Guest Column - January/February 2012

Gamification—What, Why and How?

By Carmen Nesenson

Gamer Demographics

To be successful, a gamified strategy must not only tap into the demographics, desires and motivators of its audience, but the participant's game personality type as well.

There are four types of game personalities, as defined by the Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology. The four types are the Achiever, the Socializer, the Explorer and the Killer. Achievers are players who seek points, ranking, status and other types of measurements throughout a game. Socializers, the largest group at 80 percent of player types, play games mostly for the enjoyment they get by interacting with other players. Explorers like to take their time discovering and learning, and like to receive social credit for it, and Killers thrive on competition—they like to win and let everyone know it!

Game Dynamics

Once you understand your demographics and the player personalities, it is important to understand game dynamics and how they drive engagement. Michael Wu, Ph.D., principal scientific analyst for Lithium, explains that we must understand how humans behave, in order to understand game dynamics. He illustrates this concept through B.J. Fogg's behavior model, which states there are three required factors that underlie any human behavior: motivation, ability and trigger.

When designing a gamified application, players must be given motivation to do a specific behavior (such as an emotional connection or beating a friend in a competition). They must also have the ability to complete the behavior (time, skill, knowledge, money) and a trigger (call-to-action). It is not about having one or the other, but about making sure that all three of those factors come together at the same time. If they do not, then the player will lose interest, leave the game and probably never come back.

Gamification in Action

So let's get down to the question we are all thinking: Does gamification actually work? One example of a successful gamification application is a recent solution BI Worldwide created for Schwan's Home Service. Schwan's wanted to increase awareness, trial and purchases of their Chef Jet line of Asian cuisine. BI Worldwide applied gamification techniques and created a promotional site themed toward the Chinese New Year with a "Test Your Cooking Skills" challenge game. The game provided a fun and interactive experience with product information for the new dishes. As a result, sales increased by more than 6 percent in just over a month, Schwan's saw a sales conversion rate of almost 50 percent, and participants came back more than seven times per person to engage with the game. In short, it was a tremendous success.

Another great gamification success story is that of DevHub, an online Web site builder and Web host. To increase user interaction on their site, DevHub applied gamification techniques by giving rewards to participants who completed certain tasks on the site. They also added more features to their Web sites, including competitions for prizes. The results were impressive. The percentage of users who finished building their sites increased from 10 percent to 80 percent, actions per session rose from two to 18, and average revenue per user increased fourfold.

As businesses contemplate bringing gamification into their future strategies, they should keep in mind that it is not just about slapping some badges and a leaderboard onto a Web site. Gamification is a scientific approach that lets you target your demographic, engage them based on their desires and motivate them in order to drive the specific behavior that you are seeking. Used correctly, gamification can have extremely positive results.


As Interactive Marketing Strategist for BI Worldwide, Carmen Nesenson is responsible for conceptualizing and designing interactive marketing campaigns and social engagement strategies. She has recently relocated to Minnesota from Los Angeles after spending time with The Walt Disney Corporation, where she focused on online promotions and social engagement for the Disney Interactive Media Group. For more information, visit