3 Common Gamification Mistakes Exposed


An education in gamification

In 2011, Gartner predicted that more than 70% of Forbes global 2000 organizations would have at least one gamified application by 2014. A year later, in Nov 2012, Gartner also predicted that 80% of the current gamified applications would fail to meet their business objectives, primarily due to poor design.

Fast forward to 2014, and most evidence suggests that this has come true. While adoption of gamification is being raved about by senior leadership, the people being made to use it are becoming growingly disillusioned by the abundance of leaderboards that promised to infuse excitement and efficiency into mundane jobs. Let’s take a look why:


Mistake 1:

Points, badges andĀ leaderboardsĀ encourage competition and enhance performance


Points, badges and leaderboards are a fundamental part of gamification for motivating good performance, and they are used in the majority of gamified applications. Ā These techniques are beneficial in encouraging healthy competition and levelling up players through meaningful actions. A well designed leader board is a science and an art in giving players a fair chance of getting noticed for their achievements.

However, this has been called in to question by a large number of gamified applications, which instead seem only to incentivize a small fraction of employees and have a negative effect on the majority of players. Research suggests that leaderboards are motivating for the people at the top, but demotivating for the people who are far from it and feel like they will never be able to catch up. It has to be considered whether it is worth alienating the majority of players for the sake of a few high achievers.

Mistake 2:

All you need for gamification is to award points, levels and badges


The key part of gamification is the game. The novelty of points and badges can quickly wear off once people realise they don’t really contribute to the gas bill or paying the rent (unless they lead to career growth or monetary rewards).

The real benefit of gamification will be seen when gamification providers start taking business problems and mapping them to game play, increasing trainability, effectiveness and results of core business-related actionsĀ and decisions through game play.

Monopoly gamification

It is a lot easier to get involved in the game if it relates the tasks you need to do with something unrelated, as it helps you escape from the work world and immerse yourself in a gamified world. It would be much more intuitive to relate different work projects in a CRM with visual analogies, for example animals: Do you go for the hamster, an attractive opportunity but with little reward, or the elephant, a much bigger opportunity but harder to move to where you want it?

This is where gamification can revolutionize the way we think and work. Mapping complex business problems and decision making to an alternate environment enables our brain to think and decide instinctively, and the game takes over the complexity of doing an appropriate analysis.

Mistake 3:

Gamification increases participation and productivity of employees in boring and repetitive tasks.


One of the main problems in game design is getting people to keep playing after the initial excitement has worn off. The game needs to keep being updated and refreshed by adding new content in order to keep the players interested, or else, as has happened in many cases, employee participation drops off rapidly.

Many well-meaning initiatives have come to fail a few months after being launched using gamified apps, simply because fundamentally, employees did not see the core activity as being central to their job responsibilities, and no effort was made to make them feel so.

However, this does not mean gamification is useless. In situations where a workflow or activity is necessary anyway, gamification can have a positive impact. As described in the animal example above, earning the animal is both fun and meaningful as it leads to positive results such as sales. Extra motivation could come from the desire to add new animals to your collection.hamster

With the gamified CRM Zurmo you gain coins and collect items by completing essential work related tasks which can then be redeemed for whatever rewards the company offers. This means you can get tangible rewards for doing a task that is necessary while also being immersed in a digital world.


Gamification has great promise in changing the way enterprises and brands interact with key stakeholders and audiences, but an over-simplified strategy focusing only on points, badges and leaderboards can cause more harm than good to the organisation. These methods can be the fundamental building blocks, but we need to look very carefully at their overall impact on motivation and mind state of the majority of employees, and focus more on creating an engaging game environment.

If you’d like to find out more about how you can implement an effective gamification strategy that doesn’t suffer from these mistakes, please get in touch by either giving us a call on 01273 358000 or by emailing [email protected].

About the author 

Pete Baikins

Pete Baikins is an international authority on gamification, a lifelong gamer, successful entrepreneur and a lecturer. As CEO of Gamification+ Ltd he mentors and trains companies world-wide on the use of gamification to solve business challenges. Gamification+ won the Board of Trade Award from the UK's Department of International Trade in January 2019.

Pete is co-host of the health gamification podcast Health Points and is also Chair of Gamification Europe, the annual conference for Gamification practitioners.

Pete is an Honorary Ambassador for GamFed (International Gamification Confederation), having previously been the Chair from 2014 to February 2019, whose aim is to spread best practices within and support the gamification industry.

After 15 years as a Lecturer on gamification and entrepreneurship at the University of Brighton he now guest lectures on Gamification at Kingā€™s College London and at ESCP Europe at post-graduate and under-graduate levels.

Over the past 20 years Pete has built and sold two businesses. One was in security software and the more recent one was a telecoms and internet connectivity business. He is also an Ambassador for Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce in the UK.

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