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Key Elements of Game Design

Zealic Solutions Key Elements of Game Design

Based off of the article: Gamification in Healthcare - Let's Play!

Zealic's Cliff Notes

The elements of video games and game design are crucial to creating engaging gaming experiences. These elements are also very important when creating gamified training and serious games.

Player Agency

The ability of the player to act independently and make their own choices. It is crucial that the element of player agency is in a gamification solution because, without it, the effort will fail.


Flow can be seen when someone gets complete absorption in the activity at hand. This is characterized by immersion, energized focus and enjoyment. Digital gaming solutions have the unique ability to give the user immediate feedback and to adjust and tailor itself to the users proficiency of the content. This keeps the user engaged and drives their motivation to continue learning.


There are two main types of games when it comes to goals - games with goals and open games. Games with goals are simply that, games that have clear cut goals that the user has to complete in order to win. Open games have option goals that the user can choose to complete or not complete which gives them a more "create your own adventure" feel.

When figuring out which type of goal-oriented game you need you should examine two elements:

Intrinsic Motivation and Player Type

There are many different types of game players and each has their own needs and expectation. Andrezej Marczewski defined six player types to keep in mind.

  • Socializers – motivated by relatedness

  • Free Spirits – motivated by autonomy

  • Achievers – motivated by mastery

  • Philanthropists – motivated by purpose and meaning

  • Disruptors – motivated by change

  • Players – motivated by extrinsic awards


The brain is motivated by reward mechanisms which keep users drawn to the game. Tom Chatfield explains how games reward players with the following mechanisms:

  • Avatar ownership – tools for measuring progress

  • Tailored challenges – multiple goals that keep the user engaged

  • Effort – all effort is rewarded

  • Feedback – the linking of consequences to action

  • Uncertainty – human curiosity is quintessentially heightened by uncertainty

  • Timing – of rewards, tailored at maximum receptivity.

  • Social – people and collaborating with other people.

When creating a gamification solution it is important to consider all of the above elements in order to create successful and effective solution.

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Bernadette Keefe MD

Originally Written by: Bernadette Keefe MD

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