How to build a business case for gamification?

In a corporate environment, we often get asked to help influencers on how they can build a business case for gamification. A gamification project will require typically an investment that will raise a few questions as to whether this is money spent wisely or not. It is, therefore, a good practice to build a business case.


The first thing a business case should answer is why you think gamification is a good solution to help solve your business problem. The why can range from increasing engagement to decreasing staff turnover, to creating an overall better experience. Your reason why may also include age or demographic profile ideas. For each specific topic, there are a number of reasons why someone goes looking to solve it by adding game psychology and game mechanics into the mix.

Who else in your industry is doing it

The days of being a total pioneer because you are adding gamification into the mix are probably coming to an end in my opinion. But I guess I am dealing with it every day, which may make my judgement slightly clouded. In any case, there are now plenty of use cases for gamification in most work scenarios. When you are drafting up a business case, having other companies similar to yours engaging in this practice makes it less risky to venture down a similar path.

Where possible show numbers

Results numbers and impact numbers are notoriously hard to find and often spiced up by the marketing teams of vendors. Getting objective engagement and improvement numbers may mean doing some investigative research from people that have run projects internally or research institutes. More and more research is happening around gamification impact. Or by attending conferences focused on gamification in your field, you may find plenty of case studies or people willing to talk informally about the impact for their clients.

Address the key questions

Like in all projects, you would want to discuss your main objectives and targets in the business case. Then address the timeline, the scope and the budget required. If you have a project plan or at least a basic approach in mind that will help.

Build a high-level context

Having an idea of what the end result of your project could look like is useful. The high-level context, theme or storyline may well be the part that excites the business. We have definitely experienced this with our clients that the story is what received the biggest buy-in. We find images of other implementations really worthwhile, to make a concept come to life.

Know your decision makers

Like in all things in business, the better you know your decision makers and the kind of information they need, the more likely you are to be successful. Ask others in the company that have received the go-ahead for their project, how they persuaded the decision maker and what the person looked for.  It may take a little bit longer to do this but may increase the chances of securing funding a lot more.

Ask for help from your consultant

We often assist our client to generate a business case that helps them secure the funding for the project with us. We probably know the industry landscape quite well and can give you an educated view. We may also ask for a nominal fee for our know-how at the same time.

What does good gamification feel like?

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When did you last play with something?

Yesterday I was chatting about how I tend to play with something to figure out how it works. The person I was talking to commented on how I named it playing. For me, it made total sense to call it this and it feels for me like play. I know when it is something new, I may not get it the first time and may need to find how I should work it. It was interesting to have pointed out that my natural inclination was to call it playing.

When we play, we also unconsciously learn. Trying out a new game or playing with some new software, gadgets, toys or doing something completely different than you usually do, encourages active learning in a very conscious way. You know and probably expect to have to learn in order to master the ‘new’ thing you are doing.



I could have called it learning a new skill, but to me trying out a new tool, didn’t qualify for learning just yet. However, if it takes a bit of a steep learning curve, I will eventually change my wording towards learning or mastering. I can safely say for example that I may have originally played around with Zoho CRM to get my head around how it works, eventually, I took webinars, went to their conference and looked for specific help files to learn how to make the most of it.

The discussion made me think what is it that makes the difference and is there significance in calling something play and only later learning. Is there maybe something in this? Play happens spontaneously and often unconsciously. Children intuitively learn through playing. For me exploring a new tool or thing feels like playing. I am in the end just pressing buttons and taking steps to find out what the impact is when I do something in my new tool. I know I may not get it right or discover a great new way of working with something. By calling it playing in my mind I allow myself to get it wrong. As soon as I call it learning, I feel as if I should find the right way of doing it.

It may just be a personal thing, but I guess words have meaning and can create associated behaviours.

What do you say when you are trying out a new thing, are you playing with it or learning how to work it?

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Learning about the game design process from an exhibition in the V&A museum in London

The Victoria and Albert Museum is hosting a videogames exhibition to give an insight into the design process behind the making of some known and lesser known games. I took some time to visit the exhibition and I found it inspiring to see how studios are different in their approaches, thanks to size, budget and general preferences. The exhibition features games for various consoles and with various degrees of sophistication.

As you walk into the exhibition, you immediately enter the world of “The journey”, which I find one of those beautifully crafted adventures. You hear about the emotional journey the designers wanted to bring people on, how they conceptualised the imagery that is central to the game experience. You can see the mountains and flying characters develop from concept art into its final concept. I personally loved the way you can read the various storylines for each level, the emotional experiences and gameplay settings in one big colourful spreadsheet. Call me nerdy if you like, but that to me is an exemplary game design document.

You then enter the world of “The Last of Us”, which is pitched as cinematic storytelling. You see how the characters are shaped and formed and how the environment is used to share the storyline. As you move forward in the game, you uncover more and more of the back story. It was also refreshing to see a different approach to the highly structured game design document with a big pinboard with post its, depicting the adventure through the game and character as well as story considerations for each of them. It looked like it had been a lot of fun to create. You can also see how actors gave the lifelike experiences to characters before they were animated.

The one thing I felt walking away from this example is that it seemed to be big budget studio material with a vast team. The next example “Bloodborne” definitely continued on what seemed like a big budget theme. Most people can’t afford to hire an orchestra and a choir to record music for your game. Saying that seeing how they use music to enhance the game. Architectural drawings to create the environment.

I have to say looking through the design notebooks and sketches for characters, it gives a deeper appreciation of what goes into creating a great game. I will urge my clients in the London area to visit, to have them realise that in fact there are so many aspects to game design, which require input, money and time.

To cover more of the genres, the exhibition also includes the game Splatoon, which aims at fashion conscious younger generations. It is fun to see how the characters for the game evolved through their development process and how the team pitched to one of the Nintendo all-stars behind Mario. In contrast, then you also have an example of a self-taught indie game developer and the process she goes through to make small puzzle style games that she likes. she uses self-made graphics created in Photoshop then drags them into Unity and programs a bit of C# to generate the interactions.

The exhibition really gives a good flavour of what game design and development entail when you take the time to stop and read and immerse yourself. You can also play some of the games and hear various behind the scenes talks, recordings, etc. I found it inspiring to see and I am taking away that how I work actually is very reflective of the industry we learn so much from. I think my training in game design definitely assisted in creating these methods, which are not adopted by everyone in our gamification industry. As the exhibition points out, there are more ways than one to reach an end result. I just personally find peace in the fact that I stay true in a large scene to the origins of game design principles.

In other rooms, you have a light touch on some of the negative criticism associated with games from sexism, to white male domination, English language domination, etc. It gives examples of how game makers play with these concepts either to point them out or as a social narrative or simply to test if anyone would pick up the problem. You can also listen to a diverse set of game industry insiders and journalists to hear how the industry is consistently evolving and adapting. It is a bit of a light touch in my view on the whole point of diversity and inclusion, but at least it is there. I was by then buzzing with design ideas, so maybe that also clouded my judgement on it.

I think the next room was a bit of a homage to fans and communities and touches even lighter in e-sports, social media following and other funny things people do when they are super fans of a game character. They do want to create the feel of being live at an e-sports event, but then you only have one bench to sit on or the floor.

the final part of the exhibition then shows a variety of arcade games and party games, which are definitely fun to try and play. None of them I had seen before, but quite a few were engaging to play.

If you are in London in the near future and have an interest in the design and development side of gamification or games, then I would highly recommend a visit. There were a few parents with children and only the kids who actually wanted to know how to make games really lasted the distance, the ones that came to play only were done rather fast.


Game design

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Will incentives increase motivation?

When we talk about gamification for behaviour change, we regularly receive the question will incentives increase motivation? The answer really depends on the situation and the individual.

When I think back to deciding to run the London and New York marathons, it was my personal goal and motivation to take on a big challenge that was the real motivation. The medal and t-shirt reward for finishing was the added bonus and recognition that I had achieved my goal. But at the same time, I have to admit, some of the shorter races in preparation of the big one, I entered for the t-shirt at the end.

When I studied for my degree and MBA, the certificate at the end of the 4 and 3 years respectively was what I was after to open doors to a career path that I wanted to pursue. I have also completed lots of shorter courses where the main motivation for taking them was my curiosity into the topic. I have also started a bunch of online courses and never continued to finish the certificate because I got what I wanted to know out of them anyway.




Incentives have been used to motivate salespeople for years and they tend to align with specific goals to achieve them. For sales forces, this has proven to work very well and continues to do so, providing the rewards are achievable and often consist of smaller milestones on the way to a big recognition.

When it comes to other professions, peer recognition from knowledgeable peers is more appreciated than any incentive. Invention or disproving a theory may be the best incentive for a scientist. In learning, it may just be the pursuit of knowledge rather than a place on a leaderboard or a badge that drives a person to learn more.

In economics, we find the concept of marginal propensity returns, where the first incentive gives the biggest reward and subsequent rewards diminish in effectiveness. I personally believe it is the same with motivation if we look at incentives as external motivational factors.

The strongest motivation is always the internal or intrinsic one, this is where a person will continue striving towards the goal despite criticism and challenges. An incentive can help to keep going along the way, but it wouldn’t change the path a person is on.

How to know whether to incentivise or not, is test it out and measure the result. Also test when you take away the incentive, whether you then also take away the motivation to take action. If this is the case you probably have externalised an internal motivation and replaced it with an expectation of an external reward. My advice and suggested best practise is to use incentives sparingly and mindfully, so you don’t fall into the trap of externalising intrinsic motivation.

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Being memorable is easier with a story

Did you know, that being memorable is easier with a story? In fact, people are 22 times more likely to remember a story instead of remembering a fact or statistic. Great to start a story with a fact in that case, don’t you think. But that was really to grab your attention.

I love stories and I have to say, in the work we do, we have had the privilege of meeting lots of great storytellers and companies that are open to creating stories to engage their people. Each game we create tends to have a story attached, and the players become active parts of how the story evolves.

Whether it is a cybersecurity boardgame where the business your CEO has chosen comes under attack from various angles. Sometimes it is human error, sometimes it is intentional malicious behaviour and technology malfunction. Each player has a differing level of impact on certain areas and as a team, you combat your business back to safety.

In an online training, the captain sets you a challenge to navigate through all your learning and arrive at your destination with all your crew still alive and well. Mission failure leads to endangerment of your crew and has the potential to sink your challenge altogether.

Whilst people may not remember the detail of the missions or scenarios, they do remember the impact and how it made them feel. Just think of it this way, when you go to the movies to watch a documentary, what are the parts you will talk about when someone asks ‘how was the movie?’. I went to see the movie made about the lead up to the Enron collapse, what I can remember is the hype and activity in the lead up to the collapse and then the devastation and impact on all the lives after the facts, including of those who caused it.

One of my favourite storytellers of today’s world and who sadly passed away not so long ago is Hans Rosling, who specialised in storytelling around factual information. He made graphs come to life with stories.

If you are unsure of how to master this craft for use in gamification and business, then look for material on screenwriting for movies. One of my favourites on the topic is John Truby. He explains that most stories have been built around characters who go through something, whether it is a story of transformation, coming of age, love, challenge and overcoming or even a simple adventure.

The key is to pick characters and storylines that fit your messaging and corporate values. If your bank suddenly started talking about characters that are losing it all and going through a major financial crisis, that may not be what you want to hear to trust them more. However, a beauty brand that makes you feel like you are worth it may well get your attention.

The advertising and marketing fields have made their millions in creating great stories when it comes to internal messaging to our employees most of the time we don’t see the same level of storytelling, which I think is a real shame because it is one of the most effective ways of sharing information.

So here is my challenge to you today, what will you explain with a story?

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