Gamification mechanic 1: Objective(s) 
Gamification mechanic 1: Objective(s) 

Why did you get out of bed this morning? Or didn’t you? Are you still lying in bed reading this article from your phone or tablet? What’s your goal in life? Do you want to become rich, famous (popular), have lots of knowledge, power, or maybe a combination of them all? The truth is, having an objective refrains us from becoming depressed. Imagine a life with no purpose? There is just your birth, then you drink and eat (hopefully without getting eaten or die from diseases), sleep, awaken, find food again, eat, drink and this goes on until you die.
* bombshell * The sad part is, basically our life indeed is useless. Look at animals, the only thing that sets us apart from them is our conscious, awareness if you like.

Early in my life I realized that there is no true purpose of life or in life. We just have to make the most of it as we go and hopefully make a positive impact on people, our planet, and – sure – profit.

It is an interesting question though, what your purpose in life is, or even the purpose of you living… What impact will you make today, this week, month or year? And is it the same as ten years ago?

Four categories of goals

Generally speaking we can divide key desires of people in four categories:

  1. Wealth (possessions)
  2. Power / leverage
  3. Popularity
  4. Knowledge

So how do you feed your greed? Or do you try – like me – to be aware of your desires and try to minimize them, or at least make sure they do not consume you in pursuit of happiness…


You could say that I use a combination of them. I dug deep into the digital, gaming and human behavior segment since 2010, reading everything I though was relevant and publishing loads of blogs and (so far two) books about it in Dutch and English. But what is knowledge worth if you can’t share it with others? I once read, that if you want to become immortal, you have to share knowledge, so I did. I read loads of books from Stephen Coveys ‘Seven Habits’, to  eat your greens about fact based marketing, to Free, Authenticity, Press Start etc. etc. At least one book a month for the past ten years. You can make a habit out of that, just find the right moment / context that works best for you!


You might say in the past decade I have become somewhat popular in the field of gamification. Before I knew of its existence, I was listed in the Top 20 of the ‘Global Gamification Guru-list’ (March in 2012). From that point forward I decided to call myself gamification guru as I am exploring how game mechanics can assist individuals, teams and organizations. When I started in 2010 I was talking to relative small audiences that had no idea how you could use games as a marketing tool or e-sports as a way to promote your brand (read my first book ‘a brand new playground’ for that, available as a free download). But ever since I have been seeking larger and larger audiences, finding myself in a business class flight to Dubai to speak to 400+ IT professionals of Flying Emirates about my hobby and work.

Power / leverage

Now this is one desire I don’t really pursue, but most business and political leaders do and I pity them fools (B.A. Baracus). This desire means that you wish to have power over others in order to dictate what you want to see done. It is an old desire of emperors and kings. People that desire power love leaderboards (as long as they are on it) and enjoy to belittle and bully others.  We can all imagine some presidents I think and even the guy owning the largest retail store that just divorced his wife for billions but refuses to pay his employees a fair salary. I guess this separates the narcissist from people with more noble drives in life. If you enjoy playing (real-time) multiplayer strategy and shooter games like America’s Army, Battlefield, Call of Duty, Cossacks, Command and Conquer, and also board games like Catan and Monopoly and you celebrate if you win, you are (within that context) a person that enjoys winning over others.


Probably the most common desire in life is ‘wealth’. According to Maslow our desires and needs start with the ability to drink, eat, sleep and being safe. But as soon as you have your basic needs under control… you want more… Because you see your neighbor drives that particularly interesting or powerful European car. Or (s)he is wearing the latest limited edition Rolex. Which to me is surprising because I have a phone that tells me the time already. Why would I need a phone!? Let along a piece of metal costing over €10k…? Wealth can be a real mind-fuck for us. We think we need more and more money, stuff, a bigger house, bigger car, etc. But research shows us that a salary over €60k a year will not make you significantly happier. Personally – more so – I am convinced that if you earn more than €100k a year, your greed for more money and wealth will start to take a hold of you! So be careful what you wish for!

I always say: you don’t have to own a boat, you have to know a guy that owns a boat and take trips with him! Save yourself the hassle of possessions, but make sure you have a network (popularity) that enables you to live a million dollar lifestyle, just my two cents. 😉

So how does all of this human behavior tie into game design. Well… that’s exactly what game design does. We use intrinsic human drives, desires and motivations and match them with mechanics that fuel them to change behavior of our target audience!

Psychology behind purpose 

So how can you apply goals, objective and purpose in games or gamification systems? Before you can set a relevant and realistic goal, you should know your audience. Why? Because if your goal is not relevant for (the larger part of) your audience, it will not motivate them to pursue it. If you like blond (wo)men, but there are only brunettes in the bar, there is no point staying there. If you like pizza, but you can only make pasta… etc. So first know your audience and then try to state a relevant goal that either taps into their desire to become smarter, popular, more powerful or more wealthy.

For serious games and gamification systems we define three levels of objectives:

  1. Objective for our client or Decision Making Unit
  2. Desired behavioral change of the target audience
  3. Goal(s) in the game or gamification system

The client might want to increase sales. But this might not be a relevant objective for staff. It could mean we need to teach them to ask more questions (desired behavior) instead of (current behavior) talking about the products they sell. And eventually we have to translate the desired behavior into relevant goal(s) in the game or gamification system. For instance like this:

  • why would you buy a new phone, write down three reasons
  • think of three questions you would ask a new friend to get to know her / him a little bit better
  • which three questions would you ask yourself if you would buy a new phone?
  • what are you biggest fears before entering a store or engaging in buying a new product

We now carefully and casually taped into four processes that feed human behavior and impact: I want to, I know how to, I am able to and I dare to … do whatever.

If you want to know more about this, please reach out to one of our gamification consultants HERE!

Or check out our YouTube channel for more free videos on game mechanics.

Entertainment games

Now the above counts merely for serious games and gamification systems, not entertainment games. This is why our work is quite complex. The goal of an entertainment game is just providing a fun or pleasant experience. The objective of a serious game, most of the time is to change behavior and make impact on a corporate or organizational goal. Or even more specific: make the audience do things that they were not planning on doing.

Objectives can have many forms and structures. Let me leave you with a few easy to understand examples from entertainment games that you probably know.

– What’s the goal in Candy Crush?

Indeed, Crush as much of Candy as you can in five minutes and gain points.

– What’s the goal in Monopoly?

Indeed, make as much money as you can buying streets, bartering with other players, building houses and hotels and undressing other players financially until you have the monopoly.

– What’s the goal in Call of Duty (a first person shooter)

No other than playing tag. You have to shoot others faster than they can shoot you for a set period of time in a particular level.

Fortunately there are also different game goals, like: last man standing, domination, capture the flag, etc. but mainly your goal is to… shoot others faster than they can shoot you ;-). And no games don’t make killers, guns do… just saying… ban guns.