Seven secrets of great gamification design

November 11, 2014



These guiding principles can help you succeed in gamification design.

As gamification started entering the enterprise a couple of years ago, PwC analyzed the business potential of gamification through a technology forecast and found that gamification can drive high levels of engagement with both customers and employees. To use gamification to solve one of the world’s most vexing challenges—cybercrime—PwC’s Emerging Technology Lab and specialists from PwC’s Forensics Services and Cybersecurity teams developed a virtual game that simulates a cyber breach to test and strengthen the cybersecurity skills of senior executives. From a prototype into a popular service offering, the Game of Threats™ is changing behavior among senior executives and demonstrating the potential of gamification to transform the enterprise.

To make a game that executives are lining up to experience, our team used the following guiding principles that can be applied to any gamification design:

  1. Partner closely with business domain experts – The developer doesn’t necessarily need deep business knowledge, but you do need a strategy for capturing that expertise.
  2. Utilize gaming experts – There are many categories of games and styles of gameplay, and a key design decision is to match the business challenge to the category and gameplay style that will generate the most engagement and insight.
  3. Balance reality and playability – The game should be as true to life as possible, but never at the expense of playability. The game must be simple enough for people to remain engaged.
  4. Elicit the targeted emotional response – The game raised emotional investment by tapping into the natural competitiveness of the players and quickly engaging them in an intense experience so they felt invested in the outcome.
  5. Test early and frequently – When it comes to building games, constant feedback is critical. Throughout the development process, ensure that the game is always playable, so that people can play it and provide feedback any time.
  6. Use a Monte Carlo simulation – Creating the right gameplay balance is not a trivial task. By repeatedly running through randomized game parameters and randomized game actions, one can programmatically determine the probability of a particular outcome. This will help game creators ensure that the game will always be properly balanced.
  7. Make content easy to update – Create modular, easily modifiable metadata structures.  The content that defines the game, its rules, images, interactive elements, etc., are likely to change a number of times as the game design evolves through early simulations and experiences with users. Some games may also require frequent content updates, even after completion. Make it easy for users to change the content.

Have you had success with game design?  Please add to our list of great gamification design secrets.

Trevor Tan and Bo Parker contributed to this article.



Chris Curran

Principal and Chief Technologist, PwC US Tel: +1 (214) 754 5055 Email

Vicki Huff Eckert

Global New Business & Innovation Leader Tel: +1 (650) 387 4956 Email

Mark McCaffery

US Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) Leader Tel: +1 (408) 817 4199 Email