Gamification design frameworks: Here’s one of the most anticipated topics for our Gamification Guide! After all, frameworks are essential resources for every organisation and individual designing engaging and effective gamified products and services.
You are in Chapter 7 of the Beginner’s Gamification Guide.
Since the creation of the term “gamification” in 2002 by Nick Pelling, this subject has largely been explored in various fields, including education, psychology, game theory, human-computer interaction, business, and medical science.
Despite the widespread attention, approaches to gamification design vary widely depending on the application area.
Today our mission is to introduce you to all 39 unique gamification design frameworks so you can understand gamification design frameworks in all these areas.
Let’s dive into these existing gamification frameworks and look closely at how they operate.
A gamification framework is a set of guidelines or design principles to incorporate game design elements into non-game contexts, such as business, education, or healthcare.
The intention is to make the digital experience more engaging, motivating, or entertaining.
These guidelines provide structure and direction to the process of gamifying a product or service, ensuring that the use of game design elements is adequate, relevant, and appropriate for the intended audience and purpose.
While gamification design frameworks can provide structure and direction to the gamification process, their use is not necessarily a requirement.
Some designers may approach gamification design through a more intuitive, creative, or experimental process without relying on a specific framework.
Whether to use a framework depends on the individual designer’s preferences, experience, and the project’s particular needs.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of gamification design depends on the designer’s ability to effectively utilise game design elements to meet the needs and goals of the intended audience and context.
The MDA framework was developed by Robin Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc, and Robert Zubek to understand the design of engaging video games.
The framework stands for mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics, which correspond to the three essential components of a game.
Simply put, mechanics refer to the game’s rules and define the playing environment’s boundaries. While dynamics describe how you play the game, aesthetics refer to the feelings a player should have while playing the game.
Let’s check in detail what each element means.
Three game components to design an engaging game
The game’s aesthetic.
What makes a game “fun”?
Understanding how games evoke certain emotions is challenging because the vocabulary used to describe games is limited.
It is essential to use a more specific vocabulary when understanding the aesthetics of a game rather than relying solely on terms like “fun” and “gameplay.” This vocabulary includes sensation, fantasy, narrative, challenge, fellowship, discovery, expression, and submission.
No formula outlines the combination and proportion of factors that result in “fun”.
Think of games like Minecraft, Candy Crush, Grand Theft Auto, and Dark Souls.
They are all “fun” games, but they evoke different emotions in players. Minecraft focus on exploration and creativity, Candy Crush is about solving puzzles, Grand Theft Auto is an open-world action game, and Dark Souls is a challenging role-playing game.
Using the MDA framework, designers and players can establish a shared understanding of the game’s intended aesthetic goals.
For example, a designer could use the MDA framework to create a game emphasising puzzle-solving. While players could use it to understand if a game meets their expectations for a more puzzle-oriented experience.
The dynamics are responsible for creating aesthetic experiences in a game.
For example, when you make a challenge through time pressure and opponent play, or when fellowship is encouraged through shared information or winning conditions that are more difficult to achieve alone. Or when expression is enabled through dynamics that allow players to leave their mark.
Dramatic tension is created through the dynamics. It encourages rising tension, release, and denouement.
By developing models that describe the interactions of mechanics and dynamics, game designers can better understand how to create the desired aesthetic experience in the game.
The MDA framework is helpful for game designers as it helps them know how mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics are interconnected and can be used to create engaging video games.
Game designers use the game’s mechanics to create a specific type of playing environment that will evoke particular emotions, such as fun or FOMO (fear of missing out), in the player.
In other words, mechanics refer to the various actions, behaviours, and control mechanisms available to the player within a game.
These mechanics (rules, levels, feedback, for example) support the gameplay dynamics. They are an essential aspect of game design as they determine what the player can and cannot do within the game world and can impact the overall player experience.
The 6D framework is a model for designing successful gamified systems, as outlined by Werbach & Hunter. Their framework consists of six steps that aim to help businesses create a gamified system that meets both business goals and user needs.
In short, fun is a crucial factor in creating a successful and engaging game.
To delve deeper into the concept of fun, Lazzaro has identified four potential types of fun:
As you design for the four-player types, according to Bartle, consider all four fun activities in your gamification efforts to maximise engagement and satisfaction.
Some common game elements include the PBL (points, badges and levels) elements:
Points – can motivate players to engage in desired behaviours. They also clearly indicate progress and can be used to measure success.
Badges – can reward players for reaching specific milestones or completing challenges. They serve as a form of recognition and can be used to show off to others.
Levels – levels provide a way for players to measure their progress and determine their rank. As players progress through levels, they may earn rewards and gain access to new features.
Additionally, you can also use gamification elements such as:
Leaderboards provide a way for players to compare their progress to others. This element can be a motivator for players who enjoy competition and can also serve as a way to measure success.
Virtual currency – tokens or coins- can be used to purchase in-game items, trade with others, or real-world exchange money. This element provides an additional incentive for players to engage in desired behaviours.
Check 108 gamification elements to implement in your gamification design strategy.
Janaki Kumar and Mario Herger introduced a new approach to implementing gamification into enterprise software.
Instead of focusing on mechanics immediately, they suggest adopting a process inspired by “user-centred design”, which puts the user’s goals at the centre of the design process.
The process of player-centred design consists of six steps:
First, it is essential to understand the player and their context to ensure that the project fits their needs. Who is your player? A customer, an employee, a supplier?
The next step is clearly defining the mission by examining the current business situation and determining the desired outcome, aligning the objective with what players are currently doing and what management hopes to achieve.
The third step in designing a game involves understanding the principles of human motivation to ensure the game mechanics are engaging and effective.
This requires a deep understanding of what motivates people to play games, such as the desire for achievement, social connection, and the thrill of competition.
Developers can increase player engagement, satisfaction, and retention by incorporating these motivators into the game design.
For example, a game designer may use a reward system that acknowledges a player’s progress, such as levelling up or earning in-game currency, to tap into the desire for achievement.
On the other hand, incorporating multiplayer options can cater to the social aspect of gaming and allow players to compete or cooperate with others.
The key is understanding what drives player behaviour and using this knowledge to create meaningful and enjoyable mechanics.
To understand the main theories of human motivation, see also:
The fourth step is to apply these game mechanics to create a positive flow for the project.
The fifth step involves continuously managing, monitoring, and measuring progress to ensure the project’s success.
Finally, there are legal and ethical considerations in the enterprise context must be taken into account. Consider compliance with privacy laws and regulations, ethical use of data and player information.
In like manner, ensure that the gamification elements align with company values and policies to avoid potential legal or ethical disputes.
In the article “Gamification in Business: Designing Motivating Solutions to Problem Situations“, Deborah Gears and Karen Braun developed a gamification design model to improve business project staffing by offering employees a positive and engaging experience.
The model is based on game design principles and incorporates employees’ psychological needs through the theory of 16 basic desires and the self-determination theory.
In their process, they combined game design principles with object-oriented systems development processes to include contextual elements and the psychological needs of employees.
The theory of 16 basic desires is a psychological content theory of motivation that provides a way to analyse and predict human behaviour.
The model is based on Reiss’ study of Maslow’s theory of human needs and William James’ theory of internal desires and describes 16 basic desires for things like order, power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, saving, and more.
The self-determination theory (SDT) recognises the social and environmental conditions that affect personal volition and engagement in activities and combines content and process motivation.
Strong basic desires for power, independence, idealism, and curiosity prompt engagement behaviours. At the same time, contextual influences affected participation along the SDT continuum ranging from external control to internal autonomy.
The Octalysis Framework is a renowned gamification design framework that provides insights into the eight core drives that motivate human behaviour.
Developed by Yu-Kai Chou, the framework assumes that while systems are “function-focused” and designed to complete tasks as quickly as possible, humans have emotions, insecurities, and motivations that we need to consider to optimise engagement, motivation, and ROI.
According to Yu-Kai-Chou, the eight core drives are:
Out of the sources we’ve scoured, including databases, libraries, journals, and search engines, 2314 unique works about gamification design frameworks are documented. That’s quite a lot!
For this reason, we categorised the main design frameworks for business, learning, health, and general purpose. Here’s the complete list:
This framework aims to integrate common elements from video games into social learning environments to enhance students’ motivation and learning outcomes. The framework applies game thinking and game elements, including goal orientation, achievement, reinforcement, competition, and fun direction.
This framework guides software designers and researchers in gamifying educational applications. It focuses on using game-thinking and game mechanics and elements to engage users and solve problems. There are five principles: goal orientation, achievement, reinforcement, competition, and fun direction.
This framework is based on social engagement and applied to e-learning environments. It follows the Design Science Research Methodology and consists of five iterative phases: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation.
This framework consists of four phases: declaration, creation, execution, and learning. Based on the principles of Lean UX and Behaviour-Driven Development, and provides a methodology for agile gamification of the learning experience.
This framework proposes using gamification strategies to enhance student involvement in learning environments, specifically in developing computational thinking activities. It guides the appropriate introduction and implementation of game-design elements into the learning environment.
This framework provides information on the elements, actors, data, and behaviours involved in the gamification process for engaging students in adaptive e-learning systems. It is based on the MDA and 6D frameworks and defines a set of dimensions for the gamification process.
Note: The MDA game-design framework (Hunicke et al. 2004) and the 6D framework inspired several frameworks. These include works by Fitz-Walter (2015), Kappen and Nacke (2013), Klock and da Cunha (2015), Neeli (2015), Robson et al. (2015), and Ruhi (2015).
DiTommaso’s framework is rooted in Self Determination Theory (SDT). It entails a step-by-step process that includes determining player motivations, creating goals and objectives, outlining skills, monitoring progress, specifying areas of interest, and desired results, conducting play tests, and refining the design.
Nicholson’s framework covers the following topics: organismic integration theory, situational relevance, situated motivation, universal design for learning, and player-generated content.
Sakamoto’s gamification framework objective was to increase intrinsic motivation in daily life based on five factors: informative, empathetic, persuasive, economic, and ideological.
4.Kappen and Nacke (2013)
A design framework built on the Self Determination Theory (SDT) with five key components: the core of effective gamification, motivated behaviour, game experience, game design process, and enjoyment perception (fun).
5.Marache-Francisco and Brangier (2013)
A design guide and toolkit for the gamification process that takes into account the principles of human-computer interaction (HCI) to recognise the relevant factors. It covers three dimensions: sensory-motor, motivation, emotion and commitment, and cognitive interaction.
6.Francisco Aparicio (2013)
Here’s one more approach based on the Self Determination Theory. This framework aimed at enhancing participation and motivation in various tasks, consisting of three components: game core, engine, and interface.
A streamlined framework known as GAME comprises two stages: task planning, which involves collecting information and understanding the goals and preferences of players, and design, which consists in incorporating relevant game elements, analysing data, gathering feedback, and launching the final product.
8.Merino de Paz (2013)
This design process is a three-phase guideline: 1) Establishing business goals, which encompasses determining suitability, forming a team, setting objectives, outlining outcomes, and profiling players. 2) Design involves identifying desired behaviours, selecting game components, and defining game design. 3) Implementation and maintenance, including development or acquisition, deployment, data collection, and continuous adjustment.
A gamification design framework grounded in persuasive technology and guided by the moral design framework, which involves analysing ethics through defining ethical principles and values, conducting conceptual analysis, engaging stakeholders, and evaluating and refining the design through iteration.
A gamification design model, SMA, focuses on creating engaging and motivational gameful experiences through an iterative process. It comprises four key variables: goals, actions, players, and the system.
A design framework called Octalysis forms an octagonal structure. It includes eight gameful elements: Epic Meaning and Calling, Scarcity and Impatience, Development and Accomplishment, Creativity and Feedback, Social Influence and Relatedness, Ownership and Possession, Unpredictability and Curiosity, and Loss and Avoidance.
A gamification design framework that follows an iterative process and takes into account user experience, motivation, and the overall gamification experience. This framework involves three crucial steps: justification, design, and evaluation.
This gamification framework is inspired by the Person-Artefact-Task (PAT) model, which examines user experiences in computer environments by considering the interaction between persons, tasks, and technology artefacts, including game-design elements.
A framework for sustainable gamification that focuses on maximising the lasting impact of game-based applications by integrating three key elements: Flow Dimension Theory (Csikszentmihalyi 1990), drive motivation components (Pink 2011), and Self Determination Theory (Ryan and Deci 2000).
1.Rojas, Kapralos, and Dubrowski, (2014)
A framework that guides the implementation of gamification in the health sector, including health services, public health, and health-related social policy, comprises four stages: theoretical and model development, pilot testing, evaluation, and full-scale implementation.
A framework for gameful rehabilitation systems design that prioritises the needs of individuals, considers the visual appeal, integrates technology, and considers the surrounding environment.
In the gamification design process, regardless of which framework you choose, it is crucial to prioritize the following factors: fun, motivation, social interaction, desired behaviours, player profiling, and player taxonomy.
By giving importance to these elements, you can develop a gamification plan that is engaging and enjoyable for the players and one that fulfils its intended purpose.
So remember these elements in your next design!
Fun is relevant in most frameworks, with only one exception (Wongso et al. 2015).
Motivation, being the core of the design process, is predominantly supported by the Self Determination Theory (SDT).
Most frameworks consider social interaction in the design process, while all address expected behaviours in the design process either explicitly or implicitly.
The identification of players and a good knowledge of their profiles are considered essential in most frameworks.
The use of player taxonomies, such as Bartle’s and Yee’s taxonomies, are also considered in several frameworks.