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Blog 04 :: Gamified Apps Evaluation

James_Blog 04_Gamified Apps Evaluation

Gamified Apps (Pertaining to how gamified applications can be evaluated)


James became interested in the term, “Gamification”, with the two of the courses he attended, Usability Engineering (UE) and Managing Information Systems (MIS), have a lecture about it. To his epiphany, his personal encounter with this gamified App movement (apart from pure gaming App) came so casually and unknowingly. He recalled Shopee had “Shake to Win” events whereby at certain timing user can attend that event and literally shake their phones vigorously to obtains coins which are able to be used in Shopee to offset prices. It didn’t last long as every few coins were obtained and to take note of the event timings is just a hassle, not to mention the laborious shaking of phones.

Apart from that, recently he also tried an App named Duolingo, introduced by one of his MIS classmates, which was a gamified language learning education App. And it was pretty interesting and even addictive maybe in the first few minutes, but after a few days, it got a little ineffective maybe because the "game" is:

- Individual/ Solo (there's no multiplayer or team play)

- It's simply clicking (repetitive of one gesture just can be boring, if swiping or typing enabled would be fun, maybe at later stages)

- Each session interval are just too small and less challenging (it tries to not take up too much time for people to learn in bite-size, but making it too easy can lose interest)

In fact, gamification become really relevant in our everyday life, with many resemblances of gaming elements. Shops give membership rewards and supermarkets conduct contests with prizes. From young, teachers reward students with stickers for good achievements and motivations. With gradings on the line, we are currently in a gamified education system trying to achieve high GPAs, getting ranked with honors, climbing the ladder from Bachelors to Masters to PhD. In the long run, competitive is only good if everyone has the right attitude, the dark side of gamification is that being competitive, there is some reward or fame on the line, people may just want to exploit on loopholes to achieve the “Victory” which may just backfire and spoils the essence of learning.

Hence, learning how gamified Apps are being evaluated can be really useful, not just the aspects of evoking interest and gaining the manipulative insights of a user, but also the aspects of maintaining the user satisfaction as well as how beneficial the gamified features really are.


For starters, James comes across with an article by Anastasia Khomych, a content marketing manager at GetSocial, which he thought is quite informative as she described how gamification works in real life and that mobile gaming Apps are the most downloaded and popular Apps in the Apple App Store.


Anastasia evaluated a list of gamified App using the game design elements together with engagement and retainment:

- Badges to keep track of user’s achievements;

- In-game currency as useful rewards or bonus

- Levels to maintain the challenging aspects;

- Performance Charts for progress comparison and records;

- Points as accumulative rewards and accomplishments;

- Scoreboard to evoke competition and performance relation with other users.

- Keep in mind the problem that needs to be solved with gamification and try not divert too far off into gamification and lost your corporate goals;

- Incorporate social elements by having multiplayer interaction to drive groups of people together;

- Keep everything simple so that user knows what to do next intuitively, smoothly and transparently;

- Develop an easy-to-use reward system with accumulative rewards for user to work towards their goals.


As a user herself, Anastasia evaluated 9 gamified Apps and gave her most honest opinions without any biases involvement (hopefully) rather than having the Apps evaluation done by 9 internal consultants respectively. With designers giving up control over users and the tasks to be performed, the evaluation done by Anastasia is unguided and unpressured too, resulting in the real-world usage and perceptions that are deemed to be more reflective of the actual conditions.


Ironically, the evaluation that used is based on Anastasia herself, who also may not an expert in the field of the evaluation in which only surface issues might be identified by the user’s point of view during a specific task at generic user flow. Not to mention, one user herself should may not be able to define a how useful the features are or how serious an issue is (unless drastically critical ones) as several feedbacks are needed to determine the successfulness or severity of a feature or issue respectively.


After which James sought for a research-based article in which a credible framework was used to evaluate the gamified Apps.

The following is a conference research paper by Marcílio Souza-Júnior , Laize Queiroz , Jorge Correia-Neto and Guilherme Vilar, in which the team adopted the Werbach and Hunter analytical framework which resemble a schematic of gamification techniques in the shape of a three-level pyramid. With this framework and a six-step system, the team evaluated four m-health apps from a gamification standpoint of their functionalities.

Article (10 pages)


This DMC framework by Werbach and Hunter that the team used is quite a renowned model in which many researchers used to evaluate gamified Apps. The model is shaped as a three-level pyramid: - Dynamics (Storyline to manage user interaction);

- Mechanics (Details of the interaction to generate user engagement);

- Components (Gaming elements to unlock levels and attain achievements).

Followed by a six-step Werbach and Hunter framework for implementing gamification in a system:

1. Define objectives: Do the App gamified features have an objective with measurable goals?

2. Define desired behaviors: What do users expect from the App while interacting with the system?

3. Describe users: Do the App have a targeted audience and what information is being collected?

4. Define engagement loops: How can the App motivate and inspires its users?

5. Entertainment: Is the App able to maintain user satisfaction and offer incentives for user’s participation?

6. Correct use of tools: Is the App able to use the correct gamified elements to perceive its usefulness and ease of use?

With these requirements, evaluators are able to gauge the level of gamified effectiveness of the App via the numbers of DMC aspects and gamification steps it conformed to. In addition, these two evaluations are easy to carry out and quickly to conduct with multiple iterations as there are no users being involved, which also results in few ethical and practical issues to consider.


Nevertheless, evaluators aren’t and players themselves, which may result in different perspectives. The common weakness of these evaluations, as mentioned previously, is biases even for experts especially on m-health apps as the evaluators can lean towards certain beliefs and values. However, this may be mitigated by having multiple evaluators and relevant supported scientific theory and design.

Similar to the MDA framework, the DMC framework drives from one way for the designers while the other way for the user. Designers start with the Dynamic storyline that lead to the Mechanisms to drive it and the Components to assist it. While users interact with the components drive the Mechanisms created for the gamified Dynamic system.

Lastly, also similar to heuristic evaluation, it can be difficult and expensive to find evaluators in this area of expertise.



All in all, James feels that Gamification is how game elements are being brought in non-game settings, yet still achieve their objective in evoking their enticing qualities, therefore resulting in the increase of user engagement, retainment, and satisfaction by turning a dull routine into a fun experience. Gamification has already found its way in a wide variety of Apps like productivity, healthcare, education, and has been widely anticipated and even expect sometimes because the human brain is constantly seeking new challenges and rewards.


Khomych A. (2019, Oct). App Gamification - For User Engagement. Is Gamification the Only Way for Apps to Survive? Retrieved from

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