5 reward priorities in gamification

I wonder whether it would be helpful to think of  gamification rewards in priority order – designing what you what to be considered first in player’s heads.

I think that would help gamifiers and their clients get the focus right:

  1. Epic Win – why do I ultimately want to be involved in this activity?
  2. Intrinsic Reward – the intrinsic satisfactions from the activity
  3. Personalised Feedback – knowing how I am really doing against my goal
  4. Non-Financial Extrinsic Rewards – for example, recognising personal bests, social feedback such as a rank on a leaderboard, or a beautiful badge that enhances my online reputation.
  5. Financial Extrinsic Rewards – anything transferable and could conceivably have a financial value to others – status, access, power and stuff (SAPS).

My point is this, us gamifiers need to start our thinking around rewards in gamification program design at priority 1 and work down to 5. In gamification, priority 5 should be the place of last resort. If absolutely necessary I recommend providing financial extrinsic rewards on a surprise and delight, variable-ratio-reward basis in miniscule amounts. It’s both the most costly and the least sustainable reward, as well as being most prone to creating unwanted distortion effects.

I find the classically trained marketing mind approaches gamification by starting with these financial incentives and imagining that gamification is somehow bolting on priorities 4 downward i.e. tactically ‘Slapping on points and badges’ to ‘increase engagement’.  This is just not true and if we change our thinking to consider gamification rewards in a sequence, the pitfall should now be obvious.

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