What is gamification? The best gamification apps to try

Anton P. | May 17, 2022

Gamification refers to adopting typical game features into fields like education, work, or business. It can uplift dull or less enjoyable activities with symbolic rewards, badges, or other digital assets.

One of the most prosperous gamification examples is Duolingo, stimulating its learners with sparky gaming elements. Such strategies have been vital in boosting brand equity and user retention. However, gamification has taken off in other areas, with many entities finding its contribution valuable.

Gamification definition: leveling up experiences

Gamification means that elements found in games, such as scoreboards, pop up in tasks and activities outside gaming. It works as a motivational tool and includes interactive content like quizzes.

Usually, gamified experiences contain many of the following components:

  • Point systems.
  • Leaderboards.
  • Timers.
  • Badges.
  • Storytelling.
  • Leveling-up systems.
  • Competition.
  • Progression.
  • Mini-games.
  • In-app currencies.
  • And more.

Gamification in education has shown remarkable results, especially in e-learning settings. Such integrations usually rely on peer competition, reward systems, and goals.

The learning experience can be a game on its own, like adding narratives and requiring specific skills for problem-solving. A survival game Eco illustrates the usage of games that serve to teach its players valuable skills.

In this case, it is about sustainability and climate change. However, gamification examples usually include more subtle additions instead of turning learning experiences into full-fledged games.

For instance, Twitter has also taken a new approach to privacy policies by gamifying it as a video game. It aims to offer an user-friendly way of reading such documents without any explicit legal knowledge.

The expected benefits of gamification

Here are some of the benefits of gamification across all industries:

  • Improves user retention. Gamification can allow businesses to reward clients for their loyalty. Thus, companies can trigger higher conversion rates by generating engagement with their products.
  • Makes mundane actions fun. Gamification apps can motivate users to finish tasks that they would delay otherwise. For instance, Fitbit congratulates people on their 10,000 steps in a day with some fireworks. Such symbolic rewards or acknowledgments might seem insignificant. However, it can boost users’ morale and encourage them to stick around. In fact, move-to-earn apps have increased in popularity as well.
  • Boosts productivity. Employers integrate gamified elements into their employees’ tasks. For instance, Amazon’s FC Games include arcade-style mini-games played by performing warehouse tasks. Employees claim that gamification in such environments sparks healthy rivalry in the face of repetitive warehouse jobs. Also, participation is entirely optional, or people can choose to play anonymously.
  • Encourages teamwork. Some gamification apps and techniques can also facilitate trust and employee bonding. Many team-building exercises experiment with gamified activities. Companies specializing in team-building planning offer gamified experiences for employees.
  • Sparks competition. Leaderboards or shoutouts can awaken users’ rivalry. It motivates anyone to do better, be it employees or digital learners.
  • Improves problem-solving skills. Gamification elements in e-learning can put peers in real-life situations where they need to apply acquired information.
  • Nurtures creativity. Gamified activities have a way of making people think outside the box. Thus, it can reject the established norms and discover novel techniques for achieving something.

Pitfalls and dangers of gamification

Many services have dipped their toes into gamification. The success rate varies, mainly due to the implementation of such strategies. After all, gamification is not a universal tool to lighten any activity.

In some cases, it might not work or even be seen negatively by potential participants. For instance, two Wharton colleagues experimented with introducing gamification into daily employee activities. It focused on salespeople contacting potential partners and offering them coupons.

However, gamification works best when participants are voluntarily joining such activities. For employees, it is difficult to establish boundaries as most things in corporate settings are mandatory.

Therefore, if gamified activities are obligatory, they will feel forced and unnatural. Some of the forcefully participating salespeople made fewer sales than usual. Therefore, gamification should work as a deliberate decision to make the process of reaching goals more interesting.

Entertaining gamification apps for reaching goals

While not all gamification examples are successful, some services get it right. Thus, users can brighten up their activities significantly by using them. Whether learning languages or hitting step goals for the week, our list offers opportunities for such gamified experiences.

Todoist Karma

Price: free or paid.

Compatibility: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android Wear, Apple Watch, browsers.

Todoist is a popular application for organizing tasks. Thus, it helps users manage daily chores and work on setting specific goals. The Todoist Karma feature introduces gamification by granting points for accomplished plans. Essentially, you earn Karma points and receive new Karma levels.

What is gamification? The best gamification apps to try 1

Karma aims to show users their progress in graphs depicting their productivity levels. Users earn points by finishing tasks, adding new ones, or achieving streaks by attaining goals for several days or weeks.

What is gamification? The best gamification apps to try 2


Price: free or paid.

Compatibility: Android, iOS.

Habitica is an application promising to turn your daily activities and goals into a gamified journey. It features pixelated graphics, a colorful interface, and many components common to games.

What is gamification? The best gamification apps to try 3

For instance, you can create an avatar and customize battle armor, pets, skills, and more. Users level up through completing daily tasks that you decide on beforehand. It is also possible to team up with friends and fight monsters.

What is gamification? The best gamification apps to try 4

Zombies, run!

Price: free or paid.

Compatibility: Apple Watch, Android, and iOS.

Zombies, run! is a perfect gamified app for people struggling to start exercising. Also, it can be a valuable addition to avid runners looking for a way to spice up their routine.

What is gamification? The best gamification apps to try 5

Essentially, it serves as a fitness tracker guiding people to safety from zombies. Each user will act as a character attempting to complete missions like collecting materials. The more you run, the more supplies you gather. Along the way, users listen to audio narrations with music from their playlists.

The application can count your steps, track your GPS, and log the duration of your exercise. Also, Zombies, run! is not about running: it can be fun at any pace users choose. So, the sounds of a zombie hoard approaching you might be the needed motivation to become more active.

What is gamification? The best gamification apps to try 6


Price: free and paid.

Compatibility: Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS.

Yousician is an application for users wishing to master musical instruments like a guitar or piano. The app listens to your device’s microphone while you play an instrument. The gamification aspect enters through the points users score according to how they play.

What is gamification? The best gamification apps to try 7

Users get rewarded for notes played correctly. There are thousands of lessons for various instruments. Additionally, it is also possible to practice singing with Yousician. The fun interactive gameplay is an excellent way for users wishing to learn step by step.

What is gamification? The best gamification apps to try 8


Price: free or paid.

Compatibility: Android, iOS, and browser.

Duolingo is probably the most well-known example of gamification in education. The interactive lessons aim to get people writing, speaking, and reading in foreign languages. As users level up, the lessons and exercises become more challenging.

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The gamification in Duolingo has managed to get millions of people hooked to mastering a new language, be it only for five minutes daily. Learners get XP points for actively using the app, and they level up as they solve presented exercises.

There is also an in-app currency used for purchasing items in the virtual shop. Push notifications that Duolingo sends are also unique, moving away from typical marketing strategies.

What is gamification? The best gamification apps to try 10

Fitbit App

Price: free or paid.

Compatibility: Android, iOS.

Fitbit is a wearable fitness tracker connected to an app with multiple gamification features. It introduces such elements as badges, competition, and social engagement to make health and fitness goals more fun.

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The emails Fitbit sends also aim to mark a specific occasion, like earning badges or reaching goals. Users can also share these accomplishments on social media. Overall, the Fitbit app tracks workouts, like the calories burned or distance. It can also monitor sleep patterns and heart rate or provide personal coaching guides.

What is gamification? The best gamification apps to try 12

Are gamification apps worth it?

Gamified experiences tend to be impactful, motivational, and more exciting overall. Apps embracing game elements can transform tedious tasks and encourage you to keep your eyes on the prize. However, gamification is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

The main requirement is willing participants that understand the value of such activities.

Sadly, not all gamification apps are worthy of your trust. For instance, apps claiming to focus on physical or mental health are a source of concern.

It might be unclear how companies use or store confidential information about your medication or illnesses. Such applications might not treat your health data with the proper care and integrity it deserves.

Apps can also perform location tracking, potentially exposing your location details and letting entities exploit it for ad personalization. You can safeguard location-related details by masking them with a VPN.

Such IP address changes can prevent you from receiving ads reflecting your whereabouts. Furthermore, robust VPN protection can safeguard your data online, preventing entities from intercepting it.

So, be it a gamified application or a regular one, do your research before installing it. Find evidence that app owners won’t monetize or log personal details, especially health information.

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Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.


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