into the user interface, you can also find success by putting a small but fully realized game into your app.
This has been done a few times, from Under Armour trivia to the “no internet dinosaur,” but there’s still lots of room for innovation in this field. Maybe users can earn lives for a game by completing their tasks, or power up by reaching financial goals.
Examples of Gamified Apps
With the endless forms gamification can take, it can be difficult to conceptualize exactly what it looks like in action. Here are three of my favorite examples of gamification done right to get your creative juices flowing.
Habitica: The Adventure Of Productivity
Turning daily tasks into magical quests, Habitica goes all in with their gamification. Users create a character and gain XP for completing tasks, take damage for bad habits, and join up with friends to take down monsters.
- Gaming Mechanics - Every single interaction within the app plays into the game theme and progresses the character’s journey
- Social Interactions - Users can invite friends to join adventuring parties, keeping each other accountable and bringing in more people to the app
- Clear Feedback - When users progress within the app, they unlock new mechanics like pets and bigger challenges
Plant Nanny: Hydration’s Greatest Mascot
The gamified task? Drinking enough water. Plant Nanny has users select a plant they like, “water” it when they drink cups of water, and watch their plant grow over time.
- Visually Stimulating - The graphics are crisp and adorable, creating an emotional connection to completing the task. There's nothing more fun than seeing your plant friend dance for joy with each watering
- Clear Progress Bars - Users know exactly when they've reached their goal, and how far they have to go. This keeps them motivated throughout the day
- Customization - From the goal amount to the volume of water per cup to the kind of plant you're growing, Plant Nanny puts its users in control of the experience
Codecademy Go: Cracking the Code to Education
Codecademy Go brings their comprehensive coding courses onto your phone and turns them into a game. Users earn points, badges, and streaks for completing coding exercises and can compete with friends for the top spot on the leaderboard.
- Progress Tracking - Users can track their progress with a customizable learning plan and see which concepts they've mastered and which ones need more work
- Daily Streaks - The app encourages users to code every day by rewarding them with longer streaks, which unlocks special bonuses and discounts on their courses
- Community Challenges - Users can join challenges with their friends and compete against each other for the most points, making learning more fun and interactive
The Bottom Line
If your app could be anything, I’m sure you’d want it to be engaging, memorable, and exciting to share. Gamification can unlock all of this and more.
By looking for fun and innovative ways to engage with your audience, you can easily launch your mobile app into the future. So what are you waiting for? Roll the dice, level up, and get ready for the adventure of success!
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