Five Different Mindsets For Gamification Designers

What mindset should you approach your Gamification program design with?

Should you be a boss or a servant, emotional or dispassionate? The choice is yours, and what you choose will determine the success of your program.

Is there more than one option? Of course there is. Here are a few classic approaches you might (or might not) want to consider.

1.  The Manager

This is the mindset of many clients when they first imagine the benefits of gamification, yet it is the hardest to get right. The manager mindset talks in terms of using gamification “to drive desired behaviours” and to “get results” from their team. For the player the value is simply that  the behaviours the organisation wants have become more obvious. The manager seeks to motivate players via a heavy dose of sticks and carrots. This  can result in fairly superficial and unsustainable engagement.

2. The Coach

This is a great mindset for good gamification as it echoes that of most teachers. The coach has the player’s interests in mind while keeping an eye on the goals of the organisation as a whole. The coach tends to focus on intrinsic motivational drives – what does the player actually want to do – and then seek to amplify that through tracking activity and providing elegant feedback . Player buy-in to coach-led gamification is usually strong. Good example of this is the Nike+ program.

3. The Player-Coach

Sometimes you can run a gamification program not as an external party but as a fellow player. Here you are both creating the game and playing in it. This can have benefits as you can see the program from both sides of the table though there is a danger that people will wonder if you are fixing the system just to make yourself look good.

4. The Commentator

When you engage in a gamified program where you are neither player nor a manager then you can be sure the program was designed by someone with a Commentator mindset. The purpose of gamification for the Commentator is neither to drive organisational or player benefits but is to entertain, and perhaps inform. A great example of this is the Fintech Influencer board run by City AM or the Forbes list of the world’s most powerful people.

5. The Referee

The referee is perhaps the most aloof of all the roles. They run the gamification program simply to ensure fair play, but have limited interest in the outcomes for either player, manager or audience. This is a role often taken by statistics teams such as the Office of National Statistics.

What’s your mindset?

Which is the right mindset for gamification? Which will you choose? What will you direct your clients towards?

For me the coach is absolutely spot on as it reflects the multi-stakeholder nature of the most successful programs – player, manager and audience should all benefit. That’s not to say there are good programs created by the other mindsets, it’s just that coach is the one I normally aim at.


Toby Beresford

Toby is founder and CEO of Rise the success tracking network to track, publish and share success. He was the 2013 chair of - the International Gamification Confederation and organises the UK Gamifiers meetup. As a gamification leader, he speaks at conferences and hosts workshops. Follow him on twitter @tobyberesford and Subscribe to this blog at Gamification Of Work blog feed

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