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Gamification: Boosting Engagement and Motivation

I've been a fan of gaming since I can remember - from when I was a kid playing Super Mario Brothers and Legend of Zelda, spending hours and hours just to defeat the game, and then turn around and start all over again at level 1.

And for anyone who knows me, it may come as no surprise that I love collecting badges. I am not sure where this love for badges came from, but I did find this photo from when I was in elementary school, standing proudly with all the badges I earned at Brownies.


I always achieved the excellence badges in Gym class too with the Provincial testing, all that work to get a round cloth badge, that was the same as all the other badges just a different colour. Same for swimming, I had all my badges by the time I was 9 years old, but needed to wait until I was twelve to take Bronze Medallion due to age requirements. Now I wasn't any better at swimming or gym than other kids, I was just extra-driven by the badges, not sure why, but it kept me engaged and motivated - wanting to do my best every time.


I contribute it partly to the way I was raised, I would bring home a test where I achieved 98% and my Dad would say: "That's fantastic, what happened to the other 2%?". Now I know he was proud of me and he always told me he was, but it increased my motivation to bring home that 100%.

Which brings me to gamification. So what is Gamification?

Here is an online definition:

"Gamification is a technique where designers insert gameplay elements in non-gaming settings so as to enhance user engagement with a product or service. By weaving suitably fun features such as leaderboards and badges into an existing system, designers tap users’ intrinsic motivations so they enjoy using it."

I am a huge fan of gamification, from the GCTools (GCConnex) through my workplace badges, the Virtual Atlassian Summit 2019 badges, and of course our Atlassian Community monthly badges.

I participated in a GCTools Hackathon a few years ago where we spun Gamification into Social Recognition and presented five peer-recognition badges to the judges. Here is our team "Go Go Gadget" slides for your interest and our "Go Go Gadget" Periscope pitch to the judges. We didn't place in the hackathon but we did get "Best Virtual Participation" award.


So where does this love of badges come from? Can anyone else relate? Are you also engaged and motivated by gamification and/or social recognition badges? If not, what motivates you?


Ben Thoma Atlassian Team Dec 03, 2019

I can totally relate, @Jodi LeBlanc.

I recently jumped back into Scouting with my son and daughter, and I think my connection to gamification started there. I definitely wanted a "complete" uniform when I was a Cub Scout, and later a Boy Scout. Now, as a leader, I've learned the importance of ensuring that our Scouts receive the adventure loops and badges they've earned (with as little display as possible).

I've also found—via my kids, again—that I cannot start new video games because of this need for "completing." We started playing Pokemon Go together, and now it's pretty much just me trying to "catch them all."

I have also seen this extend into adulthood with "life-logging." I still use Swarm to track my activities, and there's one list I would love to complete: Texas Monthly's Top 50 BBQ Joints in Texas. I also use Untappd to track what craft beer I've tried. (There are so many 'levels' for most badges!) And I have found Life Cycle to be a different kind of gamification—no badges, but tracking and insights into your time habits via a 'quantified self' experience.

The subject also reminds me of a podcast I heard recently about habits. In the conversation, the CEO of Strides, Kyle Richey, talks about how he's observed people's desire to keep a streak going leads to better habits. I think this insight might be related. What do you think?

I'd love to hear if others have resources or insights into the way gamification can be used to better people's lives or experiences.

Wow I am super impressed @Ben Thoma thanks for sharing! Yes it is all or nothing with me as well, I can't bear to start a new game or even consider playing Pokemon Go or I would never rest until I completed the game or caught them all lol.

The 50 BBQ Joints you referenced reminded me of this hilarious shot-by-shot that two tourists remade of everything Homer Simpson ate in New Orleans, if you haven't seen the video it is worth the watch.

I love the idea of Life Cycle and I will be sure to check that out as well as the podcast you shared. I completely agree that having that streak makes it hard to break a habit, I once had 280 daily Fitness pal entries (don't know how I missed a day to break that streak) and over 100 daily treadmills days (hurt my ankle that is how that one ended). 

Looking forward to hearing what other resources people share based on your question of using gamification to better people's lives or experiences.

Ben Thoma Atlassian Team Dec 03, 2019

@Jodi LeBlanc Thanks for sharing that video. I have respect that level of commitment to any project—especially when it combines great food and The Simpsons!

Thanks Ben, that video is so good - I had to rewatch it after I shared it :)

Jimmy Seddon Community Leader Dec 04, 2019

@Jodi LeBlanc this is fantastic!  I haven't heard the term "Brownies" since my sister was of the age she was involved in them.  I was also involved in beavers, cubs and scouts (Canadian youth programs unite!)

This was actually a great way for me to reflect back on what I did and how that possibly affects where I am today.  I still have my cub sash, which I took a picture of:


Much like you I also went after as many badges as possible.  Also, Cubs had the concept of pack leaders, where there would be five cubs selected to help and guide the others through the activities.  Where we were cubs was a three year activity before you moved on to Scouts.  Usually pack leaders were those in their third year base on their experience, I however, was one of the youngest pack leaders being selected in my second year, where I was a leader for two years instead of just one.  As I reflect on this I can see how I making my way into the Atlassian Community was no mistake it's been a part of my nature to help others since I've been very young.

Anyway I've reminisced long enough, I have my one set of articles I need to finish.  But thank you for the prompt down memory lane.

Like Jodi LeBlanc likes this

That's awesome @Jimmy Seddon - I love that you still have your cub sash! I agree - Canadian youth programs unite! Someone once said that if you look back at the things you have done when you were a kid, that is usually what your passion is when you are an adult. That definitely rings true with your love of helping others as a child and now here in the community. Yes I agree, nice to go down memory lane from time to time. That's awesome, looking forward to reading your articles! 

Like Jimmy Seddon likes this

Hi, there! My name is Claudia and I am a student of Audio-visual Communication from Italy.

I had the occasion to use Confluence and JIRA in the past, and now I am writing my thesis on gamification; I would love to write about how Atlassian puts bits of gamification here and there in its products (such as the "cupcakes for all!" message when the queue of untriaged issues on JIRA is emptied), so I am collecting as much documentation as I can about gamification in Atlassian. Do you mind if I ask you some questions on this subject?

Like Jodi LeBlanc likes this

Hi Claudia, nice to connect. That sounds like a fantastic thesis topic, I have sadly not yet used the gamification components of Jira or Confluence. However, I love the gamification on this community platform, happy to answer any questions you may have in that area. I would encourage you to reach out to @Jimmy Seddon who posted above and any other community leaders or members as I am sure they would have experiences to share. All the best on your thesis!

Like # people like this

Thank you, @Jodi LeBlanc! I have also seen this thread by @Jennifer_Weser, "Gamification", but I will not be able to comment unless I join the related group (and I do not think I should). Anyway, it seems that the topic has become pretty hot recently within Atlassian community, so I am sure my time spent here is going to be valuable!

I see a lot of gamification right on this platform, indeed. When has it been set up? Do you think activity on the community platform has been boosted since then?

Like Monique vdB likes this

Thanks Claudia, @Monique vdB is the Queen of Gamification on Atlassian Community and she launches new badges regularly that drive community engagement. If you click on a profile and select the badges tab you can see each individual's "Trophy case". Also search badges or monthly badges and you will see Mo's articles on each badge and how you achieve it. The Community was launched in March 2017.

Like # people like this

Thanks @Jodi LeBlanc! @Monique vdB, may I ask you what you think about the effect of these gamification elements (such as the badges, which I personally enjoy collecting) on the community? What kind of feedbacks did you get about the badges, for instance?


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