How Games Work: The Elder Scrolls Legends


In the two previous How Games Work (which you can read here and here) I talked about two indie games. Now it's time to talk about a game that a big studio has developed. I am talking about The Elder Scrolls Legends developed by Bethesda Softworks.

The Elder Scrolls Legends is an online strategy card game. Much like Hearthstone that Blizzard developed and kind of established the online strategy card game genre. Bethesda is well known for games like the Fallout and the Elder Scrolls series. I am a big fan of the Elder Scrolls franchise since Morrowind came out in 2002 so it made sense for me to try out Legends as I also like card games like Magic the Gathering.

Have a look at the following video in order to understand the basic elements of the game.

In gamification we talk about themes quite a lot as they provide a background to our story. For me, that's one of the main reasons I favor this game over others that are similar. The cards take their names and illustrations from characters and events that are well know from the Elder Scroll universe. There is also a fairly simple story to the story mode but it works perfectly fine as an on boarding tool and it does provide a sense of depth to the game. 

Of course competition is one of the main elements of the game as you play against other players in order to climb ranks, level up and get more powerful cards. Social status is another big part of the game. The more games you win the more you climb the ladder of the game and the better players you can fight against. Your rank can clearly be seen in every game you play. There is also an element of exploration and customisation because you explore the powers of new cards as you go along and you also get to build your own decks as you like.

Talking about decks and cards, collecting is also a big motivation for the players as you acquire better cards and you use them in battle. There are also badges and achievements for all sorts of things that you do in the game and they do give you some nice and sometimes funny feedback. Compared to Hearthstone Legends is quite rewarding to the player too in terms of in game rewards. You have fixed rewards as you level up and you have random rewards because you earn packs and the cards inside are random. 

Overall what can be learned from this How Games Work is how different it is to have a big team working on a project. Like in gamification, the bigger the budget and the more the resources, you are more likely to be able to incorporate a lot of elements in your game. In a game like Legends, Bethesda has put in something for everyone. They have put in a versatile reward system, balanced and interesting gameplay, nice aesthetics and a lot more that a small indie company simply can't do.

Again, depending on your resources and your problem, you should pick wisely what game elements to put into your gamification project. There is no one size fits all solution to gamification.

Let me know if you want me to cover any specific games at

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 King’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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