Achievement Unlocked: Finish PhD Thesis

Well it sure has been a little quiet around here on this blog for the last year or so, but trust me, I had a good reason for it which I’m happy to be able to finally share. So without further adieu, I present to you my thesis in gamification design entitled Achievement unlocked: Investigating the design of effective gamification experiences for mobile applications and devices

You can download a copy here:

And here’s the abstract for those of you interested.

Using fun and games to motivate and engage people has had a long history. However, more recently designers have begun to directly translate elements from video games to non-game contexts in order to create more motivating and engaging experiences. The term gamification has been coined to describe this design strategy, and in the last five years a large industry has grown around providing gamification services. While research has demonstrated that gamification can be effective at producing behaviour change in various contexts, studies have found that it may also negatively affect the user experience. Further research is needed that investigates the impact that gamification has, not only on motivation and behaviour change, but on the user experience more broadly. This thesis investigates this area in order to contribute to a better understanding of the applicability, usefulness and effectiveness of gamification as a design strategy for engagement.

The original contribution to knowledge of this thesis is a novel framework for designing gamification, derived from an iterative process of evaluation. The thesis begins with the proposal of an initial framework, grounded in literature and used to design a gamification experience for university orientation. The gamification aimed to encourage new students to engage with an orientation event run by a university. A field study was used to evaluate the effectiveness of the gamification. The results of the study suggest that although the achievements were generally well-received by participants, there was little effect on experience and perceived motivation. The study also highlighted a number of design issues unique to gamification designs. These findings were used to expand and update the framework.

The updated gamification design framework was then used to design a gamification experience for people learning to drive. The gamification design aimed to encourage learner drivers to undertake diverse practice. A field study was used to evaluate the effectiveness of the gamification. The results of the study suggest that the gamification had some effect on behaviour change, was well-received, increased enjoyment and had a significant effect on reported motivation. There were only a few minor design issues reported. These findings help justify the use of the proposed framework for gamification design.

As gamification becomes a more popular design technique in both research and industry settings, it is important to investigate effectiveness of the approach. The findings of this thesis contribute to this area, presenting a design framework to aid in the effective design of gamification. Ultimately this thesis contributes to a better understanding of the design and impact of gamification in today’s society and how gamification can be used to affect our daily lives.

Playful interactions on Mailchimp

So I send out a weekly gamification newsletter using Mailchimp and recently I’ve noticed they’ve added some playful changes to the process. What’s interesting about these changes is that they also subtly persuade you to send a better newsletter each week.

Push the big red button

You’ve created your newsletter, you’re ready to send, so you press the send campaign button and you’re presented with the following screen…


Continue reading Playful interactions on Mailchimp

Candy Crush and it’s sweet, sweet manipulative game design

So I briefly played Candy Crush (when I say briefly I mean I sunk enough time into it to get to level 39) and gave up in a fit when I had to get tickets to continue. There was a post on reddit about why it’s so addictive which I commented on and a few redditors found the comment useful so I’ll post it here (with minor edits).

TL;DR really easy to play, clear goals, lots of juicy feedback, a sense of challenge, ability to shortcut using IAP, social competition

Here’s a few of my thoughts, it doesn’t cover everything, but to me these are some of the important ones from a game design POV… Continue reading Candy Crush and it’s sweet, sweet manipulative game design

Gamification – Defining, Designing and Using it (Slideshare)

I was asked to present at Suncorp last week on gamification and my research in the area. Here’s an edited version of the presentation slides if you’re interested (minus the top secret research stuff!). It provides a general overview of gamification and thoughts on design.

ps. My definition for gamification is on slide 67

Gamification – Defining, Designing and Using it from Zac Fitz-Walter

Weekly gamification newsletter launching soon

I’ll be launching a free gamification newsletter in the next few weeks. This newsletter will provide handpicked gamification articles from the week around a number of topics.

For a free weekly fix of gamification sign up now:

This is completely free and don’t worry, your email will never be used for anything but sending you issues of the Gamification Weekly.


Image: Brett Jordan

A brief history of gamification

2013! Where did you come from? Oh hey and it’s nearly February as well… Okay, well I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to take a brief look at gamification over the last few years and see how it’s evolved (or levelled up?). Since then it really has become the popular kid at school, taking off in 2010, becoming a huge buzzword in 2011, getting some ridiculous seed funding (I’m looking at you Badgeville) in 2012, and now in 2013 (apparently the year of gamification, sorry snake),  it’s interesting to see how the term and concept continues to change. This blog post takes a quick look at the history of the term and what we might expect from it in the future.

Here’s a TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) for those of you who just want an overview:

  • Gamification describes the framing an activity like a game to make it more motivating. The concept of gamification isn’t new, but the term describing it is.
  • 2002/2003: The term was apparently first used to describe Nick Pelling’s work
  • 2008: The first documented use of the term gameification was used in a blog post by Bret Terrill
  • 2009: Foursquare released and the gamification “blueprint” of badges, leaderboards and points is born.
  • 2011: The term becomes really popular. It’s added to Gartner’s hype cycle.
  • 2012: People become dubious about gamification. Gartner release another post saying a large number of gamified application will fail by 2014.
  • 2013: Foursquare announces it’s phasing out the gamification elements

Continue reading A brief history of gamification

Presentations at OZCHI 2012

I ran another study this year looking at the use of a gamified mobile event application for university orientation. I’ll be sharing a paper highlighting the results of the study at the OZCHI conference in Melbourne at the end of this month.

Along with this paper I’ll also be presenting a couple of other short papers I co-authored and participating in the Play in Unconventional Places workshop on the Monday.

I’ll make sure to post a link to slides and to the papers once they’ve been published. If you have any questions about the research, conference or publications then contact me.

The games we play [video]

Here’s a neat little video on the little games that we may often play subconsciously while waiting, bored and just filling time.

It’s interesting, I remember playing a similar game in the car when I was little except I would face forward watching the road ahead of us. As we drove I would imagine the car launching into the air to avoid any of the road cast in shadow and then landing again on the sunny parts to recharge it’s jump power.

The video shows how we may often turn to play and games to fill time, and how many of us may create very similar games in similar contexts. Also to me it shows we are all game designers to some extent, even if we don’t realise it.

Defining gamification – new definition by Huotari and Hamari

Kai Huotari and Juho Hamari have just co-authored a new paper, presented at the MindTrek 2012 conference, that provides a new definition for gamification from a service marketing perspective.

They define gamification as “a process of enhancing a service with affordances for gameful experiences in order to support user’s overall value creation“.

They argue that the previous definition by Deterding et al. (2011) highlights that “only non-games can be gamified” which has issues due to service desingers having difficulties identifying exactly what a non-game context is because “the existence of a game is dependent on the subjective perception of the player/user”.  Where past definitions are based on the use of game elements, this new definition emphasises the goal of gamification rather than the methods and it’s relation to previous service marketing research.

The definition has already spurred some interesting discussion on the Gamification Research Network mailing list, both praise and criticism.

You can read more the new definition and access the paper from here: