Apr 22, 2014

Analysis of gamification principles - QuizUp


I have become quite fascinated with the theory around gamification, more so after completing the course by Prof. Kevin Werbach (Highly recommend you sign up for this course whenever it is offered next, if you want to understand gamification beyond points, badges and leader board)

It was exciting to come across an app like "QuizUp" that has applied the best practices and principles of game design and game mechanics in a fun and engaging way.


QuizUp is a basic trivia game on the mobile that challenges you on various topics ranging from Math, English grammar and spellings and even on the popular sitcom "Friends".  You pick any topic you like, start the quiz with any player in the world who is using the app (or challenge your friends from your social circle) and play the trivia which lasts for 7 rounds. Points are rewarded based on your performance in each round and the final end state. You gather points to reach different levels and the game progresses further.

What's done well?

The key challenge to such an app is to keep users engaged, not get bored easily and keep coming back for more.

In terms of time commitment from the user, the trivia quizzes are short and doesn't take too much of time to *finish* a game. In the middle of the day, whenever I feel like taking a short break, I would play a game or two, which doesn't take more than 5 minutes. So it feels like a nice and quick distraction from whatever else I was doing.

Looking at the game elements, *points* are the building blocks to reach various levels and climb up the leader board. Points are decided not only based on the correctness of your answer but also on the speed at which you get the correct answer. Sometimes, this can be a crucial factor, which ensures you are completely hooked to the game once you start. You also get instant feedback on your total points as well as points gathered in this present quiz with a breakup of various components. It gives more clarity to the player on where he has done right and what he needs to do in the next quiz. The game also nudges you to play the quiz again, by displaying the points required to reach the next level.

The basic principle to get a player to play any game is that the game should neither feel too easy nor too hard. The game should capitalize on the "achievement" factor which can be fun to many people. In the gamification course, Prof.Werbach lists down 14 attributes that players claim to be "fun". I would say QuizUp scores well in 7 of these attributes.
  1. Winning
  2. Problem solving
  3. Exploring
  4. Chilling
  5. Teamwork (collaborating with others)
  6. Recognition
  7. Triumphing (crushing an opponent)
  8. Collecting
  9. Surprise
  10. Imagination
  11. Sharing (being altruistic)
  12. Role playing
  13. Customization
  14. Goofing off
QuizUp also leverages the human trait to "complete" a task. Because of the need for a shorter time commitment, the time pressure to get the answer right and complete focus on just "one" question at a time, the game tends to hook you once the quiz starts. I would presume that the drop-off rates in the middle of a quiz would be quite low.

Where can it be improved?

Game progression is an important requirement for any gamified system. Without progression, monotony sets in and chances of drop off are high. QuizUp does get tougher as you progress into the category. You need more points to reach higher levels. However the quality of the trivia in itself doesn't seem to change much. For instance, I'm in level 21 of "Spellings" category and I get a simple spelling like "keyboard". It doesn't seem to challenge me and I have lost the initial enthusiasm I had. One of the key aspects of an engaging game is that the player has to feel a sense of mastery towards the task. If I'm able to crack harder spelling quizzes, I would feel a sense of pride and achievement.

As I mentioned earlier, levels get progressively tougher as the game requires you to gather more points to level up. It does get boring after a while as you are stuck in the same level and had to gather more points to go up.

*Badges*, though present are somewhat given lower prominence and is hidden inside the navigation drawers. I wasn't quite clear on their meanings and the progress bar. I presume the team is still working on implementing a "Collections" element which will entice the player to collect all badges.

The game is presently more driven by *intrinsic* motivation where a player wants to cross different levels and feel a sense of achievement. Only when a substantial social circle is developed for a player, the game will be able to leverage the pull through *extrinsic* motivation in the form of challenges and friends leader board.

The game can also provide ability to play group trivia that encourages cooperation and collaboration (Challenging an opponent is fun but collaborating/partnering together can be interesting too)

Though they display a leaderboard for various groups under friends, country and global, I'm not so bothered about it. I personally feel that a leader board makes sense ONLY if you are in the top 10. For the rest of the players, it's better if it's not even displayed in the first place.


Please do share if you have come across other web products/apps that have implemented the principles of gamification really well.

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