Friday, August 30, 2013

Monitoring Players Activities in Gamified Systems

The most popular definition of gamification is the widely quoted definition from Deterding, Dixon, Khaled and Nacke (2011): “the use of design elements characteristic for games in non-game contexts”. This definition can be extended to the use of game design elements in non-game contexts, to drive game like engagement in order to promote desired behaviours.

A gamified system can then be defined as any non-game context with the addition of game elements. The purpose of a gamified system is to engage users and influence their behaviours in order to reach the system’s objectives more efficiently.

A Gamified System
If the context is digital, then the gamified system is some software application incorporating those game elements. The system can be a website or a web application. It can run on a server and be accessed by a computer with a web browser or it can be an app running on a smartphone storing data in the cloud. The system can be built as a gamified system from the start or some piece of gamification software can be added to an existing application. 

If the context is non-digital, a software system can be used to support the addition of the game elements and to monitor users’ activities. The software system may rely on specific devices or other applications to get the data from the non-digital context or it may need the intervention of a human user.

The users of gamified systems, those whose behaviours are to be changed, are called players. Players may have an active or a passive role in their relation to the system. If the context is non-digital, mediators are needed, either human users or some specific device. The system might have other kind of non-player users that act as mediators between the system and the non-game context. Players themselves can also act as mediators having an active role within the gamified system.

In digital non-game contexts, gamification platforms like PunchTab, Uplaude or CaptainUp provide tools to power websites, blogs and web applications. These tools can be simple add-ons or plug-ins to monitor and reward the players’ activities. In this approach, users take a passive role since they cannot control what is monitored and just let the system watch their actions.

Systems like Nike+, a well-known example of gamification, are non-game, non-digital contexts where a device (a smartphone or other specific device from Nike) act as a mediator, monitoring players' (runners) activities. Another similar example is Zamzee, targeting a younger audience.

ClassDojo is an example of a gamified system, where the non-game context is non-digital (a classroom) and a special user (the teacher) monitors the players' (students) activities. ChoreWars is a another example where the special user can also be a player.

Lift is a gamified system where players through the web or using an app, can set personal goals to improve their habits (like doing more exercise or drinking more water, the top popular habits). Each player's achievements can be shared with other players. Lift is an example where the players themselves act as mediators, monitoring and registering their own activities. Foodzy is another system where the players act as mediators.

(this post is based in a paper recently presented at the PLE Conference 2013 in Berlin - Simões, Redondo, Díaz, Vilas & Aguiar (2013); see also this other post).


Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., & Nacke, L. (2011). From Game Design Elements to Gamefulness: Defining “Gamification, Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference Envisioning Future Media Environments.

Simões, Jorge; Redondo, Rebeca Díaz; Vilas, Ana Fernández; Ademar Aguiar (2013). Using Gamification to Improve Participation in a Social Learning Environment. In: THE PLE CONFERENCE 2013, 2013. Berlim. The PLE Conference 2013 Proceedings (to be published)

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