Way before I have even heard of gamification I was working in a very formal office on some very serious government projects. Initially, as you can imagine in this line of work – there was little place for games and play but fortunately I was lucky enough to be working with some highly creative individuals who despite their ability to deliver highly secure, and often very complex solutions, understood that if we only focus on deadlines requirements and optimisations all day long we will sooner or later drive ourselves to the mental exhaustion.

I can’t remember who initiated which idea but after a while we have introduced a coffee club in which every week someone else would bring an exotic coffee we’d be drinking every day for a week, then came Megan Fox calendar which gave us the “uncovering day” at the end of each month (basically something to look forward each month to except of the payday :-). While this has little to do with gamification it hopefully helps to illustrate the point – it was about 6/7 years ago and the thing I remember the most isn’t how we overcame any obstacle and amazing solutions we have delivered. The thing I remember the most is people and the little rituals we had which made my time there not only bearable but actually very enjoyable.

Now gamification is a bit more complex concept but it shares the same basic principle – work/play balance is a key to keep people motivated and build bounds which ultimately help them better work together as a team. It’s best described as a set of methodologies/techniques which often promote achievements, score keeping and by these means help achieve various project goals. Gamification can and should also introduce a greater depth into otherwise mundane, repetitive tasks.

Before I get into some key principles I’ll try to give you a few examples of how this could be done in Agile software teams based on my experience.

Bug Busters

Some time ago I managed to convince my operations director to do a gamification-based experiment. We bought a third largest LEGO set in the world – Ghost Busters fire house! The idea here was to use it in a rather long software-stabilisation period we were undergoing on our code base.

Ghostbusters FirehouseLEGO set

Ghostbusters FirehouseLEGO set

The initiative was called the “Bug Busters”. We set up a board to mark each fixed issue or identified bug. Every day teams that managed to fix X issues, different teams could add X bricks to the LEGO set, effectively linking our performance to how quickly we get to see the fire house built. Everything was overseen by the Brick-Master, which was a new role that was empowered to adjust rules and make sure we were all honest and there was no cheating – because you know: 5000 Lego bricks!

The Bug Busters team

The Bug Busters team

League of Geeks

This initiative was introduced at Goyello a while back and we are now in its third rendition with many geek points awarded and geek badges collected. The basic idea was to create a platform managed by senior management but involving every employee in our software house. Each of us would have our own profile and different categories in which we could be awarded points. Here are just a few activities you could get points for:

  • Conducting an internal training
  • Promoting the company to the outside world
  •  Particularly good and constructive code review
  • Writing blog posts on our company blog (Yes – I am getting some for this one!)
  • Some bright ideas that may improve our processes
  • Many more!

In your company, this could be customized in any way you’d like with your own achievements and categories. You don’t even have to create a gamification platform yourself as we have had at Goyello. Just check some of the existing opensource platforms like Mambo.

Review of the week

The idea behind it is that in my project every week someone gets a ticket to the cinema or a burger coupon you can use in one of food trucks (often stationed outside of our office). To get this small token of appreciation your changeset has to be nominated by a senior dev/reviewer. At the end of each week, the lead dev for the project picks one of the nominated changesets which means you get your reward and your name goes on one of our boards.

Review of the week

Review of the week

I really like the concept and based on the feedback we got I have established a small team who is now brainstorming on other initiatives we could introduce to, well… frankly have more of these little things that make our time in the office more enjoyable and hopefully boost our productivity by extension.

5 basics to keep in mind

Based on research and my own observations, here are a few things you should keep in mind when planning your own gamification initiatives:

  1. Think about common goals of a particular team/group of people, consider any measurable output they are producing which you can use for scoring.
  2. Have a backstory, some motivator or at least a cool name like Bug Busters. 😉
  3. Do not force people to play. If it’s forced it’s not fun – it’s just another chore.
  4. Depending on a form try not to show all results, just the top 10 or weekly leaders.
  5. Remember it’s about promoting a positive behaviour, not punishing low scorers or those not willing to participate.

I hope this post will inspire you and ideally make your day-to-day (in this let’s face it, rather responsible) line of work more enjoyable and, by extension, more profitable.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this in the comment section.

Software developer at Goyello. Problem solver. The more complicated the problem is, the more motivated he gets. Whether it’s designing, improving processes, architecture or coding, he will be the first one to jump right in.