Game Mechanics in Gamification: Part 3

Mechanics in Gamification: Part 3


Game Mechanics in Gamification: Part 3

We’re back! In this post we are going to cover 4 more game mechanics in gamified applications. We will break down Story, Feedback, HP/Stamina, and Challenges. Once again, we’ll give examples of how these mechanics work, what makes them effective, and either an example of how we have used them to help clients achieve their project goals, or a brainstorm of a potential use case.

Self Determination Theory Overview

As the gamification mechanics that we are talking about today will be analysed with the SDT (Self Determination Theory) framework, we’ll cover some key concepts in this quick review.

SDT has a focus on three psychological needs and explains how the fulfillment of those needs can impact personal motivation. An increase in the fulfillment of these needs will help move an activity from being externally motivated to internally motivated. External motivation is where a person performs an activity due to pressures from outside themselves, and internal motivation is when a person performs an activity because they enjoy it or find value in doing that action. 


Competence is a person’s need to feel like they have the ability to do well at the activity they are engaged in.


Autonomy is a person’s need to feel like they have a choice in what they do and that the choice matters.


Relatedness is a person’s need to feel like they are a part of a community and that they contribute to the group.

With a quick review of Self Determination Theory under our belt, let’s break down some common gamification mechanics. 


How is the story a gamification mechanic?

Stories as a gamification mechanic is when a designer will add a storyline that progresses along with the user. This could be classified as a progression system, but has the added benefit of tapping into the innate draw stories have over us. 

A story system doesn’t have to be directly told to the user. You can also have a significantly deep story that is initially hidden from the player. An example of this kind of storytelling would be in the Myst or the Dark Souls Series. Within Dark Souls, the majority of the story of the world is told through item descriptions and optional character dialog. There isn’t any narration to the player, except through the opening cutscene which sets the world and the player’s goal. The purpose of the story in Dark Souls is to provide a deep mystery that is an optional bonus for any player who chose to explore it. 

A more classic example of a story based system would be a point and click adventure such as Space Quest or King’s Quest. These games use story to give direction to players as well as being a draw for players to enjoy. 

There is a third kind of story as mechanic as well — it’s collaborative storytelling, which can be found in tabletop RPGs and Improv. With a tabletop RPGs, players usually bring their own characters and choose how to interact with different situations. Players may help particular characters, who then in turn returns the favor later in the story. Alternatively, they may have fought and defeated that character leading to an entirely different story playing out.


Effectiveness of stories in gamification

Depending on the implementation of your story system, it can provide additional value. As a baseline, humans are natural storytellers, and we are drawn to stories. A well written and enthralling story has proven to be some of the most engaging media ever. As a caveat, any story in a game also carry the same risks as stories used in any setting, but let’s dive into what the mechanical benefits there are. A good story often engages people by being unpredictable, covers relationships between characters, have clear goals with failures and successes. There is a reason people still read and write stories in the digital era. By being a naturally compelling part of our history, people find stories to be enjoyable to follow along with.

If you go towards the hidden story approach, the user can explore and find bits of story they string together over time. From there, you get to piggyback on the existing benefits of the rewards as a mechanic, where the addition of rewards that build on top of each other reinforce the value of other pieces. By having your rewards provide worldbuilding and an engaging story, it makes them more attractive for users to follow. With this kind of mechanic, your world building and story doesn’t have to be real time. For example, a player could be collecting journals of an explorer as they follow them along, or discover snippets of lore about why the world has the names and buildings it does.

A collaborative story can be incredibly engaging, which will create a story that people will share in the future. The benefits from this method are an increased sense of competence, relatedness and autonomy by the user. Users who are engaged in an ongoing story where choices matter and impact future events and characters in the story hits a home run for each component of SDT theory. Relatedness comes from the shared storytelling and being able to help their fellow players. When players are able to make choices that leave an impact on the world they feel a real sense of Autonomy. Competency can depend on the Game Master or central storyteller and how an action is resolved. For example, if a player wants to jump over a river how do you determine the result? Some games use dice, but you could also use any number of skills or knowledge checks. 

Lastly, a storyline to follow can provide users with a sense of relatedness. If players are engaged in your story, then you get the motivational benefits of rewards as continuing the story becomes reward for users every time they do an action that allows them to experience more of the world. 

How stories are used in an educational game

Dialect is a card game designed by Kathryn Hymes and Hakkan Seyalioglu. The goal of the game is to explore creating a language in isolation and what it means for that language to then be lost. It is an excellent example of using storytelling as a gamification mechanic to teach the players about what it really means to lose a language. The game starts with setting a reason for the players to be isolated from the rest of the world. Players then create new words depending on a prompt card and some aspect of their isolation. Throughout the course of the game players will develop their own dialect, which will essentially die at the end of the session. It shows what can be lost when a language goes extinct.

Dialect game, designed to show how a language dies


What is feedback?

The feedback system is how you present to the user what impact their actions have within your application. The implementation of a feedback systems work has a huge impact on how any other game mechanics affect your users. This is because the way in which you set your feedback will determine how the user understands their actions. As we are pulling mechanics from games we are looking at how games will display feedback. 

For feedback systems, the scale of importance of the feedback is important. Has the user accomplished a goal that would take some time and dedication, or did they make a common action that would increase their points? On the other hand, too frequent feedback can turn an intended reward into an annoyance in some cases.

How does feedback motivate users?

Feedback is one of the most important considerations when you are working at gamifying an application. Why? Because without users having any point of reference, on their actions, they will be robbed of the chance of engaging with your mechanics. 

Imagine you are playing a Mario-like game and you jump on what looks to be a new enemy. They flash green, so what does that mean? Did you hit the enemy? Are they invulnerable? Did they heal? Is there a weak point you need to hit that isn’t indicated? From this example do you want to play this game? Would it matter that later on it has some amazing set pieces you get to experience if the gameplay keeps prompting confusion like that? I know I wouldn’t play that game because I can’t tell what’s happening. My actions don’t seem to matter, and I can’t tell if I am doing better or worse.

How feedback promotes engagement

Let’s take a look at how the use of an effective feedback system helped researchers to develop a game that led to multiple scientific breakthroughs in biochemistry. Foldit was designed as a puzzle game where players try to fold protein structures as small as possible. Their score is updated in real time, so when they move parts of the protein their score will either go up or down. The choice to have a real time feedback system like that gives players the tool to understand what how they are progressing towards a solution. Afterwards, players would have their solutions evaluated in the game and the highest scoring solutions would be tested by researchers to determine if the proposed protieve fold was a native state. They also have two different leaderboards which organize people into two different groups. Soloists and Evolvers, who either develop their own solutions or improve upon others. Giving users feedback in this distinction between play modes gives users a categorization to follow, and promotes both methods of play. As such, the Foldit project has been running since 2008, and has formed 21 scientific papers.

A beginner problem in

HP/Stamina systems

What is a HP/Stamina system?

An HP/Stamina system is one where you are looking to restrict user actions that will return over time. The most common example would be an energy system where users take actions that have a cost of energy. The goal of this mechanism is to have users use your app on a daily basis without using it for a long period of time each day. This kind of mechanic requires specific intent to use effectively. When designed poorly, these systems can reduce user enjoyment if they want to use the app for a long time. To mitigate this risk and promote more daily user activity, you can look at introducing daily rewards.

Effectiveness of HP/Stamina

So HP/Stamina mechanics are designed to limit the amount users can play your game. Why can it be an effective mechanic for gamification? Let’s break down the different benefits for limiting user actions. 

  • Scarce resources: It develops a sense of scarcity. In moderation, every choice the user makes has a cost. The user has limited interactions to progress with their goals, which leads to users carefully planning out how they want to achieve their in-app goals. 
  • Retention: It creates a daily drive for users to return. If your gamified application has a progression system that users find compelling, then having a limited resource such as health or stamina will prevent people from binging to achieve their targeted goals, but encourage smaller, incremental progress. By doing a daily interaction, the user is more likely to develop a habit which naturally becomes internalized over time.

Use of a HP/Stamina system in Habit Trackers 

There are lots of different habit trackers out there, but they all tend to use a hidden stamina system. When forming habits, an important principle is that each day at max you can complete your daily goal once. A famous example of daily habit tracking effective comes from Benjamin Franklin. He sought to improve himself in 13 different virtues. Everyday, he would mark on a grid if he met his goal for each virtue. Over time, while he would fail in some virtues, he had fewer instances of failure and improved overall. The restriction of only completing or failing a habit once per day is what makes tracking impactful. If you had multiple chances at failing to meet your goal each day, it wouldn’t help you build a habit. Scientific research shows that you need at least 18 days of working at a habit to truly develop it. Hence, if these tracking principles are used in the design of a stamina or HP system, a gamified app can help users develop a daily habit gradually.

This is how Benjamin Franklin would track his successes in trying to complete his 13 virtues. Each dot is a day where he felt he accomplished his goal


What are challenges?

Challenges can be similar to achievements, but can provide a greater degree of signposting. Quests in games such as World of Warcraft are an excellent example of a challenge. Giving the player several different tasks gives the player separate goals and the ability to choose how they go about completing the tasks. You can also lean challenges into being a more difficult option for players to strive for. These can be having users use less resources, or restrict some of their actions to provide a more interesting experience.

How challenges adds value in gamification

In gamification, challenges are a great way to provide scaffolding for your users to make progress towards an overarching goal. By making a challenge multi-part, you not only provide an end-goal like an achievement, but you also direct the player on how to achieve the goal. An example of what this looks like is a quest in a roleplaying game, where the player has to go to meet with a hunter, then talk with a herbalist, then defeat a griffin. If this resulted in just a single achievement, this could lead to players attempting to fight a powerful griffin while being underprepared. By making it a quest (series of challenges), players get directed to characters and shops that will help them prepare for the big fight. While you could have made each step separate achievements, you would end up with a massive list of achievements. Setting challenges as a multi-step quest provides an excellent form of signposting and can be combined with rewards and achievements to provide users with great guidance and goals for them to follow. 

Challenges can also be used to show players how they can increase the difficulty level so that they can remain in a flow state. An example in the same roleplaying game setting would be to pass a level without harming an enemy or to beat a level entirely in stealth. The best designed versions of this are where users have a large variety of tools to use to accomplish this challenge, and the level is designed in a way where all the tools are not required.

You can also have specific challenge levels or areas that more experienced players can engage with if they want a more difficult challenge. Depending on the number of these more difficult options you have, it may be more effective to have achievements for beating one, half, and all challenge areas then an achievement for each. 

Challenges in a gamified engagement 

For this example, we are going to look at how uses challenges to improve social media engagements. When you enter a sweepstake, you are presented with a list of challenges you can do for additional tickets into the sweepstakes. As the user’s goal is to maximize their chances in a given sweepstakes, the list of challenges gives users a direct strategy to increase their odds. While none of these tasks are difficult, they follow into more of a quest style of challenges as described earlier.

When each challenge be clearly identified as to what needs to be done, users get a direct sense of what their task is and how to finish it. The feedback system provides users a clear indication when they have completed each task. With this quest-like structure, it’s no wonder that with over a million contests they’ve had over 3.5 billion entries. For scale that means for every contest, they had roughly 3,000 interactions which bolstered the hosts social media coverage across all platforms.

This list of challenges encourages users to promote a sweepstakes

Closing thoughts

I hope that you have found this series informative on using different mechanics in gamification. It’s been a fun exercise writing out why each different mechanic can be useful in gamification. There are many other mechanics that don’t have as much research behind them, but would be fun to speculate on their effectiveness. If you’d like to read such blog posts let us know by leaving a comment!


Review of several studies about gamification in the wellbeing space.

Johnson, Daniel & Deterding, Sebastian & Kuhn, Kerri-Ann & Staneva, Aleksandra & Stoyanov, Stoyan & Hides, Leanne. (2016). Gamification for Health and Wellbeing:A Systematic Review of the Literature. Internet Interventions. 6. 89-106. 10.1016/j.invent.2016.10.002. 

Self Determination Resource

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2021). Self Determination Theory. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from

Examples Referenced

Benjamin  Franklin virtuous 



Have an idea you want to see come to life?


Why Games Matter Episode 1

The Raccoopod: Why Games Matter 1

The Raccoopod Podcast

Join us in our new series where we talk about why games matter.  In this first episode I share how Dark Souls helped me through a really rough period in my life. Let us know, we’d love to hear your thoughts.


Why Games Matter: Zach’s Story

Welcome to the Raccoopod! This is going to be the start of a smaller series in our podcast.  We wanted to have an open and honest dialogue about the power that games can have and what they have done for us. I’m your host Zach Bearinger, and Today we are going to talk about one of the most impactful games I have ever experienced.  


In order to set the stage for how much games have helped me we have to go into my state of mind.  I was entering into my second year of university and my first year as a resident assistant.  After my first semester my grades had dropped a bit and I was feeling stressed about being a good RA for my residents.  I suffer from pschlothemia which has long periods of depression or mania.  During this time I was struck hard with a deep depressive swing.  I found myself waking up every morning, opening my eyes and questioning if it was worth continuing on.  I found myself struggling with thoughts of suicide every couple of days.  It was a dark time for me.  


It was during this time when the first dark souls game released, I had a resident who was really excited and had got me excited for it as well.  So on release day we headed over to pick up our copies and headed home excited to play.  


By playing the original Dark Souls I found myself up against a game that seemed too difficult and was going to be something that I couldn’t ever beat.  However every attempt I made I found myself making improvements becoming better at the game until I could conquer the challenge in front of me.  Then the game would throw something harder and harder and harder and I eventually hit the point where one of the last bosses I fought I was able to beat on my first try.  I had gone from someone who struggled with some of the easiest enemies to someone who beat a late stage boss on my first try.  The sense of accomplishment I felt at that moment was something I don’t know if I’ll ever forget, and it seems weird to have that be a moment I won’t forget but during that period I was feeling less and less like I was worthwhile and everything I touched was a failure.  But through Dark Souls I realized that those perceptions I had about my life just weren’t true, that I did have value, and that I could always do more than I imagined if I would continue to push myself beyond my current limits.  That’s just one example of the power a game has in my life where I have been uplifted by many different games for different reasons.  


Ok so games have some value outside of just entertainment but how can we apply something like this for gamification.  After all Dark Souls required years of development and cost millions of dollar to make.  If we want to have gamification in more things we need to distill lessons from larger projects so that we can apply them on a smaller scale.  What can we learn from my story with Dark Souls?  There are a couple lessons we can learn but we’ll stick to 3. First is that being in a game world you are able to fail with far more freedom than the real world.  There is a well known mechanic from Dark Souls where when you die you lose all your currency and have to return to where you died to recover your currency.  This meant that failing would give you an immediate goal on your next attempt, get at least as far as you were and recover your gains.  And it’s a great segway into the second lesson we can learn setting effective goals.  At the start of the game you have a long term goal, a medium goal and a short term goal.  Each of your goals leads to the next, short term can either be recovery or exploration, medium is to meet the next boss and overcome them and long term are to ring the two bells of awakening, defeat the 4 Lord Souls and to best the final boss.  Lastly feedback in providing you a sense of direction is huge.  In dark souls the world is expertly crafted and through subtle shifts in light, colour, and having differing looks makes it hard to get lost.  At times you can clearly see where you are trying to get to and you can understand how things are interconnected.  I’m gonna stop myself here as it’s too easy to completely dive into praising many of the design decisions that were made in crafting the dark souls experience.


If you would like to learn more about the power of games I would recommend checking out the Because Games Matter series on the Extra Credits youtube channel.  Also subscribe to our youtube channel to see new episodes when they come out.  You can also learn more about gamification and the raccoopack at or by following us on social media.  Have a great day.


Have an idea you want to see come to life?


Raccoopod Episode 2: What is Gamification?

The Raccoopod Episode 2: What is Gamification

The Raccoopod Podcast

Join us in our second podcast where we set out a definition of gamification.  We want people to understand how we see gamification and how we intend to use it.  Is our definition different from yours?  Let us know, we’d love to hear your thoughts.


What is Gamification?


Welcome to the Raccoopod! Where the goal of our podcast is to give you the insights into gamification, what it is, and why you should consider it for your applications. I’m your host Zach Bearinger, and Today we are breaking down Gamification.  This will be a broad overview covering what gamification is, what parts of games we are using to make it and looking at two cases of gamification to understand the benefits that can be gained from it.  Let’s jump into it.

So… What is gamification?  Let’s start with the Oxford Dictionary definition.  


  • The application of typical elements of game playing (Example point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service. 


There is also a quote from Richard Stokes “Gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun” 


Ok so from the quote and definition it is telling us something about gamification.  The goal of gamification is to increase engagement or as Richard Stokes puts it.  “Make the hard stuff fun.”  I like this quote because it covers a surface level as to what gamification is.  Like what would the point of making the hard things in life fun?  What does that really mean?  I see it as looking at the things people struggle with in their life and making them something they want to do.  So in a single word gamification is seeking to improve Engagement.  This can be done in two different methods, enjoyment and motivation.  The implementation will change depending on what subject we are looking to add gamification to.  Either method has us look at typical game elements to use as a base for gamification.

 So you may be wondering, what are typical elements of games?  Mostly this is game mechanics (such as set collection) but can also include multiple visual and audio techniques to improve engagements.  To get a real sense what game mechanics are and how they work individually and as a group let’s break down Monopoly to get a sense of why each mechanic matters and how they work together to make a compelling game.

 So when you play Monopoly what is the end goal?  The established goal in the rules is to “Become the wealthiest player through buying, renting and selling property.”  So we already have some hints as to some of the mechanics.  There is a strong resource management mechanic throughout Monopoly.  What does that mean?  Well in Monopoly’s case, it’s how you manage your money and your properties.  This mechanic leads to lots of interesting questions for players to consider.  Should I buy this property?  Should I Mortgage this property?  Which property should I put my first house on?  Ok thats a resource management mechanic but we haven’t even started a turn. 

 Your turn starts with a roll of the dice afterwards you move your piece equal to the number you rolled.  This is a straightforward mechanic but what does it add to the game of Monopoly.  First off it provides a degree of randomness to the game.  You can’t plan several turns ahead or choose where you land.  This is an important factor as without a roll to move mechanic nobody would ever pay rent or land on a space that didn’t benefit them.  There are several other mechanics that could take the place of roll to move but they lead to different outcomes, But with the roll to move people have a simple turn structure roll then resolve the space they land on.  It provides a simplicity that anyone can understand and get going immediately.   The randomness provides a sense of surprise and suspense.  “If he rolls a 6 or 7 he’ll need to pay me 250$?” “I need a 2 so that I can buy Park Place”

 Ok, so there is a roll to move and resource management mechanics. Are there any other mechanics in Monopoly? Yes, but I’ll breeze through these. There is an Auction mechanic, where if a player doesn’t buy a property they land on it starts an auction between all players for that property.  The auction starts at the next player but could allow someone to buy it at a discount, and also motivates players to purchase properties when they can so that you can reach the mid-late game sooner.  What does that entail for monopoly?  It’s being able to trade with other players and start developing properties.  There is the player elimination mechanic where if a player runs out of money and properties to mortgage they go bankrupt and are knocked out of the game.  This provides survivors with a sense of real progression and adds a weight to all your actions.  Are you progressing towards victory or are you sliding towards bankruptcy? 

  That’s more than you probably would have guessed.  There are lots of mechanics and massive differences in play from different combinations and implementations of them.  These are what drive the unique interactive nature of games, what happens after a user puts in an input or makes a decision. Each mechanic provides a question that requires an answer from the player.  When we do a gamification project we pick and choose different mechanics depending on the project as to what will work with the topic and goal as well as maximizing its effectiveness.   

 Alright so we now know what gamification is and how we implement it.  Now the big question is “Is Gamification effective?”.  Well let’s look at some real world examples.  

 First up,could gamification help scientific research?  Well we’ve got an excellent example to look at. It’s a puzzle game called Foldit.  What is Foldit?  From their website “Foldit is a revolutionary crowdsourcing computer game enabling you to contribute to important scientific research.”  So Foldit is a puzzle game that focuses on players manipulating a protein to have the highest score.  Foldit uses a combination of Score, Leaderboards, and Teams for increased engagement across it’s players.  Ok, so they have an engaging puzzle game but what value does that have?  

 Researchers look at the top solutions and apply the knowledge they gain from those solutions to scientific research.  But we have the ability to create AI and programs to generate such solutions. Why are they using people’s solutions?  Well people’s solutions have proven to be as effective or better than computer generated solutions.  It does follow logic as abstract problem solving has long been one of mankind’s best survival tactics and something that AI’s struggle with.  The design of Foldit promotes this creative thinking and allows anyone who wants to help with scientific research to be able to do so.

 For an example that’s more indicative of the work we do at Raccoopack Media.  So let’s look at the Training web game we made for VCH and how successful it’s been. They were looking to create a training application that would include gamification techniques to be more effective than regular training.  Our solution used several different mechanics to convey the information in a more engaging way.  We used Avatars and visualizations to make the training more personal. We broke down the training goals into several scenarios that would feature the user’s avatar and a situation they needed to solve.    We also included leaderboards to encourage friendly competition as well as replaying to get a higher score.

 But let’s talk about the benefits from creating a gamified training module.  It has been introduced across 10 hospitals and used in staff orientation at Vancouver General Hospital. Over 1000 staff have been trained with practical knowledge and skills. From these metrics we can see that the training has been seen as a useful tool to use in more training opportunities.  VCH also conducted a survey on the staff who played the game.  Within the evaluation they found 93% of participants found that the games helped them learn and understand person-centered care.  90% of those surveyed agreed that they learned practical knowledge of dementia care and that they would recommend the games to others.


Thanks for listening! If you’re interested in learning more about our app development services or how gamification can help your organization, feel free to book an exploratory call today and meet the pack at Raccoopack Media!  Also share this podcast with your friends and follow us on social media @Raccoopack Media, Have a great day.


Have an idea you want to see come to life?


Raccoopack Media featured in The Best App Developers in Vancouver​ 2021

Blog Post

Raccoopack Media featured in The Best App Developers in Vancouver 2021

Raccoopack Media has been featured as one of the top app developers by Best in Vancouver! In particular, this 2021 list was curated based on a market analysis of  app development companies in Vancouver across dimensions such as level of expertise, reliability, breadth of services offered, and customer satisfaction.

Here is what they had to say in their review:

Raccoopack Media is the best Vancouver-based digital studio that crafts amazing apps, websites, and games. Unlike other companies, their specialty is in gamification, wherein they make polished products stand out in engagement and usability.

The advantage of working with them is that gamification can enhance learning since it provides users with hands-on experiences as they interact with the learning content. Through this, people can develop practical knowledge more effectively than traditional learning.

Their company is more known than others because they use a user-centric and agile approach.

They thoroughly understand the need of their clients and their target audience before creating a product. This is to ensure that their outcome can also spark connections and conversations to people.

About Best in Vancouver

To put it simply, we make being a consumer in Vancouver easier.

Best in Vancouver is your guide to the best things that Vancouver has to offer, from the top products to the most dependable services. We do extensive consumer research to find these.

That means comparing spec sheets, evaluating prices, testing products, and checking out user testimonials. It may even mean subscribing to services to see if they’re worth our while.

In other words, we scour the island looking for consumers’ best options… all so you won’t have to.

Have an idea you want to see come to life?


Privacy Policy | Terms of Services