3 Game Elements Of Gamification and PBL Triad Meaning

In the second lesson, we will look at the elements that no gamification process can do without. These elements are called game elements and form the basis for the application of game techniques and mechanics. There are 3 Game Elements Of Gamification. It is immediately important to say that some elements that would be more or less effective do not exist, and the best one will be the one that is suitable for the implementation of a specific task.

In most cases, the following elements apply to gamification:

  • Points – rewards received for the performance of certain actions in any process
  • Badges – virtual rewards designed to measure the activity of process participants
  • Ratings – indicators reflecting the success of participants in the process
  • Levels – statuses that participants can achieve through their actions in the process
  • Leaderboards – leaderboards showing leader members
  • Virtual currency – funds that can be earned and spent at virtual points of sale
  • Virtual goods – goods that can be bought with virtual money
  • elements Interactive – all kinds of processes visualization of elements
  • Success Digests – Thematic Information Products
3 Game Elements Of Gamification And PBL Triad Meaning

Among the listed elements, the first three are the main ones – points, badges, and ratings. We will mainly talk about them further. However, before proceeding to their consideration, it will not be superfluous to talk about the concept of the game, because it is on the game and game processes that the whole process of gamification is based.

What is a game?

Each of us, one way or another, intuitively understands what a game is, although giving it a clear definition is not entirely simple. Here, for example, what do basketball, hide and seek, Millionaire and Generals have in common?

What Is A Game?

The first thing that comes to mind is the idea of ​​the game as entertainment. But not every game includes this element, and entertainment itself can not always be called a game. We argue further: perhaps this is the presence of a team? Perhaps, but not every game is a team. Well, then this is victory and defeat! And again, no, because winners and losers are not in all games. As a result, we find that it is not just difficult to determine the specific characteristics of the game, but it is almost impossible. But we are able to highlight a number of the most important points.

One of these is voluntary participation, as participation in all games is accepted on a voluntary basis, and if a person is forced to participate, he simply will not play. The second point is the possibility of choice. In a game, a person always makes a choice that carries some consequences. And already on the basis of these consequences, he receives feedback. So, the player himself decides what weapons to use, playing in Counter-Strike, what tasks to choose, playing in GTA, what word to write, playing in Scrabble, etc. The ability to make a choice gives the player a unique and very pleasant sense of control of the situation, and only for the sake of this feeling a huge number of people generally play games.

Any game is completely different from our everyday routine. The Dutch historian, cultural researcher and philosopher Johan Huizinga in his work “Homo Ludens. The person playing ”introduces the concept of the magic circle – a kind of special space that separates the game from the rest of reality. The game participants step over the line and find themselves inside this circle, and after that the rules in force in the real world no longer work, giving way to the rules of the game. The presented border may well be real, practically tangible and physically tangible, and maybe virtual. But more importantly, the game in a certain sense becomes a new reality for its participants. The game is distinguished by its rules, goals, objectives, difficulties and obstacles that must be overcome to achieve the goal However, the key point is that players are consciously willing to accept the rules of the game and stick to them.

It follows that the game is all that is happening within the boundaries of the magic circle. For example, participating in fights on K-1, M-1 or boxing, fighters are aware of and accept the risk of injury, but if in ordinary life someone attacked them, many would likely go to the police. And while playing chess or checkers, players gradually “chop” the pieces of the opponents, eliminating them from the board, although you could just brush them all away with your hand, none of them do this because otherwise, the process would cease to be a game.

Based on this, we get that, using the elements of the game in business, work or training, we are able to motivate other people to do what we need, and for this purpose, it is not necessary to resort to coercion. People will do something for the simple reason that they themselves desire it. But for the effective use of game elements, we must use game thinking, and here the analogy with driving a car is quite suitable.

A person can read the driving manual and a lot of other subject literature, but this does not guarantee that having sat behind the wheel, he will immediately go. Driving a car is a skill that is formed, developed and honed only in the process of driving, and much of what you have to do while driving is gradually moving into the category of automatisms. The situation with people developing games is approximately the same – over time, they begin to act mechanically because they are developing a special approach to problems.

For example, if you want to increase demand for the product you sell, you should ask questions such as “Why do customers buy this particular product?”, “What motivates customers?”, “Why customers want to buy from us?”, etc. In the same way, the creators of The Fun Theory made a fun game out of a completely boring waste throwing class – they developed a special trash can by throwing bottles into which people earn virtual points. As a result, the number of discarded bottles has increased by 50 times! A similar scheme is quite realistic to apply in any other field.

It is interesting, among other things, that thinking as a player is completely optional. The players’ thoughts are focused on how to win, and game developers and people using gamification think about how to make people play. If you manage to create an effective gamification system, the participants in your games, regardless of who they are: customers, employees, friends, or anyone else, will strive to achieve the results presented to them by the game, but for you, these results will simply be auxiliary means.

Many video games are built on the transition from level to level, whereby the progress made by the player is indicated. And even those games where there is no clear indication of the levels, in any case, require dynamics, progress, and movement forward. Otherwise, they would become boring in the blink of an eye.

The game should be understood as a process, not a result, and the fundamental point of this process is the players. In most cases, games become exciting because they provide participants with the opportunity to make their own choices and be independent, but in reality, this is only an appearance. Any game includes rules, which are forbidden to be violated, and also consists of a set of certain elements, without which it cannot exist. We mentioned these elements at the beginning of the lesson.

You May Also Like: Game Motivation: 3 Theories Of Motivation And Famous Schemes

3 Game elements of gamification

Elements of the game are akin to the tools with which we get the opportunity to create and build what we need. You can take as an example the simplest of games, namely the game in Tic Tac Toe. What do we need for its implementation?

The game “Tic Tac Toe” consists of the following elements:

  • Field – lines that intersect, thereby forming nine cells
  • Symbols – tic tac toe drawn by participants
  • Participants – Two Players
  • Competition between participants
  • The sequence of moves of participants
  • Winning positions – situations where one of the participants wins if he managed to draw three crosses or three zeroes in a row

Do not forget that in this game there are no points and difficulty levels, and it is for this reason that it is unable to hold the attention of participants for a long time.

You should know that the elements of the game are very easily displayed in a hierarchical form, and this hierarchy is most conveniently depicted in the form of a pyramid. This idea was once developed and adopted by two professionals in the field of gamification – law and business ethics professor Kevin Werbach and Internet law specialist Dan Hunter. Subsequently, they created the so-called “Pyramid of Elements”:

3 Game Elements Of Gamification 
3 Elements Of Gamification

As you can see in the figure, the components of the game are located on the lower level of the Pyramid, on the middle – the mechanics of the game and on the highest – the dynamics of the game. In addition, there are also sensations from the game and the feelings of the participants, but despite the fact that they are key factors in the game, it is very difficult to give them a description and make them into the pyramid. Therefore, only the above components were included.

When a game is created, it is extremely important to make it not so that the maximum number of elements is involved, but so that they are involved as efficiently as possible. Let’s figure out what their meaning is.

Dynamics – it can be characterized as the most important element of a game or a gamified system, its concept is the basic hidden structures or, more simply put, grammar. But dynamics should not be understood as rules – it includes such things as, for example, emotional impact, the logic of events (something combining individual components into a single whole: chronology, sequence, etc.) and the characteristics of the interaction of participants (team work, mutual assistance, desire to help, etc.).

Mechanics – it is easiest to describe it as challenges (tasks that need to be solved), chances (successes and failures), cooperation and interaction, feedback (participants see the consequences of decisions made in real time, so they can go further), awards, resource acquisition, winning situations, sequence of moves, deals (trade and exchange between players), etc.

Components – they are expressed in specific embodiments of the first two components – dynamics and mechanics. These include badges, points, avatars, ratings, leaderboards, battles, main battles, bonus content, gifts, quests, levels, teams, virtual currency, and other elements. As for the most frequently used ones, there are three of them (points, badges, and leaderboards) and they make up the PBL triad (an abbreviation for the English words “points”, “badges” and “leaderboards”). And the reason for the popularity of these three elements, in turn, is that they are able to perform several functions simultaneously.

Read for knowledge: How To Write Faster, Effective And Better | Quick Guide

PBL Triad: The meaning of the three elements

So, as we have said, points, badges, and leaderboards must be included in the process of creating any gamification system. Let’s see why. Let’s start with the points.

Points are required to perform the following functions:

  • Account Management
  • Determination of the winner when one of the participants scores the required number of points
  • Connection with the reward (if a certain number of points is accumulated, the participant receives a corresponding prize or badge)
  • Providing feedback and evaluating progress (the participant who scored the most points is doing better than the one who scored less; scoring more points is evidence of progress)
  • Providing an information base for the developer of a gamification system or game

As for badges, their functions are as follows:

  • Visual demonstration of the achievements of the participants
  • The motivation for necessary behavior
  • Confirmation of importance (if a participant receives a badge for something, this means that this element of the game is very important)
  • The personification of the status of participants

In addition, badges have several advantages: firstly, they are very flexible, as a result of which they can be used as symbols for anything; secondly, due to the beautiful graphic design, they contribute to the creation of the necessary atmosphere and the maintenance of the overall feeling of the gameplay; and thirdly, they can be collected into a collection, and if one of the players watches such a collection from another player, it is likely that he himself will want to get one, and, therefore, get a number of additional bonuses that badges offer.

Along with such elements of the game as points, leaderboards, virtual currency, levels, etc., badges are directly related to awards, as part of the game mechanics. A person performs a certain action and is awarded with a badge for this. And the more actions he performs, the more badges he will have. Despite the fact that a badge is just a virtual reward that has no real value, it has great attractiveness for participants. The fact is that the very fact that a person receives a reward contributes to the development of the hormone of pleasure, dopamine, which has an extremely beneficial effect on the psyche. As a result of this, he, wanting to stimulate the release of this hormone again, wants to return to the game once again. Naturally, gamification does not set itself such a task, however, there are situations

But if everything is clear and simple with the need for points and badges, is everything a bit more complicated with leaderboards?

Leaderboards are required to rank and evaluate player positions relative to each other. Leaderboards are used in a huge number of games, although this is associated with some dangers. If, for example, a participant sees that the leaders have the most points, and it seems almost impossible to score the same amount, he may lose interest in the game. In such a situation, it is useful to use a personal leaderboard, where only similar positions of players are displayed (often only the results of colleagues or friends are shown in the tables). Leaderboards can also have a demotivating effect, because they are largely focused on the competitive component of the game, and this can be negatively perceived by some players.

Thus, it is recommended to apply the PBL triad both in creating a gamification system and in the games themselves very, very carefully, taking into account the maximum possible scenarios, personal characteristics of the participants and the tasks that need to be solved.

We also note that the arbitrary use of any of the elements of the triad in education, work or business will never mean that they (education, work or business) will be able to gamify and give them excitement. Game elements, of course, are the starting point, but this is not all that should be paid attention to.

3 Elements Of Gamification

It must be understood that rewards, whatever they are, do not always motivate, and in some cases even demotivate. The process of any activity can captivate a person, not only because he expects a reward in the form of the same badge or even a financial reward, but because he feels that he is doing something important and useful, or he enjoys and moral satisfaction from teamwork. We must not forget that each person is an individuality, and that which is interesting and fascinating for one may not cause absolutely no emotions in the other. So the introduction of gamification will almost never be effective and competent if the psychological characteristics of motivation are not taken into account. It is for this reason that we made motivation the topic of our first lesson.

Taking into account two types of motivation – internal (a person does something because he likes it) and external (a person does something because he is forced), we can come to understand the paradoxical fact when the reward provides a demotivating impact.

PBL triad - points, badges, leaderboards

If a person focuses too much on receiving a reward, his intrinsic motivation, which initially played the main role, disappears, and as a result he becomes less motivated than he was at the very beginning. Here is a simple example: hand out paper and pencils or felt-tip pens to children and ask them to draw something. Children are very likely to enthusiastically begin to complete the assignment. Someone will do this because of what you asked, but there will be those who just like to draw, and so they easily draw their drawings with pencils. In other words, they have intrinsic motivation. And now offer these children a reward for the most beautiful drawing, for example, an icon, a set of cool markers or something else. Children will begin to perform the same action with even greater zeal, but if after some time you cancel the award, You will instantly notice that the children no longer have a former fuse and desire to draw. And this can happen absolutely with any creative activity. This signals us that in areas where Creativity, creativity and innovation are required; external rewards can be negative. But here one does not need to make an unambiguous conclusion that gamification is not applicable in such areas – just the approach to the development of a gamification system should be different.


Based on the material obtained from the first two lessons, we can conclude that the main components that require attention when introducing a gamified system into non-gaming activities are motivation and game elements from the PBL triad – points, badges, leaderboards. They should be the core of any system and any game.

In addition, it is extremely important to be guided by the Pyramid of elements of Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter, i.e. to think over the dynamics and mechanics of games in the most thorough way and include components suitable for each individual situation in them.

Guided by this knowledge and following the scheme indicated by us, you can make any process with which you deal fascinating and attractive to people, it does not matter: training is ordinary boring work or doing business. It is also important to say that competent gamification can improve the results of planning, setting and achieving goals, implementing life changes, and much more, including relationships with people around and even personal productivity.

Leave a Comment