Lessons learned from our gamification projects.

Written by Vasilis Gkogkidis


In this blog post GamFed members share experiences from successes and failures alike to help us move forward and improve.

This a conversation that GamFed members had on our private slack channel.

To make it easier to read, I took this conversation and made it into a play.


It has two acts based on two questions asked by Pete Jenkins and Gustavo Tondello.

The first act is about success and the second is about failure.

There were more people involved in the actual chat online but for practical reasons they are not part of this little play. Shout out to Andres Luis Garcia Parker, Viola Nicolluci and Sandra Abadir for joining.


Introducing the characters:

Pete Jenkins: Founder of gamification consultancy GAMIFICATION+, chair of GamFed and Gamification Europe and Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Brighton.

Vasilis Gkogkidis: Organiser of Gamification Europe, Gamification Trainer at GAMIFICATION+, LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Facilitator

Gustavo Tondello: Gamification and Positive Computing Researcher and Consultant

Michiel Van Eunen: Gamification Expert, Escape Room Designer, LEGO Serious Play Facilitator, Experience STAR Facilitator

Sabrina Bruehwiler: Gamification Consultant and Designer, creator of User Adventures

Rui Patricio: Gamification for Design and Innovation Professional, Lecturer and Researcher at IADE Creative University



Our characters are gathered around a round table in a fancy meeting room. From out of the window we can see the Thames south bank with the Shard clearly standing out. This is down town London. Everyone looks very serious but their clothes do not match the setup.

Pete is wearing a Candy Crush shirt. Vasilis is wearing a Luigi costume with hat and everything. Gustavo is wearing a Super Mario costume with fake moustache and everything. Michiel is wearing an Assasin’s Creed looking like cape. Sabrina is wearing a Link from Legend of Zelda sweater and Rui has a Pikachu outfit on that features one of the best tails ever seen on a costume.


Act 1: Lessons from positive gamification experiences

Pete clears his throat and starts the conversation.


Pete Jenkins: Let’s start with a positive. Can someone tell us about a gamification project success they’ve had? Can you share a positive gamification experience?


Vasilis has already thought of an answer for that question so he adjusts his Luigi hat and goes first.


Vasilis Gkogkidis: Suggesting Kahoot to clients to use for training is always a big hit. One guy that attended one of my free lectures and we played Kahoot that day came to a Lego Serious Play workshop I did last month and he told me “I used Kahoot in my company and everyone said it was the best training we ever had ever”. So that’s something very positive.

Gustavo Tondello: Cool! I’ve also tried Kahoot in some of my lectures. It’s not always easy to find topics to use it with. But when I do, students usually say that’s when of the best lectures of the course!


Then Michiel Van Eunen the master of Escape Rooms shared his very positive experience designing Escape Rooms. Without lowering his cape of course to keep the mystery going.


Michiel Van Eunen: In a few weeks I’m kicking off a program called ‘Into the Woods’ for KPN. (largest telecom provider in Netherlands). They have used my Escape Rooms for over a year, and – based on its success – actually wanted me to create a game for chain-wide collaboration.

First of all, it created excitement. Everyone who heard about it wanted to play and attended a session in the last 1,5 year/

For event based learning (like the Escape Rooms), the magic is in the debriefing. I use the PLAY framework (Play, Learn, Apply, Yield), to debrief shortly after playing

The ‘game’ created a solid and safe environment to reflect on, meanwhile discussing behavioural and company cultural patterns that emerge


Everyone nodded their heads and thought about playing on of Michiel’s Escape Rooms.


Sabrina Bruehwiler – Link also shared her very interesting take on the positives of gamification.


Sabrina Bruehwiler: The feedback I get from my clients is that the first major benefit of Gamification for our clients is usually that they start thinking in a different way. It helps them set and reach their goals. There is a huge amount of change management involved and strategy that leads to set and defined goals before even starting the designs.


Pete Jenkins: Interesting, was the client engagement to gamify the product or the company? Which outcome was a side effect of the other?


Sabrina Bruehwiler: It all happens with each other. Usually I work with Product Gamification, in this case it was about building an app (with attached headphones). If you think about it: you can’t make a great gamified product if your company’s strategy isn’t aligned to it. Where is the goal of Gamification otherwise? If the client doesn’t know why he uses Gamification, what problem he wants to solve, it will fail! If the company doesn’t know it’s users, business goals and can then define its desired actions, Gamification will not lead anywhere. It would just be added. I am surprised though about how many companies don’t communicate those goals throughout their stakeholders! The UX department is fiddling around with this, the IT department with that, oh and the marketing department does something totally different. Getting the targets right from the very beginning is key and I’ve unfortunately seen companies being very unsure with it! In my opinion, good Gamification consults about general business questions, because they are always co-related!


Then Gustavo added some lessons learned from gamifying a whole university course.


Gustavo Tondello: For a university course on business systems analysis, I used a simple platform where students could submit quests (small exercises for them to practice the techniques learned on the course) for XP. The XP was only used as a goal setting mechanism, as well as a way to convert it to a numeric grade (as required by the university). But I believe that what students valued more is that I always give feedback for the quests they submit. If everything is ok, the quest is approved and they earn points; otherwise, I return it to them with feedback explaining what they need to improve. I believe that what works in this situation is that students actually feel they are learning and improving their skills as they get the opportunity to try again after ‘failing’ a quest the first time.


Pete Jenkins: That’s interesting. So, grades were secondary but feedback was much more important for the students!


Gustavo Tondello: Yes, that’s exactly right! I received very good feedback from students on this component of the course. But it does require more time from the professor (or teaching assistants) to implement than normal, because you need to individually respond each submission with useful feedback.

However, the score was also important, many students completed just enough quests to get a full grade in this component of the course. Grades are still important not only because of the course itself, but here it’s a strong selection component for internship positions, so some students really pursue grades for better chances at internships.


Pete Jenkins: Interesting, how many students did more than was needed for a full grade? Would this percentage show the effectiveness of the Gamification used?


Gustavo Tondello: I believe that approximately 10% of the students did more than was needed. In this case, I don’t think gamification helped in motivating students to do more than the requirement, but at least they felt more motivated to do the required work — as some mentioned with their own words in the evaluation. The biggest workload was writing the feedback. I’ve also heard the suggestion to getting students to evaluate each other, but I haven’t tried it yet.


Rui – Pikachu was charged and ready to talk!


Rui Patricio: I am using a gamified tool Idea Chef to support teams in idea development. Every time we use this approach, companies are identifying not only more motivation and engagement in the process of developing new services and products but also cognitive and social outcomes.

In my case I use a gamified tool, not game. It means that people don’t need to step out of the work process. So, their intrinsic motivation is to be capable of influencing the final solution with their specific contribution.

Enhancing the process with their own views, ideas and experiences in an open and fun environment which is complemented with extrinsic motivators like peer recognition and scoring for each contribution


Act 2: Lessons from negative gamification experiences


Gustavo Tondello: Ok, so we have a lot of positive experiences, very good! Now, anyone willing to share a negative experience and what you learned from it that can be useful to the community?


Rui Patricio: Embracing change is always an issue and convincing people to use gamification is hard.

It challenges mind sets and behaviours and sometimes people don’t like to lose their power and share info with the others at the same level. Open environment is not always positive.

In other situations, people are afraid of not playing well or understanding the rules.

Another issue is managing the expectations of both problem owners and participants/players.


Sabrina Bruehwiler: Clients that suddenly in the middle of the arrangement realise they are still following the wrong strategy, goals and user group and that their companies vision isn’t the one they communicated to us. It’s great if that happens in the beginning, but not after all the game elements were defined and the design process has started. This basically means start from 0 again.


Rui: Hmmm.. how to get your clients to “honestly” look at themselves in the mirror!


Sabrina Bruehwiler: Yeah, the problem is that they are sometimes not aware of it. That we can usually change. But then they need to find out what they really want to get out of it and what they really want to stand for, and that is hard for a lot of people. Especially as it is hard for them to understand that a business isn’t just a machine, but a living and feeling construct of people working for the same goal.

A lot of times you need to help the client define what their culture is! There are 4 different types I came across (probably more, but this is what I can come up with now:

  1. Companies that don’t have a defined culture and you need to help them defining it.
  2. Companies that have a Culture in place but don’t communicate it
  3. Companies that have the right culture in place but work on individual goals instead of the ones defined by the company or
  4. Companies grew out of their culture, they need help changing


And with that last comment from Sabrina, the lights start going down and our characters get out of the room one by one.


End of Lessons learned from our gamification projects.


I hope you enjoyed our little play, see you next time!


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