Addictive Game Elements in Professional Applications

Gamification: How to apply computer game elements in a professional context

It has been a while since a computer game took me in its ban. Actually, this hasn’t happened in 12 years. However, since my friend convinced me to play this new mobile game I’m addicted.  This got me thinking: “What is it that certain games have, that we cannot put them away? Would it not be perfect if we are always in this sweet spot where work is so fun, you forget about time?”

I analyzed the elements, which the game uses and identified the ones that make the most sense in a professional context. Here are the highlights:

From Simple to Complex

First, it uses always the right amount of difficulty to keep you going. The missions and the UI start very simple and continue to get more complex as long as you progress (Flow). The first mission was to build a specific house. A character from the game instructed me on how to do this and the menu was minimized to the items I needed to fulfill exactly this task. Once I did it, I got a nice pat on the back.

We can adopt this very powerful mechanic easily in a business context. A smart information architecture, wizards and progressive disclosure are a couple of tools that can help to achieve a smooth onboarding without compromising the efficiency an expert user needs.

One example would be that a new user only sees the simpler tasks (first level) out of a team-pool which he can complete using a wizard. The senior user, on the other hand, can do the more complex tasks (second or third level) directly in a form that offers all the options.

Social Interactions

Another key element of the game is social interaction between known and unknown players. In the game, I can go to battle against unknown players or choose to go on a quest with my friends. I can also support my friends in their gameplay by sending gems, energy or other useful resources. An additional social element are leaderboards. Here I see how I do in comparison to my peers and the other players.

Social elements are another very strong component that can be adopted in a corporate environment: Co-workers can build a virtual team that is working towards a common goal. On the way, they can see the progress of their teammates, send support and celebrate the achievement of the team goals.

This is especially relevant since statistically most people fall into the “Socializers category”. For more information you can visit the previous post “The new wave of Gamification“.

The Right Rewards

And of course there are the rewards. Rewards go far beyond money. Intrinsic motivation is a stronger motivator and this is what the game is aiming for. The game honors me points, money and gems, if I do something good. The points lead to me leveling up. The money and the gems I can spend in the game to become more powerful. A clever game plan balances what I get in what situation. It all goes back to the SAPS model (Gabe Zichermann).

Possible rewards in a corporate environment:


  • Supporter of new teammembers/users
  • Badges and levels that display the reaching of goals


  • Access to more classified or detailed information
  • Early access to critical information


  • More advanced features
  • Approve work items from colleagues


  • Receive lunch check
  • Team receives money for a team event

A Compelling Story

Finally yet importantly, the game needs a convincing story. It is the story that makes us want to play (do tasks, achieve goals and grow) and therefore determines for how long we stick to the game. Additionally, it transfers knowledge of a real life situation that we already have to a situation in the game. As an example: If I want ripe tomatoes I need a farm, seed them and then wait until they grow. This is logical, we learned that when we were kids.

However, when it comes to stories the game has a fundamental advantage over business applications since in a game, all the characters and tasks can be fictional. It is very complicated to come up with a good story to back the gameplay.

Lifegame is an example where a good story really enhances the users’ experience. Where on the other hand, Progresswar applies only the gamification elements – in a very good way.


Monster Legends is an online game aiming to bring joy to private customers. Nevertheless, the elements of games can be a very powerful resource in a professional context, too. A good concept can align a companies’ mission with the needs of its employees and customers. In the end, everybody wants to be recognized, valued and have a good experience.

While there are definitely limitations to the approach in the professional world, we should consider these elements in our next projects in order to make our applications more fun and engaging to use.