Gamification: What it is and how to apply it in 2021


Even if you don’t know the term, gamification may have been a part of your life for a long time.

  • Fill a card with stickers to win a free coffee.
  • Invite friends to an app to get benefits.
  • Earn a discount in a store for your first purchase.
  • Learn a language with an app.

These are all activities that resemble a game and looking to drive new business, retain customers, help them learn a skill or motivate people to exercise. Gamification is a strategy that makes all these activities much easier and more efficient.

Hundreds of brands, educational institutions and organizations around the world have implemented campaigns and strategies with gamification in order to improve all their work, get closer to their customers or users and boost the performance and well-being of their teams.

But specifically what is gamification? Is it when we play to earn points at the supermarket or when we use a video game on our cell phones to get a discount in a store?

Gamification encompasses a whole universe of possibilities and various adoptions according to the needs of those who use it. The term can refer to many tools, methods, techniques, and platforms that may or may not be digital.

In this text we explain what gamification consists of , how it is used to improve education in schools and universities, how it is applied for business and why it is so successful as a marketing campaign .


What is Gamification?

In short, gamification is taking an activity that is not a game (such as solving equations or monitoring sales) and applying game mechanics to it in order to improve people’s engagement with said activity, increase the expected results and even, make us happier.

Although it’s a new word, gamification has been around for a long time. Playful tools have been used in children’s classrooms for decades. And we have all participated in game dynamics in commerce, such as earning points at the supermarket. Both are gamification.

What are the basics of gamification?

  • Experience design : refers to the game elements or implicit structures (a ladder game, maze game, exploration game, etc.).
  • The mechanics: are the processes that move the development of the game, such as rescuing a princess, defeating a dragon or simply reaching the end of a path.
  • The components: are the specific implementations of the dynamics and mechanics: avatars, medals, points, rankings, levels, etc.

These three elements generate the gamified activity.


Digital or not?

In the last decades, gamification strategies began to be applied to digital environments, whether through computers, smartphones or smart watches.

And since digital is our favorite environment, it makes sense that all these strategies are starting to be based on contemporary online dynamics.

What are its benefits?

Gamification is often applied to solve problems and obstacles within companies, institutions or personal life. Among many others, these are some benefits of gamification:

  • It improves the commitment in the personnel training of a company.
  • Increase the performance of sales staff.
  • Improves personal ability to accomplish tasks .
  • Supports sports performance .
  • Increase organizational productivity .
  • Drive information retention.

Gamification works because it appeals to the basic mechanisms of behavior . With playful interactions, human desires such as reward, socialization, achievement of status, competition and individual expression are fulfilled.

Educational Gamification

Educational gamification is about using the key principles and elements of games to achieve specific learning goals .


The education sector is one of the markets that has most welcomed gamification. In 2015, the educational gamification market reached 93 million dollars and it is expected that this year (2020) the figure will reach 1.2 billion dollars: a growth of almost 68% in five years.

These figures show us that gamification for educational purposes works and its adoption is growing. The use of game mechanics such as rewards, points, levels or ranks tends to boost the motivation and commitment of students and teachers.

  Gamification games

Many times gamification in education is also applied in game principles for pedagogical designs in classrooms.

For example, you can develop activities such as points for participation, math contests, medals for good grades or even change the traditional grades for scores or lives, as in a video game.

All game-based learning strategies have one point in common and in theory we could call them all gamification, as we explained above. But for precision reasons it is recommended to identify them depending on their characteristics.

This is a possible classification of types of game-based learning for education, according to a report from Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico :


(Image: Tecnológico de Monterrey).

Regardless of its name, the newest gamification techniques today are undoubtedly in the digital environment. And in the case of education, they are focused on video games.

Video game designs for education include elements such as scores, ranks, medals, and tournaments are just the beginning. They are also created according to the specific needs of a course and gamification designers use complex elements such as video game narratives and transmedia resources .

These components are also included:

  • Constant challenges to monitor learning objectives.
  • Instant feedback .
  • Real-time competitions .
  • Collaboration with classmates and teachers.

Today, college or university professors have the opportunity to take gamification courses in which they learn to adapt their pedagogical methods around the dynamics of the game.

3 Examples of Gamification in the Classroom

1. “Quest to Learn” in Manhattan, United States.


(Image: screenshot ).

Quest to Learn (Q2L) is a fully gamified high school in Manhattan, United States. The concept was designed, in principle, by the Institute of Play , a private institution that aims to introduce gamification to schools across the country.

Q2L uses a wide spectrum of gamified methodologies for its classes. Some are not in digital format, but they always revolve around game dynamics.

One of the newest principles of this school is that it tries to identify which professions require the use of certain knowledge of the curriculum. Thus, activities are designed that encourage children to act as if they were professionals in these careers.

2. Educational game against malaria

Social gamification

(Image: screenshot ).

Smart Game Systems (SGS) is a company that designs educational training games for professionals that developed a game to improve the decision-making of healthcare professionals when using pesticides against the spread of malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The game, called Resistance Sim, simulates various real environments to which all the variables associated with the use of pesticides to control mosquito and disease populations were added.

A player is considered successful if he is able to prevent the spread of the disease.

3. Gamification in Higher Education: Delft University of Technology


This university gamified two of its courses a few years ago: one for beginner students on computing and a more advanced one on cloud computing. In both, teachers used various game-based techniques to increase student engagement and engagement during the semester.

Classic techniques were applied such as: a points system, medals, ranks, levels that were being unlocked and an internal digital game with which the students organized the structure of the course.

We explain everything you need to know about how to apply gamification for your brand or organization at Colombia Games .

Gamification in Business

As with education, gamification in business revolves around motivational design. There are multiple formats and applications of gamification in business depending on the area that you want to promote.

The intention with “gamified” applications by a brand, for example, is usually to provide autonomy to users, clients, patients or workers, so that they make their own decisions and do not feel forced to interact.

Well implemented in the corporate sector, gamification helps increase customer interaction and drive employee engagement with their jobs.

This is achieved through a cycle made up of actions , rewards, and motivation.

biz Gamification

How do companies benefit from implementing strategies with gamification?

These are some of the advantages compared to users that gamification offers in business:

  • Encourage user loyalty because “games” require almost daily interactions to achieve rewards.
  • Improve web positioning. This thanks to the flow of users that enter the site to use the game.
  • Encourage communication between brands and users.
  • It allows you to do preliminary tests of how users respond to new products or services.
  • It offers free diffusion , thanks to the recommendations made by users through social networks (usually sharing generates rewards within the “games”).
  • Help employees hone their skills.
  • Boost the motivation of work teams.
  • Monitor employee activities and progress.
  • Reward the best performers.

Gamification in Human Resources (and Human Management)

One of the areas in companies that has best adopted gamification is human resources. Thanks to various platforms and methods, it is possible to improve employee engagement with the brands or organizations they work for.


Gamification boosts employee engagement because it stimulates progress , gives work purpose , feels self-employed, and is fun .

Companies are also using gamification to get the attention of potential candidates. In addition, it has been possible to replace traditional recruitment processes with digital alternatives that speed up procedures and help evaluate the performance of applicants.

A large list of organizations, such as Marriott, Deloitte, Cisco, and Linkedin, have used gamification for years to hone their employees’ skills , solve internal obstacles , and recruit new talent.

For example, Marriott developed an online game a few years ago , similar to Farmville or The Sims, to acclimate potential employees to tasks within their hotels.

Gamification in Sales

Business sales areas often face significant challenges in creating healthy and motivating environments for teams. Gamification is the ideal tool to end the lack of motivation in sales.

Most sales gamification initiatives are based on contests and ladders , which often have a positive impact on employee performance. But it is important to keep in mind that the “game” is only a tool , not a goal.


Hoopla is a platform that uses gamification for sales teams.

To get the most out of gamification in sales, it is necessary to take into account that:

  • Competition will motivate employees only if everyone believes they have a chance to win in the “games.” It is advisable to set challenges between groups of employees who have similar skills and experience levels.
  • Rankings or leaderboards are most useful when they are focused on skills , rather than just representing a number.
  • Employees or “players” must also accept that certain errors can result in losing points . Preventing mistakes will be another source of motivation to be better at your job.

3 Examples of Gamification in the company

Hundreds of companies around the world are implementing gamification tools to motivate their employees, increase productivity, or train their teams.

These are some success stories of programs with gamification for companies.

  1. The Deloitte Leadership Academy

The Deloitte firm was one of the pioneers in implementing gamification tools to train its employees and clients. In 2012 the company hired an outsider to “gamify” its existing internal leadership program: Deloitte Leadership Academy (DLA) .

The old system was restructured to include medals for participation or achievements and rankings for the best results. Some of the awards are even for entire teams within the company.

Since gamification was integrated into the program, a 37% increase in the statistics of weekly use by employees and a 46% increase in the number of daily users could be observed. The average usage time for each site visit also increased.

  • Snowfly

A Call-Center in Dallas, United States, implemented Snowfly a few years ago , a gamification-based tool to incentivize its employees. Customer service agents play an important role in how customers perceive a brand, but teams can be under-motivated.

To address this situation, Snowfly managed to motivate employees with game elements that stimulated their participation and commitment. After three months, both call performance and quality improved significantly.

  • eBay

E-commerce multinational eBay has a good reputation as one of the best places to work in America. The company optimized its recruitment process with the help of MindTickle , a digital learning platform powered by gamification.

With this tool, potential employees learn everything about how the company works and can interact with their colleagues even before joining the staff.

Gamification Marketing

One of the first sectors to embrace gamification was marketing, which since 2010 has been using platforms to encourage the relationship between brands and users .

According to a Demand Gen report , 93% of companies believe that gamification is the best tool to increase “engagement” with their users. Only 70% believe that static or non-interactive content is capable of encouraging audiences.

Gamification marketing campaigns go beyond loyalty programs. There is a whole network of strategies that seeks to create a connection between users and brands , but also a sense of community among all users.

People enjoy interactive content and playing video games. Gamification in marketing combines both aspects and gives users a unique experience that does not exist in traditional marketing.

Gamification mktg

Why is gamification so useful for marketing efforts?

  1. Fun: the main expectation of a game is that it entertains us. Games appeal to our social nature, to the desire for adventure, achievement and triumph. Marketing uses all these points to its advantage when using gamification.
  • “Engagement”: one of the great benefits of using games in marketing is that it allows accurate measurement of “engagement” or engagement, interactions, and user impressions.
  • Organic interaction: with gamification-based apps, users have the option to start playing of their own free will, on their own time, and with a clear benefit for them.
  • Positive association: When customers play a game and earn a reward for their achievements, a positive emotion is created that can be directly linked to the brand in question.
  • Sense of community: Most online gamification marketing software or platforms allow easy social sharing with buttons embedded in games.

Social networks are ideal for disseminating campaigns because brands can easily interact with their audiences, promote challenges and awards; and socialize winners in said contests.

3 Successful Gamification Marketing Campaigns

Wondering what successful gamification marketing campaigns look like? These are three examples:

  1. BBVA

BBVA decided to launch a video game that sought to teach people to use online banking services, which by then (2012) were beginning to be implemented by all banks globally.

Thanks to this game, users realized how practical it is to do their transactions and managements from their cell phones or computers.

  • Starbucks
gamification stb

The card in which you earn stickers every time you buy a coffee at Starbucks is the old version of this app.

The multinational coffee company launched the Starbucks Rewards application in several countries, a game in which certain levels are reached through points that are earned by buying.

These levels in turn generate other benefits, such as free coffee or meals, gift cups, among others. Everything revolves around customer loyalty, but in a fun and digital environment.

  • Nike + Run Club
gamification sports

For sports lovers, there is nothing better than motivation driven by competition or community. This gamification-based Nike app allows users to customize their training programs based on their level.

With it it is possible to compete in hundreds of challenges and win trophies or medals. In turn, the excitement of winning and playing sports is able to build a positive relationship between users and Nike.


To conclude, these are the most important points of this guide on gamification:

  • Gamification is using gambling methods and techniques in activities that are not normally games. It can be presented in a digital environment or not.
  • The elements that are usually found in platforms and tools with gamification are: rewards or medals for achievements, learning levels and skills or prizes as free products for using an app.
  • Gamification is being used in colleges, universities, and companies around the world to boost student motivation and engagement.
  • Companies have been interested in applying programs and platforms with gamification to incentivize their teams , train them, improve their performance and improve recruitment processes in the human resources area.
  • Marketing areas have launched successful campaigns that have managed to create a close and positive relationship between brands and users through applications, games and communities.

If you are thinking about how to gamify your brand or organization, Colombia Games can guide you through the process. Write to us .

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