Beyond Coursemology & Duolingo: The Gamification Frontier Explored

NUSSU The Ridge Website Banner
NUSSU The Ridge Website Banner

Share this post:

What’s the Buzz About Gamification?

Gamification jazzes up dreadful tasks like gymming or studying by adding in elements from the gaming world. Game mechanics, like levels, points, missions, leaderboards, and badges, reflect how users receive the next steps and feedback on accomplishments when they engage with the gamification program. As players interact further with these mechanics, game dynamics, including emotions, behaviours and desires, are produced. They are used side-by-side with game mechanics to foster engagement and drive user motivation. Prime examples of such include competition through leaderboards, collaboration on team missions, collecting unique badges and unlocking new missions. 

The crux of gamification is to creatively cultivate motivation. The gaming experience makes the activity much more interactive to sustain users’ interest and encourage participation. On the other hand, rewards work like a pat on the back – they effectively act as extrinsic motivators by tapping into our natural desires for achievement and recognition.​​ 

Some additional elements, like flashcard games in Quizlet, employ active recall or trigger sensory learning strategies (in visual, auditory and kinesthetic ways) to enhance knowledge retention. Social interaction is also a nice-to-have feature that creates a game society to increase motivation through communication or competition. What’s even better about gamification is how the gradual unveiling of new tasks breaks the activity into bite-sized, achievable missions, effectively delivering a sense of progression and quantifying growth in skill sets. This helps users set goals and track their progress. 

Curious about the diverse applications of gamification in softwares and mobile apps? This article will guide you through its various uses, both at a personal level and within business contexts.

Game On to Learn More!

When we talk about gamification, we think of Coursemology, School of Computing’s favourite student learning platform for its flagship modules like CS1010S, where students have to regularly clear coding missions to gain experience points until they reach the max level. Or maybe Duolingo, our go-to language learning app with bite-sized training modules in the format of minigames like image matching and translation exercises. They surely come in handy for typical NUS students who are keen to learn programming or foreign languages.


Staying focused and productive amidst distractions can be a real challenge – it’s just so hard to resist scrolling through Instagram Reels when you’re working on that lengthy, long-dreaded essay assignment. This is where gamified productivity apps step in as a lifeline for college students. While you might be familiar with the well-known Forest app that incentivises uninterrupted work sessions, Habitica offers another intriguing option to consider. Unlike your basic Reminders app, Habitica skillfully merges task management and habit tracking with a role-playing game interface. Here, users convert their daily tasks into quests assigned to their in-game characters. Upon completion, users earn gems or gold coins for purchasing add-ons for avatars, receive special pet rewards like T-Rex eggs and unicorns, or even indulge in custom rewards like video game sessions or cafe-hopping! However, the characters lose health points if they get attacked by a monster when users don’t complete the tasks in time, in turn acting as an encouraging nudge toward consistent productivity and habit formation.

Gamify your Sleep and Work-out Routine!

Balancing the impossible trinity of study, staying healthy and socialising is what every college student hopes to achieve. Here are some fun gamified apps to help you with the second item of the trinity – health. 

Pokemon Sleep

If you’ve been running on three hours of sleep daily during the semester, Pokemon Sleep is your ideal gamified sleep tracker. Just put your phone face-down next to your pillow and it will magically track your sleep duration and quality. The longer you sleep, the more Pokemons your Snorlax attracts, each offering insights into your sleep patterns. You also get more sleep points to get Poke Biscuits for feeding your Snorlax. As your Snorlax indulges and thrives, the magnetic pull for Pokemons intensifies. Indeed, waking up all excited to rare finds and feeding your Snorlax with delightful meals proves to be an effective motivator for developing healthier sleeping habits.

Zombies, Run!

Up for some adrenaline-infused twist to your regular workout routine? Zombies, Run! is the perfect app. It gets you fit by making you run (physically!) away from hordes of zombies while meticulously recording metrics like distance, time, pace and calories burnt in each mission through your phone’s GPS and accelerometer. Its immersive sound effects and character voices delivered through your headphones elevate the entire zombie apocalypse experience to a whole new level. What’s even more fascinating is its ongoing storyline to keep you coming back for more – you’re basically in a real-life Walking Dead season! 

Level Up Business Practices with Gamified Apps

The applications of gamified apps stretch beyond the personal level. They’re also widely employed by businesses, be it in customer retention or managing employees. Typically, smaller companies and startups focus on the gamification of the product, as evident in what we saw in previous examples. Medium-sized companies attract consumers, and larger ones train staff with the tool.

Starbucks for Life

Starbucks, for instance, has launched various Rewards Programs integrating exclusive discounts upon the completion of missions and games. Notably, Starbucks for Life, its annual holiday-themed promotion campaign, entices customers with a variety of prizes like free drinks, food items or gift cards through engaging minigames like sweepstakes and collect-to-win challenges. Its pinnacle prize offers players complimentary food or beverages for an astonishing 30 years. But it’s not just some other generous mobile game – participants have to earn gameplays through purchases at participating Starbucks stores. Different from the conventional membership reward scheme, the allure of fun games and attractive rewards successfully prompts repeated purchases and bolsters customer loyalty to the brand. 

Meanwhile, across their global team, NTT, a digital transformation company, uses a game called Samurai to test leadership qualities. Staff members have to answer a series of questions before joining customised leadership training in the form of quests, helping the company pinpoint top leaders and those who are struggling. Analytics collected by Samurai enable managers to track the progress of their team members and give more pertinent support accordingly. Building on the success of gamification, it’s now planning another secret-agent-themed smartphone game aiming to assist salespeople in mastering the art of selling new products.


Of course, the realms of gamification don’t just stop here. Gamification can be applied to promote social good, like recycling, volunteering, or donations. Or even in the exhilarating spheres of Fintech, in management of personal funds, improving financial literacy, and in neobanks. For all curious software engineers out there, these could be fervent ideas for your Orbital projects!

Nevertheless, it’s crucial to acknowledge that gamification is by no means a panacea for all concepts. Sometimes, incorporating gamification may result in oversimplification of rich or nuanced subjects when translated into game-like formats. Game and reward systems are not universal, they depend on context and the characteristics of target audiences. Turning an initiative into a fun and feasible app is indeed a craft yet to be mastered by many – when well-crafted, it could even evolve into a substantial start-up idea!