Book review – Mastering Gamification: Customer Engagement in 30 Days

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Mastering Gamification: Customer Engagement in 30 days by Scot Harris and Kevin O’Gorman is written as a hands-on guide to running a gamification project for startup entrepreneurs, SME owners and marketing practitioners.

The book’s strengths are in its step by step methodical approach to building up a gamified service. This is approached by breaking down all the thinking that needs to be done into bite-sized chunks – who are the players, what are the objectives, why will they play and so on. I thought the break down into 30 day chunks was quite helpful though in practice I think some sessions would go on longer than others!


Embedded in the book are some ready to use forms (such as a beta testing questionnaire) and some good lists. Amy-Jo Kim’s categorisation of game mechanics is helpful here as are the references to Yee’s player motivations which are more granular than Bartle’s and allow for individuals to be driven by multiple motivations. LeBlanc’s eight kinds of fun are also a must read for any gamifier who needs to understand what we really mean by the word ‘fun’.


There is a section on the team required for a gamification project – this alone should make prospective gamifiers sit up and think. According to Harris and O’Gorman it’s a team job to do gamification, not something for ninja individuals.  This jarred with my own experience where I’ve seen individuals, typically the CEO, create quite sophisticated and successful gamification programs themselves. Positioning gamification as something that can only be executed by teams also puts it beyond the reach of most startup entrepreneurs, SME owners and many marketing departments that I know. Getting a team together of 3 or more people with specific skills is quite an undertaking in itself.


This meant I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a need to discuss simpler gamification initiatives that can be run by a single lead individual (using lightweight gamification platforms like Gametize, Leaderboarded or Credly). I think this  can deliver much of the intended value by focusing on a single facet of a gamified system, often with the intention of building out more later.  This chimes with the social game designers motto of launching with the minimal viable product.


One final niggle  was that I felt the authors were a little too breezy  on the use of rewards for specific behaviour.  The use of rewards in a gamified system should have a warning sign associated with it – for ‘master gamifiers only!’. Otherwise traditional marketing ‘incentive-thinking’ seeps its way in to the gamified system too early and with too much importance.


Gamification should be seen primarily as a feedback system not a reward system. It signposts and recognises performance in a set of existing behaviours that players are already doing. Approaching gamification in this way, helps novice gamifiers avoid the dangers of over-justification, manipulation and moral hazard which are some of the symptoms of ‘bad gamification design’ that Gartner (and the authors to be fair) railed against.


Overall I warmed to the book, thought it was an excellent step by step approach and felt it was well priced. I would recommend it to gamification consultants who need a methodology to take their clients through and as a way to convince clients why their bill is so high! Gamification takes hard work and a lots of game thinking to get right, there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind after reading this book.


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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