The Five Ws of Gamification

I was thinking back to going to school years ago and having the teachers talk about the five Ws.  That is we need to look at the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.  While working on gamification project the other day, I was reminded that how important a frame work is to work with.  One of the issues, I think is that business today rush into things without thinking about what they are doing.  Before we adopt one of the many fantastic gamification frameworks that are out there, maybe we need to stop and ask a few questions before we delve into some gamification process before we go down a rabbit hole that does not produce the results we want.

At the very least if we can’t use a framework that exists, we can stop and ask ourselves the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How questions.  The first thing is the Who questions, if we want to add gamification to a process, who are our users.  Sit and think about the segment of the organization/business that you want to be affected by your gamification.  Secondly, ask yourself, what you are trying to solve.  What business problem exists, or what do you want to achieve?  Simple questions but most often overlooked, we want to plow ahead with adding Points, levels, achievements, badges etc. but we must keep in the problem or achievement you are working towards.

Where, If we solved the questions of who and what, the where question comes to mind, the where is the system or process you want to enhance, is it a social media site, or a business process.  If we want to do something we have to know where you are going to do it, as well where can mean the platform, are you going to do it in the cloud, or on an in-house platform.  The next question is when, what is the schedule, if we are setting a goal, one of the important aspects is to ensure it can be delivered and implemented in the time frame that is needed.

Why is next, like what, we need to know why we want to do what we are doing.  With what we looked at the business problem or what you want to achieve but I by defining why you are doing what you are doing is important how gamification aligns with your business goals or organizational goals.  There is no sense doing something if it does not align to your mission or vision of your company.  Lastly How, how do we implement, how do we know what rewards we need, how is a big question.  If you get to the How, then you are ready to talk gamification, in that case get in touch with a company or consultant that specializes in gamification. Gamification.


Narrative is very, whether that narrative is given to us or our personal experience gives us a narrative to use. Think about this the simple game of battleship. The rules are simple, place some plastic ships on a board and randomly choose a square to call, in hopes of hitting the other guys ship if you sink them you win. Really put that way is not very compelling, what if in narrative of the game is about two opposing nations who have sent there fleet out to invade your country, in defense of your country you must stop the other fleet by sinking each ship and therefore saving your country and become the hero of the hour. Now you have put some context around what you are doing.

Narration can be both part of the game as well as what a person may interpret into the game through their own knowledge of the world around them. I believe people like context and that there actions means something and adds value, a narrative can help drive that out. Narrative helps build what I like to refer to as “What In It For Me” (Whif-em).
In games, narrative can be simple such as our battleship game, or it can be complex as in games like World of Warcraft where the story is well developed and can drive players to take one of many actions available to them to play within that narrative (story), but what about businesses, business are not games they are serious. But, yet I think there is narrative that businesses have that can be used to help build Gamification efforts.

Where could we look to find the narrative of a company, first place I would look is to the culture of the company that is the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviours shared by people within the organization. Culture is typically represented by the language, decision making, symbols, stories, legends and daily work practices. Gamification efforts need to fit into the existing culture of the company, and should be addressing a business need or problem that already exists.

How can we measure Narrative, through the companies stories and legends, not something that we measure easily, Hubbard, whom I just discovered wrote a book about how to measure anything, often businesses measure what is easy, not what is important. Measuring narrative, may be difficult, but how this type of thing can be invaluable when building a strong narrative to add Gamification to someone system.

What is Gamification?

What is Gamification?

Gamification what is it exactly, and why would we want to add games to the work place, after all the work place is supposed to be a place of work, not a place where we go to play games. While the word Gamification is relatively new the concept of having fun at work goes back almost 40 years to a gentlemen named Charles Coonradt, who asked the question ““Why would people pay for the privilege of working harder at their chosen sport or recreational pursuit than they would work at a job where they are being paid?” He recognized early on that people worked harder at sports and activities outside the workplace then inside. He recognized five fundamental principles:

Clearly defined goals
Better scorekeeping and scorecards
More frequent feedback
A higher degree of personal choice of methods
Consistent coaching

Clearly these five principles are the building block of modern gamification. But still this does answer what exactly is Gamification. The most accepted wide spread answer to this is that gamification is the application of game like elements or design into non-gaming applications. As gamification as we know it today has been around for more than a decade it has grown to mean much more than just adding a few game like elements to make what you are doing more fun.

But what is a game? Jesse Schell offers up this definition of “a game is a problem-solving activity approached with playful attitude.” Kevin Werbach a professor from the University of Pennsylvania, and designer of the Courseara Gamification course, tells us a that a game provides the environment, the structures and the rules that allow you to make choices to move through the various pathways to the finish. One of the early concepts of games is from Johan Huizinga, who gave us the concept of the Magic Circle where “the magic circle of a game is where the game takes place, to play a game means entering into a magic circle, or perhaps creating one as a game begins.” (

So there is a concept of being drawn in and therefore we can say that games have boundaries, and players are drawn into an environment that provides structure and rules. Some games have very tight rules that limit what a player to what they can do, take for instance board games such as Monopoly vs. the World of Warcraft where the rules are structures are more loosely coupled allowing the player much more freedom. Now looking at our early concept of games, we can see that in Monopoly the clearly defined goal is to win by bankrupting your opponents this game takes a few hours. While in World of Warcraft, the are multiple goals all competing for your attention, Goals to Level, Goals to acquire Equipment, Goals to kill mobs either as a single player or in small groups or large raids, and even has a common element to monopoly, in what is called PvP (player vs. player) you fight and kill your opponent.

Gamification of course means more than what I have described above, but I wanted to give you a flavor or taste of gamification. Hopefully as I get more time, we can continue this journey together to learn about gamification.

Cheers Harry

Can Gamification work for everyone?

There are a number of questions we can ask organizations to start the process for Gamification, First and foremost, can a business issue or process be identified where Gamification can be applied. For now I want to set that aside, and agree that Gamification can and will continue to be used to solve business issues. The focus I would like to look at is once we get past what is the business problem; we have to address a number of questions concerning who are our targets. By targets of course I mean who as gamifiers are the people we want to reach out too?

Considering the size of some of the global organizations out there, this could be a daunting task, to figure out who are users are? What behavior(s) we wish to modify, change or reinforce? Lastly, what are some of the motivators we need to use to achieve success? The basic answer to most Gamification is what typically is referred to as PBL (Points, Badges and Leaderboards). While PBL, does have merits as a motivator, a good Gamification design needs dig deeper into understanding what makes a person tick. Mehta and Kass (2012) states that, “developing learning technologies with some game-like elements provides evidence that it will be possible to use games to transform behaviors. But systematically achieving that effect will require us to draw on more than game-design experience.” This suggests that in order for Gamification to be successful, we have to go beyond game play, but also a fundamental need to understand how users learn.

One of the theories that work well is Kolb’s learning styles, MacKeracher (2004) states that “Learning and therefore knowing , requires both a means for taking in and understanding experience through representing that experience in the mind as concepts or felt sensations, and a means for transforming the resulting representations.” Kolb in MacKeracher (2004) states that ‘Simple perception is not sufficient for learning; something must be done with it.”


As Gamification matures the learning experience is going to be more important that the rewards and games. Kim (2012) presents a variation on Bartle’s playing type, which when playing true games works fine with the following player types:

• Killers: those who act against other game players

• Achievers: those who build up their in-game status

• Explorers: those who gather artifacts and look around

• Socializers: those who build friendships

However, businesses should not be confused with games, and Kim (2012) suggests the following nomenclature instead of what Bartle uses in his model. As Gamifiers I don’t think it is enough to work just with Bartle’s model, we also must be aware that both the learning model and the player model must exist at the same time. Neither model is exclusively mutual of each other, in fact I would like to suggest without the learning model, laid upon Bartle’s type, that long term Gamification sustainability within the system would lost. So in order to work with a large user community, Gamification must work on multiple levels of learning for users.

Amy Jo Kim