In the gamification of applications, especially community driven web applications, is there a 'max' level of granularity that motivates users to participate or the designer can just go wild without any repercussions?

People play games with hope to win/defeat them. If there are too many steps in a game that will be discouraging to users and most people will just quit. However, if the steps decrease, they should get harder to avoid having every user at the top of the pyramid. This could also discourage users.

In case this is not clear, an example would be the current privileges of SE. If they were to increase in quantity and be finer in quality, would that lead to a bad or better experience for users?

  • welcome to UX.SE. So the question is how best to fine-tune a system of rewards for the user? There's a new gamification stackoverflow site that's coming out soon.
    – Mayo
    Apr 21, 2015 at 16:35
  • @Mayo thanks. Yes, that is effectively the question. I didn't phrase it like that because I feared asking the 'how' would be to broad. I am interested in knowing if there is a way to do it. Apr 21, 2015 at 16:40
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    There's always repercussions. But the level of granularity you are aiming for is entirely dependent on all the specifics of your particular project. There is no universal rule to this.
    – DA01
    Apr 21, 2015 at 16:42
  • @DA01, thanks. I guess as usual nothing beats testing, testing and testing things in one's environment until a match is found. I thought that maybe on the trove of online communities currently in existence there has been a notable trend on this. Apr 21, 2015 at 19:55
  • If you can, perhaps come back with one particular example. It might be easier to analyze things in a particular context. For example, the SE badges. What they have going for them is that they are mostly secondary to being able to use the site. Aside from a few key badges worth gaining (to edit and such), they're mostly there for those that really care about them, and for those that don't, it's no big deal. That's very different than say, your game example, where having to accomplish tasks step-by-step may be the very goal of the game and what makes it fun.
    – DA01
    Apr 21, 2015 at 20:00

2 Answers 2


Link rewards to experience goals

Gamification should be inextricably linked to UX. It should not, most of the time, be fun for fun's sake (that can be a brand strategy).

What I mean by that is simply that the rewards should be linked to key experience goals. The granularity of those goals should drive the gamification strategy.

Take SE as a superb example. Rewards (and penalties) are segmented into various types that are directly linked with user actions needed to maintain a healthy site: reputation, badges, profile, and detailed stats. Each has been carefully designed and evolved to drive users to defined activities.

In other words, “Gamification” starts with an outline of what you want people to do. From there you can correlate a system of personalization, rewards, and penalties. The granularity of it is really not something to be concerned with directly.

  • Your answer provides a perspective I had not considered that is more important than the rewards themselves. Thanks for the insight. Apr 21, 2015 at 19:57
  • Glad to help @LungeloXimba. Have fun with it! Apr 21, 2015 at 20:14

I would use some caution with incredible granularity of gamification.

The old style of gamification encouraged competition and with the more levels of granularity the greater the percieved competion.

Research has shown that certain demographics are less likely to participate or shy away with too much competition (women primarily).

So if you implemenation of gamification themes becomes overly competitive you may alienate your demographics (which may be a good thing if you targeting a certain group)

Check out this paper in regards to demographic differences with gamificatin

Also if you do gamification wrong you can turn users away.

When not to use gamification (Via this smashing magazine article)

  • websites shouldnt have difficulty levels (if its too hard they will leave)
  • Dont spam. Your twitter/facebook followers dont care if you checked into chipotle 7 times this week,
  • Dont force users to play (dont prolong the interaction if they want to get in and get out).

In short no a designer cannot go wild with gamification without possible repercussions

  • +1 on the smashing magazine article. This ties in with @plainclothes answer that gameficiation should not take centre stage, but should be driven by the goal I want users to achieve Apr 21, 2015 at 20:30

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