Since the introduction of Gamification a few years back some have begun to define the difference between Gamification Mechanics versus Gamification Dynamics. While there is a thin line between the two and it can be blurry at times, let me attempt to define each in the following post.

Gamification Mechanics: Also understood as verbs of gamification, in essence these are the elements that move the action (aka simulation) forward. Defined as the basic actions, control mechanisms and processes that are used to “gamify” an activity. These actions in which players take (“agency”) and the rules that limit those actions to create pressure (also known as “urgency”) are what make up game mechanics. The problem with the gamification mechanics definition is that is often a vague term to use “mechanics”. In essence it kind of becomes a catchall for operations and their effects. In effect anything that may seem related to how a game operates may be labeled as a “mechanic”. Granted, the essential idea behind gamification is to “just add in game mechanics.”

According to ( there are 24 types of gamification mechanics currently recognized, while I won’t define each one individually I will provide a list below of the 24 and most are pretty self explanatory without further definition needed.

1)      Achievements

2)      Appointments

3)      Behavioral Momentum

4)      Blissful Productivity

5)      Bonuses

6)      Cascading Information Theory

7)      Combos

8)      Community Collaboration

9)      Countdown

10)  Discovery

11)  Epic Meaning

12)  Free Lunch

13)  Infinite Game play

14)  Levels

15)  Loss Aversion

16)  Lottery

17)  Ownership

18)  Points

19)  Progression

20)  Quests

21)  Reward Schedules

22)  Status

23)  Urgent Optimism

24)  Virality

Each of the above game mechanics may be further categorized by three different attributes: 1) Game mechanics type, 2) Boosts (Benefits) and 3) Personality types. For the personality types there are four defined types: 1) Achievers, 2) Explorers, 3) Killers and 4) Socializers.  Furthermore, there are three game mechanic types: 1) Behavioral, 2) Feedback and 3) Progression.

So I listed out gamification mechanics above. But, in reality none of these are actually what gamification mechanics are. Rather they should be labeled more as rewards or observations. By definition a game mechanic is either a thing you can do or a limit, it must be short and specific. Examples of a game mechanic within a simulation is a decision block in which you have a choice to change the path of the simulation course by your answer made. In essence a gamification mechanic may be as easily stated as comparing it to a game of Monopoly where the player rolls the dice to make his or her next move.

Game Mechanics=Simple actions or rules with defined outcomes

Gamification Dynamics: These can further be described as satisfying desires. Being human we have a natural desire to be recognized, be in competition with one another and achieve success. Game mechanics are tools that can help to figure out how to move the action forward and get the players into the game.

The following gamification concepts help in defining gamified dynamics:

1)      Achievement

2)      Altruism

3)      Competition

4)      Rewards

5)      Self-Expression

6)      Status

There are three typical elements within gamification dynamics. Those are 1) Constraints, 2) Emotions and 3) The Narrative. Basically these are more behind the scenes structure oriented elements within a simulation that help to drive it. Let’s examine each one further in depth.

Constraints- We all know that games have rules in which the player(s) must follow. By having a gamified simulation it has its own rules and boundaries in place that have been established within the design. Meaningful choices are presented for the learner to choose from and ultimately may alter the path or course of the simulation.

Emotions- We deal with emotion quite frequently in our day-to-day lives and emotion is experienced within simulation as well. The full spectrum of emotion can range from pure enjoyment to unhappiness. From feeling a sense of accomplishment for the right choice made to a bad decision resulting in a dire outcome through simulation (remember it’s just a practice simulated real-world environment so no real harm done).

Narrative- This is what weaves the story behind the simulation together. What would a game or simulation be without a story? Narrative is able to aid in creating graphical experiences for the learner to experience and retain the material being presented.

In addition to the above three typical gamification dynamics you may also consider the relationships that the player partakes in whether in interacting with non-player characters or in a real-time simulated environment. There is also a level of progression that the player goes through as the simulation is played out.

The below pyramid is Professor Kevin Webach’s take on Gamification Dynamics, Mechanics and Components in his book “For the Win!” I guess I should touch briefly on the bottom level of the pyramid which represents gamification components and just say that according to Mr. Webach, gamification components are “Specific examples, specific ways to do the higher level things that dynamics and mechanics represent.” game_mechanics

Within simulation game play there are rules and rewards that make it engaging for the user and create a compelling user experience. By utilizing game mechanics, simulations have the ability to make a normal type of business activity far more fun and challenging to learn and train on. Let us note that collectively there are more gamification mechanics than gamification dynamics. Just think of gamification mechanics as tools in which you utilize to help move forward within a simulation.

In summary, gamification mechanics and dynamics allow for a more compelling and participatory user experience ultimately motivating users to make specific actions. They are able to appeal to our basic human desires of wanting to achieve and being rewarded for our actions. When applied in the correct manner these two elements of gamification have the ability to drive user engagement and participation to new heights. As the industry advances the definition of gamification mechanics and dynamics will continue to evolve, however they will always center on the underlying principles of what motivates us and drives our decision-making process as well as how we interact with the sim. By implementing gamification mechanics and dynamics within simulation design, success is sure to be achieved.


Copyright 2017 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– offers 25+ years of training and talent management helping executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Being a big believer in Technology Enabled Learning, Bryant seeks to create awareness, motivate adoption and engage organizations and people in the changing business of education. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.

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Bryant Nielson is heavily involved in the Corporate Training and Leadership and Talent space. He currently is the Managing Director for CapitalWave Inc and the training division, Financial Training Solutions. He brings a diverse corporate experience of organizational development, learning and talent development, and corporate training, that also includes personal coaching of top sales individuals and companies of all sizes. For the prior 4 years, Bryant was the Managing Director and Leadership and Talent Manager for Lengthen Your Stride! LLC. In this position, Nielson was the developer of all of the courses for MortgageMae University (MMU), the Realtor Development Center (RDC), and of Lengthen Your Stride! (LYS). In that position, he developed material, refined over many years of use and active training, and condensed the coursework and training to be high impact, natural learning, and comprehensive. Bryant has over 27 years of Senior Management experience encompasses running his own Training and mortgage firm, in New York City. He strongly believes that the corporate training is not to be static but should 'engage and inspire' students to greater productivity and performance.