What Is Gamification and How Do Apps Use It to Keep You Hooked?


Gamification can help businesses boost customer engagement, and it can also help individuals reach goals faster and easier with certain activities, like learning a new language.

But what exactly is gamification, and how does it work? In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about gamification.

What Is Gamification?

Gamification is a way to combine fun aspects of gaming into everyday activities to make them more enticing to people and increase engagement with a company or an app. Specifically, gamification incorporates game mechanics and game dynamics into a program to make it more fun.

Game mechanics are the rewards or otherwise engaging reason for you to stick with an app or program. Typical game mechanics you see include reward points, goals, badges, or some type of community where you can compete with others.

Game dynamics is the emotions or behaviors people should feel when engaging with the game mechanics. For example, someone might feel a sense of collaboration or competition when seeing other people post statuses or show up on leaderboards.

Or, someone may feel happy or inspired to spend more time with an app or a business when they unlock a reward or complete a goal.

Related: Ways You Can Use AI Technology to Improve Your Business

Where Did the Concept of Gamification Originate?

In 2002, a computer programmer and inventor named Nick Pelling coined the term “gamification.” Although there wasn’t a word for it until 2002, gamification existed long before this.

boy scouts gamification technique

When Boy Scouts were awarded badges for their achievements, this employed the gamification technique. Gamification could also be seen in early loyalty or rewards programs from major retailers like American Airlines in 1981, Holiday Inn in 1983, and National Car Rental in 1987.

And of course, video games themselves were growing in popularity in the late 1970s as well. It wasn’t until the 2000s, though, that more businesses and mobile apps started to take advantage of the benefits of gamification.

How Does Gamification Work?

The incentives that come with the gamification of a business service or an app make people want to engage with it more.

chikfila membership program rewards gamification

For example, take a look at a loyalty program for a fast-food company like Chik-fil-A or Panera Bread. For every purchase you make, you earn points or level up your profile in some way. Once you have enough visits or points, you can redeem these points for free food or a discount on your overall purchase.

Related: Unusual Ways Gamification Is Changing Your Life Today 

Incentives like these encourage customers to keep coming back because they want to earn enough points to redeem the rewards. It makes their visits to the restaurant feel more fulfilling, and they feel like they’re getting something out of the transaction too.

But gamification is more than just a business tactic used to increase sales. There are other ways people use gamification to make everyday tasks easier and boost employee morale.

Workplace Gamification In Action

In addition to being used in loyalty reward programs for retail and food brands, gamification is often used internally within companies to incentivize employees to work harder. For example, has your company ever run a contest to see who could sign up the most people for a mailing list or who could make the most money in sales?

Contests like these motivate employees to work harder because there are goals to achieve and prizes to win.


Gamification can also be used in mobile apps like Duolingo or Pokémon GO to help you reach personal goals.

Duolingo, used for learning new languages, lets you set daily experience goals, earn badges as you progress through a language tree, and compete against other users. Pokémon GO is primarily a game, but it uses gamification techniques to incentivize users to get out into the world and exercise.

You may also use gamification techniques in your everyday life and not even realize it. Have you ever had a task you really didn’t want to complete but promised yourself a reward when you completed it, like an outing or a snack? The system of completing a task and getting a reward in return is highly motivating and typically helps you reach goals faster.

How Do You Use Gamification?

You’ve probably been involved with multiple apps and programs over your life that uses gamification as an engagement technique.

Gamification is simple but powerful. Knowing that businesses use gamification as a marketing tactic won’t make us stop using their loyalty rewards programs. Still, it’s nice to be fully aware of the pros and cons of the gamification reward system.

If you’re still curious about what gamification looks like in action for personal goals, check out these apps that gamify the experience of working out to make it more fun and engaging for you.


These 7 Mobile Apps Will Motivate You to Work Out

Want to get fit but struggle with the motivation to do it? These apps and games for Android and iOS make training a whole lot more fun.

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