How gamification fails (& the 1 secret to successful applied game design)

Everyone winning is better than YOU winning.

Hello there, Jordan here 👋

You found the best app last week.

It’s fun.

You love playing it.

You’re about to get paid MONEY for playing.

The app promised you’ll get paid $125 for every hour you use it. So, you spent your entire week playing with it non-stop. 80 hours in total.

(your imaginary version really works hard, wow)

But it’s finally time – 80×$125=$10,000.


That’s a lot of money.

You hear the mailman dropping a package off. You pick it up and can feel a fat stack of cash inside. You’re already dreaming how to spend it.

And then you open the package. It’s filled with cash, but the banknotes are weird. They say:

Super Points?!

🕹️ Is that another “gamification”?

“This is such a scam; the app promised something else!”

(you could’ve been nicer here)

“But, human being, if you read our small print , you’ll know that this is what we offer. And you can use our Super Points to buy all kinds of things.”

Who reads the small print ?! Software should be made for humans, not accountants!

“Fine. What can I buy with Super Points?”

“Human being, you can buy all kinds of awesome items!
Like our Super Points Booster™

“Okay, what does the Super Points Booster™ do?”

“Human being, our Super Points Booster™ boosts the amount of Super Points you get”

“But why would I want more of something that’s completely usele–”


The line cut off.

You see me holding a pair of comically oversized scissors and grinning.

I cut the line. Get it?

(you should be more amused, it was a great pun)

Gamification is the pathetic attempt of corporations to use video games to make apps more entertaining.

They don’t have a clue.

🤩 Applied Game Design

Gamification fails because it’s doing the wrong things. It’s always:

  • Points

  • Achievements

  • Leaderboards

Those are useful mechanics to make an interesting system, but:

They don’t work on their own.

You can add those anywhere and you’ll have a slightly more complicated app that’s not more entertaining.

Here’s where Applied Game Design comes in.

You can use the same tools but get a very different result by doing 1 thing:

Creating win-win situations.

The next time you're:

  • Writing

  • Making a video

  • Making a website/app

Ask yourself this:

What is the 1 action that makes both me and my audience win?

Then focus all of your energy on communicating it well and making it easy.

Win-Win examples:

  • Share this to get my free guide.

  • Follow me for free practical lessons.

  • The users who write the best reviews get promoted in our app.

Your biggest fan,

💡 Idea of the Week

“Failure doesn’t mean the game is over, it means try again with experience.”

— Len Schlesinger

⚙️ Tools, Apps, 'n' Gadgets

Here are today's picks:

  • Feather — Notion → Blog in a few minutes. Neat if you don’t want to mess with hosting and whatnot.

  • Answer Socrates — Find out what people are asking online.

  • Shots — Create spectacular mockups for anything. I’m shocked this is free.

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🔦 Creator Spotlight

One personsuperhuman you need to follow is Steph. She’s heading one of the most interesting communities on Twitter (for superhumans, yes) that can help you grow your audience and connect with other creators.
(just tell her, Jordan sent you)

📰 Last Week with Jordan

Last week I released my Twitter Emergency Kit 👇️

Also, here’s my video on multitasking you probably haven’t seen:

That was it for today. Have a great week and I'll see you next Sunday!

— Jordan

PS: Help me out by sharing this with a friend who'll find it useful 🫶