Gamification Glossary

Action Language:

the method in which information is relayed to the game (ie joystick, keyboard etc)


games built to promote products or services, used to increase engagement on consumer-associated websites


feedback provided to players on their progress


visual representation of a player


visual token of achievement, similar to Boy Scout/Girl Scout badges with a tie in with competency-based activities

Boss Fight:

difficult fight or task against a high-level opponent (referred to as a boss), which usually marks the end of a level


degree to which player is challenged and method for manipulation of challenge


degree to which players can affect their environment

Engagement Loop:

cycle in a game for player (motivation -> action -> feedback/consequence…), feeds into game progression


the location chosen for the game

Epic Fail:

doh!  a major failure when playing a game

Epic Win:

sweet!  a big victory when playing a game (perhaps after a big boss fight); similar to “Fiero”, an Italian word used to describe great triumph over adversity


the combination of exercise and video games, coined after Wii introduction to the market

Extrinsic Motivation:

motivation that stems from external rewards, such as money, power or status.


concept introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in which a player is balanced between anxiety and boredom and the skills of the player match the level of challenge; when “in flow” players may lose sense of time and self

Game Elements:

aspects or elements of game play, for example:

  • action language
  • assessment
  • conflict/challenge
  • control
  • environment
  • human interaction
  • immersion
  • rules/goals


the application of game elements to other areas of activity to encourage engagement with a product or service or to change behavior

Human Interaction:

players interaction with other people

Interest Curve:

pattern of increasing difficulty in a game; structured to keep players engaged in game in which at the beginning of the game are easy to get players hooked and later increase in challenge so players do not become bored

Intrinsic Motivation:

motivation that stems from internal rewards or doing a task for its own sake; according to self-determination theory, activities that evoke feelings of competence, autonomy, mastery and relatedness.


game use of engrossing effects (audio, video, etc.) to draw player in


ranked list of players; an absolute leaderboard shows top players (maybe all players) while a relative leaderboard shows the players rank with those of similar rank (maybe 5 ranked higher and lower than the player)


refers to massively multiplayer online game or massively multiplayer online role-playing game in which players interact within the same virtual world, sometimes on different computer servers (such as World of Warcraft)

Operant Conditioning:

psychological theory proposed by B. F. Skinner in which behaviors are modified by rewards or punishment


refers to major aspects associated with gamification: points, badges, leaderboards


the quality of spontaneous fun experience in contrast to regimented activity or rule structured game

Progression Loop or Progression Stairs:

cycle of advancement in the game through levels; associated with interest curve in which challenges are followed by rest with each cycle increasing in challenge


clear objectives


specific mission or challenging task for game players, usually includes narrative and an object or reward upon completion

Self-Determination Theory:

psychological theory which defines and notes the importance of intrinsic motivation


the addictive quality of a game; when a person thinks about or discusses an activity when not actively doing it

Variable Reward Schedule:

game feedback delivered on a non-predictable basis; other reward schedules can include fixed interval which is delivered at regular time periods or fixed ratio which is delivered after a certain amount of activity

Virtual World:

persistent online community allowing for virtual interaction, exchange of virtual goods (such as Second Life)

Win State:

outcomes that constitute achievement or winning, usually defined by rules of the game and game feedback

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