Increased Motivation Through Gaming Elements

Gamification describes the enhancement of applications and processes through elements used in computer games. These elements can be individual elements and functions or entire processes. The main goal is to improve the user’s motivation.

What role does it play in crowdsourcing projects?

Game elements are significant because crowdsourcing is often about having a large number of uniform tasks performed by many people within a short period of time. As a rule, motivation is derived from the material incentives for the worker. In contrast to complex tasks, a relatively minor motivation factor is derived from the challenge that is linked to the task. Gamification can help make a crowdsourcing project easier.

Gamification ©   Flikr by Buster Benson

Gamification in Practice

The use of different entertaining features is conceivable in the crowdsourcing sector. Since the financial components are often fairly important to the participants, a three-dimensional gague with the current earnings status might prove to be motivating. This status increases accordingly with the work effort and adds motivation to skyrocket their own earnings. Rankings and progress bars for certain projects benefit from a slightly different mechanism. All of the project participants can see what the community has achieved. If many others are also active the incentive to participate and match the competitor’s increases.

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These functions rely on the typical, human reaction to perceptible competitors. Output usually increases with competition. There is also the time pressure that is built up by the overall progress bar. If only a certain number of interesting tasks are available, the motivation to work quickly increases in order to claim a large number of tasks. Forceful feedback is also essential for successful crowdsourcing. Feedback has more than a gaming nature; it is also an important element for the quality management of a crowdsourcing platform. Feedback teaches the workers how the task can be best fulfilled. This generally increases the quality of the work. A further psychological aspect is taken into account when the feedback includes praise as well as criticism. Positive feedback, including a sense of achievement obtained with gaming elements, is usually more motivating than the absence of criticism.

Elements of Gamification in Crowdsourcing

Here are some examples of what gamification can look like:

  • Badges
  • Badges can be earned within the working environment as a visual representation of achievement. It symbolizes the goals the worker has reached. They can also show affiliation to a certain group.
  • Points/Levels
  • Points or levels can be applied for the completion of certain activities. This could be filling out profile information, taking assessments or even showing work done on certain projects.
  • Avatars
  • These can be a representation of the worker, they may not wish to use a personal photo so an avatar helps bring some kind of personality to their account. These can range from a simple symbol all the way up to a complex 3D design.
  • Graphs/Bars
  • Performance can be shown here, it may be how far along a set of tasks a worker is, how many tasks are left, how close they are to a new level and more. Some may even show performance over a certain amount of time or even comparison to other workers.
  • Teammates
  • Combining competition and collaboration can work well in some projects and environments when working. These can be very effective for learning andthe creation of new ideas.
  • Leaderboards
  • Ranking workers whether overall or in specific projects or groups can show who is performing well. They can show quality, quantity, length of time and more.

    Psychology of Gamification in Crowdsourcing

    Gamification is frequently used in crowdsourcing. The reason for this is usually to maintain motivation and keep turnover low. Crowdsourcing usually involves microtasks and they are often offered in their thousands and some cases hundreds of thousands or even more. Whilst the tasks are small they are often repetitive and monotonous and after a while may feel boring, especially if they are extremely simple. Obviously, the financial incentive helps with this and upon seeing their balance climb a worker will usually feel relatively motivated. However, keeping good workers engaged can be a challenge.

    As crowdsourcing becomes more and more popular and as more and more platforms are created competition to keep workers grows. This is where gamification comes in helpful. Motivation theory is considered when gamification is used for this purpose, this relates to intrinsic (natural) and extrinsic (non-natural) motivation as well as self-determination theory. The latter is the driving force behind a person’s individual reason for motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when someone is driven to do something because they gain satisfaction from it and find it interesting. Extrinsic motivation is when a worker will do something because they gain some kind of personal benefit from it. To keep a worker engaged both of these motivations are best applied.

    Motives in Crowdsourcing

    Studies show that in crowdsourcing there are various motivators with rewards being at the top. Recognition was closely followed by this which as humans we all like to have in our line of work. After these came skills, professional development, and social reasons. However, these are hard to gamify. Relationship building is mentioned too and this is where platforms do well to foster a sense of community within their crowd. A feeling of belonging will often motivate people to log in and work.

    Game Categorization

    As mentioned before, common elements used in crowdsourcing are rewards, points, rankings, badges etc. Rewards are usually linked to money but in some cases, it can also be a virtual reward, however, this is less appreciated than financial rewards for obvious reasons. Elements like badges, trophies etc are linked to recognition. These kinds of elements can make workers feel valued and encourage them to work more. Elements that show progress such as leaderboards, graphs and bars can encourage workers to hit certain targets. This sense of achievement and fulfilment can make the worker feel good and want to come back. These elements also give the worker confidence as they can see how much they are growing and achieving, therefore they will put in more effort.

    Examples of Literal Crowdsourcing Games

    Google Image Labeler

    Back in 2006, Google wanted to improve the accuracy of their image database. Rather than just have tasks for the crowd to complete they made an actual game. Participants would be linked with a partner online. Both were shown the same image and they would both then have to create as many labels for the image as possible. If they used the same label they both got points. The points gamification made people want to keep working on the project.

    The Great Brain Experiment

    Neuroscientists at the University College of London developed a mobile app in 2013 featuring four neuroscience experiments. This cute looking game took data from the participants and used it for a huge scientific study. It looked at memory, what makes people happy, impulsivity and more. The researchers decided to make it a fun game so as to gain as many participants as possible. It was the first neuroscience project to gamify data collection to the crowd. As the game was well made and visually appealing it didn’t feel like a chore to volunteers who enjoyed the process.


    Foldit is an online puzzle game about protein folding. The University of Washington Center for Game Science along with the Dept of Biochemistry developed the game as part of a research project. The objective of the game is to fold protein structures as perfectly as possible. The higher scoring games are sent to the researchers who look into the results in further detail. By using gamification the game was made appealing to the general public who can also join groups, chat to one another and share solutions. This community, scoring of games and interaction with a project that can advance science gives great motivation to participants.


    Founded in 2010 and running until 2019, Tomnod was a project owned by DigitalGlobe. Volunteers would look at high-resolution digital images taken by DigitalGlobes satellites and tag things of importance. This may sound odd and many may wonder what would compel someone to do this in their own time for free. However, there is another motivator here that isn’t often used and stands out a little from gamification and that’s feeling called upon to help. This is because Tomnod was set up to assist after natural disasters and incidents caused by people. The most significant case they worked on was the disappearance of flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean. Volunteers were asked to try and find life rafts, wreckage, and other clues. Over 3-million people were involved due to their feeling compelled to help. Whilst not exactly game-like Tomnod did gamify in the respect of “hunt the object”.