Badges, Points, and Leaderboards: the new black?

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” -William Shakespeare, As You Like It

Welcome back players! As we discussed in the previous blog post, each player plays their game of choice for different reasons and game designers develop qualities to the games to make them addictive.  Designers want you to play the game and when you are not playing the game, they want you to think about playing the game so that you return to playing the game as soon as possible.  They use different game elements to make it so.

Basic Game Feedback Types

  • Blue and gold badge in shape of shield with image of person typing on keyboard and picture of dialog bubble

    The Socialite Badge is given to learners who are able to post in a discussion forum, attach a file and reply to a discussion post. This badge was designed by S. V. King for Florida International University’s ENT4113 taught by Professor Kaihan Krippendorff.

    POINTS: You play pinball and you try to get your personal best high score.  You continue to play the game based on points feedback.  You’re the pinball king (or queen)!

  • LEADERBOARD: Oh no!  You’re not in #1 place anymore, player ZED has bumped you.  Time to get playing to regain your bragging rights!  This is related to points, of course.
  • BADGES: We’re going to talk a lot about badges later (they are the new black).  So let’s say you set up your account in a game and linked your Facebook account, so they awarded you a badge.  You’re like “Cool, that was easy!  What other badges can I get and what do I need to do?”  Badges are related to activities or tasks.  You look at the badges, see the activity requirements and start badge collecting like a rockin’ badger would.  You want them all.  Who doesn’t want bling on their trophy shelf?  It’s a sign of success and accomplishment.

Scaffolding in Games

So how do you get from looking at a game, to playing, and then to becoming engaged.  There’s a lot that goes into game design.  From a player’s perspective once you start playing a game, the game’s scaffolding helps to “hook you” into the game.  You could read this very academic paper on “The Scaffolding Mechanism in Serious Games,” but it might be simpler for me to break down what scaffolding is and how it is used through an excellent example of a never-ending game: Farmville.

Image of woman avatar with six plots for crops in Farmville game

Screenshot of Farmville starting crop plots

When we begin playing Farmville, we are given a set of simple directives: 1) Grow crops, 2) Raise animals and 3) Play with friends in a box with a button that says “Let’s Play” so we know what we will be doing.  It covers the middle of the screen so instinctively we know ( or most people know) to click on “Let’s play” to get started.  We are represented by an avatar in the middle of the screen with 3 plots of dirt- some with crops already growing and some ready to harvest.  A bouncing yellow arrow points to a button on the toolbar.  This let’s us know in the tutorial what we should do next.  Once we click on the appropriate button, a tool tip/message appears telling what’s next.  Things we need to click upon are highlighted or have arrows pointing to them, introducing one feature at a time.

As we complete different functions within the tutorial, we are rewarded with gifts to use within the game, points and within a short amount of time, we level up.  Game designers make leveling up easy at the beginning as we are learning,  so that we feel successful early in the game.  We have a good feeling associated with the game, we’re encouraged to go on and maybe that dopamine kicks in. Once they take us through the basic functions of the game, the tutorial is usually completed.  This is scaffolding- the gentle guidance through short term tasks to complete a larger or more complex activity.  Other games use storytelling narrative to develop their scaffolding structure.  Can you have a game without scaffolding?  Of course, but good scaffolding improves game play- the overall experience of playing the game.

Remember in using gamification, we want to apply these game elements to other activities.  Drop me a comment if you can think of other activities besides games where scaffolding takes place.  Until next time, go get your game on!  Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook at: .


Posted on October 7, 2013, in Gamification and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Very cool tittle, with everything that we have learned in FIU I definitely agree with your tittle, but I also think this new way of entertainment will become mainstream and used by everyone in a short period. Long ago these types of incentives and progress rewards were “closed” inside a gaming system, you would only be able to tell your friends by voice. What is happening now is that with social media, these tags, tittles, and leaderbords are very important for peoples lives. getting ranked higher then you friends can help ego problems for some. asking for help when you loose lives, or even asking for a hand to plot your field are engagements and missions that companies love, it keeps the player engaged 100% and their main goal for the player slowly becomes to advertise their progress, which in return advertises the game, helping it in its virality on the net because of the forced frequent posts that the app dose automatically but that also the users diffuse.

  2. This article is on point with the new wave of Xbox Leader boards and achievement scores. Now one’s online profile (within agaming community) is usually accompanied by a certain score or reputation points that tell anyone who is looking at it how much you have accomplished in the virtual world. It started as a small idea of having a trophy rack for beating a game or reaching a certain milestone in a series of games. It blew up and took off into this driver for being the best “gamer” amongst one’s friends. Now if you search the web you can find articles and guides to getting the highest gamer score possible. It is almost as if the gamer score is the reason many people try so hard to beat a game. The console companies added fuel to the fire by making an online avatar with one’s “gamer-tag” in an effort to try an blend the reality between one’s online achievements with their offline achievements. It’s weird because plenty of people are searching for satisfaction and recognition for playing a simple game that was meant to be played to relieve stress and be used for entertainment; It seems that this whole idea has turned into a whole different beast that people attempt to conquer, creating with it a need for completion. This is what drives the future generations.

  3. This effect is so effective that even the most aware person can fall for it! There have been many times where I have been playing a game and have said to myself that I’d stop after the current level, only to find 5 hours have passed and I have still been playing the game. This strategy can even be used for more sinister purposes. I have a friend who’s mom has become so engrossed in games like Farmville that she has spent real world money in order to advance in the game and get trophies and awards. This is dangerous when the strategy is used on a child or on someone who is less aware of what is happening!

  4. It’s extremely interesting to note the psychological aspect of the rewards and leader scores. In reality game designer are trying to appeal to our most basic needs. If your remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs there are two steps that are targeted by this strategy. By having scores and publishing them online for everyone to see designers are targeting the steem step of the pyramid. Also, Creating scoreboards and places where gamers can virtually meet, post videos of their games, and receive comments and praises, individuals get a sense of belonging in a group. by satisfying these two basic needs video game developers make sure that gamers will be back for more

  5. Great post, it’s so accurate I found myself giggling a little. I’m currently going through “scaffolding” with Candy Crush. It is a super addicting game where you must connect the colors of the candies (kind of like Bejeweled). There are incentives like high scores can give you extra lives and certain candy combinations give you a LOT of bonus points. Although, I think the most interesting part of this game is that you can connect your Facebook account while you play. This feature gives you the ability to see what levels your friends are at and whether or not they did better than you at any particular level. You can also send your friends extra lives and moves to beat the level quicker. I think that’s the biggest phenomenon of games within social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, they make silly games like Candy Crush or Farmville unavoidable. Candy Crush started out as a hobby and it’s quickly turned into a full blown addiction.

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