Behaviour by Design

Product design that affects Behaviour

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Chris Crawford Definition of Game and Gamification

The definition of gamification seems to be pretty clear, a simple search reveals

Gamification is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals

This definition relies on the definition of game, but defining what is a game and what is not is actually not that simple. Game scholars have been debating that definition over the years and there are several conflicting definitions accepted in the industry. A good trick to spot a “Gamification (not so much) expert” is asking him what is the definition of “game”.

Chris Crawford, the legendary game designer has the following definition:

Taxonomy of creative expressions.

  • Creative expression is art if made for its own beauty, and entertainment if made for money.

  • A piece of entertainment is a plaything if it is interactive. Movies and books are cited as examples of non-interactive entertainment.

  • If no goals are associated with a plaything, it is a toy. If it has goals, a plaything is a challenge.

  • If a challenge has no "active agent against whom you compete," it is a puzzle; if there is one, it is a conflict.

  • Finally, if the player can only outperform the opponent, but not attack them to interfere with their performance, the conflict is a competition. However, if attacks are allowed, then the conflict qualifies as a game.

I must admit that this is not the definition I go by but It makes a great job defining the boundaries of what a game is, and give us a clear framework to categorize ludic experiences.
Allow me to apply this to product design under the lens of what the changes to the original system are. We can drop everything that’s not intractable since the definition of gamification implies interaction.


A toy is something that has no goal, is fun to use and thats it, therefore to toyify a product should mean to add a functionality that has no use, but it's fun and drive usage of the product.

(As seen in other article)

Most of the solutions that use this approach have great adoption by the users, you can find great publicity stunts that work under this concept, but as with any toy, retention is low. Interaction fun is hard to maintain and most of this solutions fail once the novelty fades away.

Adding Goals creates two new categories.


Let’s think of a solution where there are goals but no active agent (either another person nor rules) are competing against the user. This solutions are not common, so let me use one example of my own. Some time ago I designed a system to teach the elderly to use search engines, my solution was to puzzleify (to make it fun and add goals) searching the web.
I would set a factual question to answer, (a goal), “how long is the nile river?” and provide the player with a search box to use. Answering one question would allow them to advance in the puzzle to another question, while experientially learning how to effectively search.


So, in competitions, by Crawford definition, we have something that not only is fun to do and has goals but we are competing with somebody or something else. This kind of systems are analog to running a race, everybody runs alone undisturbed but we compare the performance with the rest of the competitors.
Most Gamification solutions are inside this category since the system they design is meant not to allow any interaction with other users, but to compare our results with the rest. Here you have scores, achievements, leaderboards... all the classic “gamification” canned solutions. A variation of this is to let individual efforts count as part of a collective effort just as a relay race, every runner runs by his own but as part of a team.
Most resources about gamification are about how to competify a system. This approach have several downsides and can actually hurt your product, I’m planning to write an article on this so keep an eye out for it.

Finally... What by Chris definition we should call


So a Game is a competition where the players can affect each other performances. The definition talks about attacks but it means any form of interaction that affects the performance of a competitor. It’s havent been able to find any example of this kind of Gamification... where players interact with each other play and affect the end result. This “true” gamification would have several advantages over competification, since interactions between players are what make a system really fun, just think of the differences of yahtzee! and dungeons and dragons...