By the end of 2014, Gartner Research Report predicts that over 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one "gamified" application, and that "gamification is positioned to become a significant trend in the next five years.

Visual rewards are one of the tools that allow for gamification to be successful. I would like to better understand how specific designs and affordances are applied to visual reward structures. For example, User profile completion is represented with a variety of charts while badges represent specific achievements as in StackExchange sites.

In StackExchange sites badges are used because they follow an "addition model"; the more you do and participate the more score and badges you acquire).

Below is an example of how profile completion is handled in Linkedin and how percived affordance could impact on scalability.

enter image description here

Clarifications : affordance and scalability of Linkedin profile

Your profile strength is a circle which is filled like a cup each time you enter your page, according to how complete your profile is. The highest rank (All-Star) would prioritize your profile in the network’s search engines. It is interesting to point that even as you reach “All-Star” level, the circle (cup) is not never entirely full, insinuating that there is always room for updates and changes.

Linkedin moved away from a progress bar to the circle shape to scale up, Here is an analysis of why this was done. This example portrays very well the challenge I am facing. hope this helps to clarify my questions below:

What considerations should be taken into account when designing a visual reward structure that will scale up comfortably both at IA and visual design levels without users being overwhelmed or missguided ?

Meaningful Play Framework :

Found the below presentation by Sebastian Deterding quite interesting, goes in-depth in explaining how to structure a reward system:

Meaningful Play: Getting Gamification Right : Video & Slides

Below is the situation I am designing for:

Level 1- Profile completion (basic information about the user)

Level 2- Completing certain activities on the site. (Reading documents, answering survey questions)

Level 3 and up to level 6 more complex and hierarchically dependant tasks or activities.

Is there any specific literature that deals with scalability and gamification? (Of course no need for a full literature review about gamification but anything specific to the issue of scalability :)

Any opinion or experience directly related to game mechanics and scalability?

  • 5
    The term 'affordance' is completely misused here. Please see this paper for what it means. – Izhaki Jan 2 '15 at 12:54
  • @ Izhaki,Thanks for the refrence,I mainly used affordance to deal with or discribe circular patterns used in charts, some circular charts could have multiple levels and users would anticipate based on their visual features that they could reach higher scores. does that make sense? i should perhaps include an example! – Okavango Jan 2 '15 at 13:04
  • An example would always help. But I would still argue that this type of anticipation does not fall into an 'actionable property', which is the basis of 'affordance'. – Izhaki Jan 2 '15 at 13:13
  • @Izhaki Actionable property refers to real world affordances like so many examples referenced by Norman. he also contrasts physical affordances to perceived affordances which are mostly what we are dealing with here. So I think you are partially right in that the term used should be "perceived affordance" rather that "affordance". The concept is however not misused particularly if we re speaking about fine-tuning the mechanics of visual rewards and allowing for growth and scalability. – Okavango Jan 2 '15 at 13:31
  • 1
    Well, I think the concept of gamification, itself, is usually scalable. In other words, I think gamifcation is scalable by default in most cases. – DA01 Jan 2 '15 at 15:14

I highly recommend the Gamification course at Coursera, it's really exhaustive and gives as many insights as a Product/UX Owner could hope for.

So, as prof. Kevin Werbach, who runs the course, put it, the Pyramid of Game Elements goes as: Dynamics (high-level element, those mechanisms of human psyche that are making us enjoy games and engage)

Mechanics (mid-level, operational means of machine/engine triggering the dynamics)

Components (low-level, very core visual means of expressing rewards)

Dynamics: there are plethora of psychologic, philosophic and even math books on matter of Dynamics, to me the most important and compelling one is "Homo Ludens" by Johan Huizinga.

Mechanics: (a screenshot from prof. Werbach videolecture) enter image description here

Components being a PBL triad: points, badges and leaderboards. (NB: Stack Exchange is using the whole triad and more, such as hat bashes).

Now, gamification, expressed in PBL is a very simple and endlessly scalable structure, when you think of horizontal scalability: there are no limits of points one user can gain, and the "All-star" circle is never full. However, if you are thinking complexity scalability, it's a whole different problem. People get bored, people grow tired, the game that is too complex can demotivate a gamer by it's own complexity, and so forth. This is how our mind is wired. So, no, there is not much space for complexity scalability in gamification. People might engage in a very complex game when stakes are high, or when they are utterly interested, but in case of the SaaS it's not too probable.

As for your specific case: if I were to design this, I would assign points for basic mono-tasks such as profile completion (however, since the service itself is interested in more data from users, profile completion per se deserves a bigger reward — a badge, just like SE did it), and give badges for more complex tasks. For hierarchical/sequential tasks you can break them down and give your users quest arks, and design some reward to mark those who completed the quest, for example, hats like at SE.

However, I can't stress enough how important it is not to bore your users with tasks that are too complex and too long. A game should be entertaining, that's the essence of it.

MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research http://www.cs.northwestern.edu/~hunicke/MDA.pdf

100 Things Every Designer Should Know About People http://www.amazon.com/Things-Designer-People-Voices-Matter/dp/0321767535 (book on basic neuroscience tech like "people can only hold three entities in their attention focus at once" — this is a very basic guideline book on how not to bore your users and not make them think too much).

| improve this answer | |
  • really like the rational behind the PBL triad though leaderboard are not directly linked to what i am trying to achieve. Also, you are absolutely right in pointing that"since the service itself is interested in more data from users, profile completion per se deserves a bigger reward".@Izhaki based on this response i think my previous comment about mechanics should most probably refer to Components or "core visual means of expressing rewards" Thanks Zoe – Okavango Jan 3 '15 at 13:48
  • NP, good luck with your system! – Zoe K Jan 3 '15 at 18:46


First of all, gamification is a great way of engaging users and making them WANT to contribute to whatever it is they are using. It is obvious that people like games, so adding game-like features (e.g. stackexchange's reputation system) to something, it will naturally increase the user's engagement.


two tutorials/guides on the topic of gamification, for reference:


For a free tutorial, try:



or, if you don't mind spending some money, try:



Some good mechanics that are simple to implements are:

3.1: Badges:

Badges are a great way to engage the user, as long as there are enough to be awarded over a long period of time. This gives the user a feeling of achievement for doing something.

3.2: Decoration:

Users want a feeling of accomplishment for doing something good, so give that to them by giving them various items that they can use to customize their profile, as awards, so they can stand out from other people.

3.3: A levelling system:

A great way of engaging users is by giving them levels. This is simply a number that takes various tasks to increase, giving a competitive touch to your system.


I hope this helps, and as always, good luck.

| improve this answer | |

There is a decent gamification course at coursera.(https://class.coursera.org/gamification-003/lecture)

And as far as experience you probably have tons of it here at stackexchange and linkedIn and slashdot and other places.

What is gamefication except for providing incentives for participating. Stores do this by giving cards in which each time you purchase a coffee (as for example) you get a star. Get 10 stars and you, my friend, get a free cup of coffee.

I'll see if I can find some of the interesting articles on gamefication I've read and post them.

EDIT: Here are a few interesting links.

Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter

From a business perspective: For the Win


Gabe Zichermann on Gamification

Gabe at Ted Talks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2N-5maKZ9Q

eBook: Gamification by Design: http://it-ebooks.info/book/570/

Seth Priebatsh


| improve this answer | |
  • Thanks for the link. I think the answer you provided is more of a comment :) I guess you could edit your answer and incorporate your findings. – Okavango Jan 2 '15 at 16:52
  • Yes. My bookmarks are on my personal computer. And no - I don't regularly upload my bookmarks to gmail. :-) In fact I only do it after I've been inconvenienced by not having done so. – Mayo Jan 2 '15 at 16:54

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.