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21 May

Enhancing gamification: The power of game boosters

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Table of contents
  1. Defining game boosters: What makes games more engaging and emotional?
  2. Game boosters: Types and implementation
  3. 1. Feedback systems
  4. 2. Leaderboards
  5. 3. Badges and awards
  6. 4. Risk of progress loss
  7. 5. Personalization/customization
  8. 6. Room for growth and development
  9. 7. Countdown timers
  10. 8. Storytelling/heroes
  11. 9. Social interaction
  12. 10. Cause-driven engagement
  13. Wrapping up
1.
Defining game boosters: What makes games more engaging and emotional?

Gamification has proven very effective when used correctly. In our previous articles, we categorized marketing games, investigated which types are best suited to different stages of the sales funnel, and determined the most effective channels for each stage. This comprehensive approach offers a bigger picture and enhances the effectiveness of your gamification strategies.

However, there’s one tool that can make your games even more powerful: game boosters. With these, you can make subscribers return to the game repeatedly or wait for a new one to start, keeping them consistently engaged and attached to your brand.

Defining game boosters: What makes games more engaging and emotional?

The essence of the game is a fusion of human nature and skillful design.

For the Win

For the Win,

by Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter.

The answer to this question is simple: motivation, which psychological research categorizes as either extrinsic or intrinsic.

Intrinsic motivators

Intrinsic motivation comes from an internal desire to engage in a task and is based on an appeal to certain emotions, including:

  • competence: A sense of capability;
  • resonance: Aligning tasks with personal interests or life’s purpose;
  • learning: Driven by the process of acquiring new skills or knowledge;
  • feeling of accomplishment: Motivation stemming from the satisfaction of completing a task, irrespective of the reward.

Extrinsic motivators

Extrinsic motivation derives from external factors that revolve around rewards, incentives, and social recognition:

  • incentive motivation: Motivation derived from external rewards, focusing on the outcome rather than the task;
  • social motivation: Driven by the desire for social acceptance and the opportunity to share achievements within a social group.

In their book For the Win, Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter recommend against attaching extrinsic motivators to activities that are already intrinsically motivating. We do not yet have enough data to support or disprove this theory. Although we have seen cases with successful combinations of both. 

Game boosters: Types and implementation

Below, we will explore nine types of boosters. Some are extrinsic motivators, some are intrinsic, and some are a mix of both.

1. Feedback systems

Feedback systems within gamified email marketing provide players with information on their progress, their achievements, and areas for improvement.

Why these boosters work and are extremely useful:

  • feedback systems appeal to players’ desire for recognition and validation. By acknowledging their efforts and achievements, these systems make users feel valued and appreciated, boosting their motivation to continue;
  • helpful tips and suggestions can reduce frustration and enhance the overall user experience, fostering a sense of being supported and guided.

Implementation of such boosters:

  • progress bar: Display visual indicators of the player’s progress toward a goal, making it clear how much they have accomplished and how much remains;
  • personalized messages: After a player completes a task or reaches a milestone, send them a personalized email highlighting their achievement and suggesting their next steps;
  • completion feedback: Provide players with immediate feedback after completing a level or task, acknowledge their success and encourage further engagement;
  • real-time tips and hints: Include tips or hints in emails to help users navigate challenges and improve their performance.

Game types these boosters can apply to:

  • puzzles;
  • luck and chance games;
  • educational games;
  • discover games, like in escape rooms;
  • challenge and competition.

(Source: Email from Stripo)

Tips on how to use them best:

  • be specific and relevant;
  • provide suggestions for improvement;
  • use positive reinforcement by focusing on positive aspects of the player's performance to encourage continued engagement;
  • personalize communications by using their name and referencing specific actions they’ve taken.
  • include the next steps.

Example of achievement badges

(Source: World of Words)

Marketing channels that could benefit from these boosters:

  • email;
  • mobile apps;
  • websites

2. Leaderboards

Leaderboards rank players based on their performance, encouraging competition and fostering a sense of achievement.

Why these boosters work and are extremely useful:

  • leaderboards tap into players’ competitive nature and their desire for social recognition, thus motivating them to improve their ranking through competition;
  • seeing one’s name on a leaderboard provides a sense of accomplishment and validates one’s efforts.

Implementations of such boosters:

  • global and personal leaderboards: Display both overall rankings and personal standings to motivate users through competition with others and themselves;
  • thematic leaderboards: Create leaderboards focused on specific categories or themes to give different players opportunities to excel in different ways.
  • time-limited leaderboards: Set time frames for leaderboards to encourage frequent participation and sustained engagement.

Example of a time-limited leaderboard from Grammarly

(Source: Email from Grammarly)

Game types these boosters can apply to:

  • puzzles;
  • educational games;
  • discovery games;
  • challenges and competitions.

Tips on how to use them best:

  • update the leaderboards regularly;
  • showcase top performers to recognize their success and inspire others;
  • highlight achievements by specifying, whenever possible, exactly why the top performers won;
  • provide clear criteria;
  • if you want to boost your booster 🙂 , let the players share their results, scores, performance, and leaderboard positions with others.

Sharing results to social media as a game booster — Stripo

(Source: Email from Stripo)

Marketing channels that could benefit from these boosters:

  • email;
  • mobile apps.

3. Badges and awards

Badges and awards recognize players for their achievements and milestones, providing both tangible and intangible rewards that validate their efforts.

Why these boosters work and are extremely useful:

  • badges and awards provide players with recognition and a sense of accomplishment, motivating them to continue engaging;
  • offering physical or virtual rewards adds an extra layer of motivation as players strive to earn something they can use or display.

Implementations of such boosters:

  • rewards: Offer both virtual and physical rewards for significant milestones, providing tangible incentives for engagement;
  • achievement badges: Create and distribute unique badges for specific achievements, motivating users to reach particular goals;
  • prizes: Offer subscribers a prize if they complete your game successfully, such as a discount or free subscription upgrade.

Example of winning a tangible prize

(Source: Email from Stripo)

Game types these boosters can apply to:

  • puzzle games;
  • educational games;
  • discovery games;
  • challenge and competition games.

Tips on how to use them best:

  • create visually appealing badges;
  • celebrate milestones;
  • create a badge collection;
  • provide valuable rewards.

Marketing channels that could benefit from these boosters:

  • emails;
  • mobile apps.

It is worth noting that badges and awards can be used without being directly implemented in games. For instance, they might be used in loyalty programs, in banking to motivate clients to use a card more often, or in the HORECA industry to encourage clients to use services repeatedly.

Example of badges and awards being used as boosters but not directly in a game

(Source: Booking app)

4. Risk of progress loss

The risk of losing progress or facing penalties introduces significant stakes, making the gaming experience more intense and engaging.

Why this booster works and is extremely useful:

  • the threat of penalties or progress loss adds urgency and excitement to gameplay, motivating players to be more careful and strategic in their actions.

Application of such boosters:

  • error penalties: Implement specific consequences for mistakes or wrong decisions, such as deducting points or imposing in-game disadvantages;
  • accumulation and loss: Create gameplay elements where players accumulate prizes (points or achievements) over time, but risk losing all accumulated rewards upon a major failure. 

Deducting points

(Source: Email from Stripo)

Game types it applies to:

  • luck and chance games;
  • educational games;
  • discovery games;
  • puzzle games.

Tips on how to apply it best:

  • ensure the potential losses are significant enough to matter but not so harsh that they discourage continued play;
  • clearly communicate the consequences of failure to keep the stakes transparent;
  • start with smaller penalties and gradually increase the risk as players advance to maintain an appropriate challenge;
  • provide ways for players to recover from losses through additional tasks or bonuses, keeping them motivated.

Marketing channels that could benefit from this booster:

  • email;
  • mobile apps.

5. Personalization/customization

Personalization in gamified email marketing tailors the experience to the individual player’s preferences and behaviors, enhancing their engagement and satisfaction.

Why these boosters work and are extremely useful:

  • personalization appeals to players’ desire for individuality and control, making them feel unique and valued;
  • tailored experiences are more relevant and satisfying, leading to higher engagement and motivation.

Implementations of such boosters:

  • custom game scenarios: Adapt the game experience to the players’ interests and preferences based on their behavior or choices;
  • customizable avatars: Allow players to create and personalize their avatars, adding a personal touch to the game.

Game types these boosters can apply to:

  • discovery games;
  • creative games.

Tips on how to use them best:

  • collect data on customer preferences and behaviors;
  • offer choices by providing players with options to customize their experience, such as avatars and game scenarios;
  • adapt in real-time.

Marketing channels that could benefit from these boosters:

  • email;
  • mobile apps.

Just as with badges and rewards, you can use these boosters independently from a game. For instance, in a banking or other app, you could let your clients customize their avatars once they have achieved certain milestones through using your services.

Example of personalization in banking — Monobank

(Source: Monobank app)

6. Room for growth and development

Growth and development systems provide players with opportunities to progress and unlock new features, thus adding depth and motivation to the gaming experience.

Why these boosters work and are extremely useful:

  • players feel a sense of accomplishment as they level up and develop new skills;
  • growth opportunities keep players engaged and motivated to improve their performance.

Implementations of such boosters:

  • skill trees: Allow users to choose their skill development path, which can add depth and strategy to a game;
  • level systems: Introduce a level system through which players can advance by completing tasks, gaining new skills, or unlocking features.

Choosing levels of difficulty as a booster for email gamification

(Source: Email from Stripo)

Game types these boosters can apply to:

  • educational games;
  • puzzle games;
  • challenge and competition games.

Tips on how to use them best:

  • clearly display the player’s level and progress to keep them motivated;
  • offer valuable rewards for reaching new levels and developing skills;
  • let the player choose their skill development path to align with their interests and goals.

Marketing channels that could benefit from these boosters:

  • email;
  • mobile apps.

7. Countdown timers

Countdown timers add a sense of urgency to tasks or challenges, encouraging players to act quickly and stay engaged.

Why these boosters work and are extremely useful:

  • countdown timers create urgency, motivating players to complete tasks promptly;
  • time-bound challenges can increase user engagement by adding excitement and pressure.

Implementations of such boosters

  • timed challenges: Introduce challenges with specific time limits to encourage quick completion.

Note that timers can look like regular clocks moving backward or like progress bars.

Example of using a timer as a game booster

(Source: Email from Stripo)

Game types these boosters can apply to:

  • puzzle games;
  • educational games;
  • discovery games;
  • creative games (sometimes);
  • challenge and competition games.

Tips on how to use them best:

  • clearly communicate the time limits for challenges or offers;
  • ensure that timed challenges are achievable in the time allowed to avoid frustration;
  • provide rewards for completing tasks within the time limit to motivate players.

Marketing channels that could benefit from these boosters:

  • emails;
  • mobile apps;
  • websites;
  • social media.

8. Storytelling/heroes

Storytelling and hero boosters use narrative elements to engage players, making them feel like protagonists in a compelling story.

Why these boosters work and are extremely useful:

  • storytelling creates an emotional connection and makes the gaming experience more immersive and enjoyable, which increases player investment in the game.

Implementations of such boosters:

  • narrative progression: Incorporate a storyline that progresses as players complete tasks, keeping them engaged;
  • character development: Allow players to develop their characters within the game to add depth and personal investment;
  • hero’s journey: Structure the game around a hero’s journey, giving the player a sense of purpose and direction. It is not essential for the storyline to be related to your brand.

Example of using storytelling as a booster to make gamification more powerful

(Source: Stripo)

Game types these boosters can apply to:

  • discovery games;
  • educational games;
  • puzzle games;
  • challenge and competition games;
  • creative games.

Tips on how to use them best:

  • develop characters that players can relate to and will care about;
  • align the tasks with the story — ensure the game tasks and challenges are relevant to the storyline;
  • end each level or chapter with a cliffhanger to keep players coming back;
  • allow the player to make choices that affect the story to increase their investment in the game.

Example of adding a hero to email gamification as a booster

(Source: Email from Stripo)

Marketing channels that could benefit from these boosters:

  • email;
  • website;
  • mobile apps;
  • social media;
  • offline (in stores).

9. Social interaction

Social interaction boosters encourage players to engage with each other, fostering a sense of community and collaboration.

Why these boosters work and are extremely useful:

  • social interaction fosters a sense of belonging and support among players;
  • engaging with others can increase motivation and enjoyment.

Implementations of such boosters:

  • team challenges: Create challenges that require teamwork to achieve collective goals in order to encourage collaboration;
  • social sharing: Allow players to share their achievements on social media, and extend the game’s reach and impact;
  • community achievements: Reward players for contributing to community goals.

Game types these boosters can apply to:

  • educational games;
  • challenge and competition games.

Tips on how to use them best:

  • design challenges that require collaboration and teamwork to succeed;
  • celebrate community success;
  • encourage sharing;
  • build a supportive community: Create a positive and inclusive environment in which players feel encouraged to interact and collaborate.

Marketing channels that could benefit from these boosters:

  • mobile apps;
  • offline (in stores).

10. Cause-driven engagement

Cause-driven boosters leverage social and environmental causes to create a deeper emotional connection with players. Such games are aligned with important causes, such as saving wildlife or supporting charities, which resonate on a personal level.

Why these boosters work and are extremely useful:

  • players feel more attached and engaged when the game aligns with their personal values and the causes they care about;
  • playing for a cause gives a player a sense of purpose, making the gaming experience more meaningful and rewarding.

Implementations of such boosters:

  • environmental impact games: Add game elements that focus on environmental issues, such as saving dolphins, planting trees, or reducing pollution;
  • charity games: Create games in which a portion of the proceeds or in-game achievements result in donations to a specified charity. Alternatively, you can simply let the players play and then donate on their behalf — the more they play, the more you donate.

Example of cause-driven engagement as a game booster

(Source: Email from Stripo)

This game was not itself about the charity, but a dollar was donated on behalf of the player for each attempt.

Game types these boosters can apply to:

  • puzzle games;
  • educational games;
  • discovery games;
  • challenge and competition games;
  • creative games.

Tips on how to use them best:

  • choose relevant causes;
  • highlight the impact;
  • clearly communicate how the player’s actions in the game will contribute to the cause;
  • use storytelling to highlight the importance of the cause and how the player can make a difference;
  • encourage social sharing.

Marketing channels that could benefit from these boosters:

  • email;
  • offline;
  • mobile apps.

Wrapping up

Boosters, also known as motivators, are emotional triggers that hook your subscribers/customers, keep them engaged with a game, and make that game enjoyable.

Key takeaways:

  1. Motivators can be intrinsic (driven by internal desires) or extrinsic (driven by external rewards).
  2. Using a booster or several in combination can significantly enhance player engagement, motivation, and loyalty.
  3. Boosters are not limited to games; they could also be used in loyalty programs, banking, and other applications to motivate and engage customers.
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