Gamification Starts by Setting Goals

10 Minute Read


“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”
― Albert Einstein

Games, if obvious or not, are structured around goals. I would go so far as to say that every game has at least one goal. Game designers use these to guide the player and present an end-state, often teasing the player with a reward of some kind. This guiding effect seems to work quite well in real life as well. 

Gamification seems to always start by setting a goal. This is mostly because a goal determines the parameters by which you will measure your progression. It additionally requires you to reflect on a starting point and decide on a win-condition for the completion of that goal. In other words the goal will guide the player to think about how to complete it, as well as indicating the beginning, the end and all the steps in-between.

Examples from games

= Check Mate
= Position your figures so that they put the enemy king into check mate 
= Take out figures to help you reach check mate 
= Position your figures so that your king is safe
= Cover your figures to secure they are not taken out of the game 
= Win by driving the other players into bankruptcy 
= Buy properties
= Buy Houses and Hotels to increase the value of your properties
= Trade properties to either stop opponents from getting a complete color or complete your colors to get an advantage
= Deastroy the Nexus
= Deastroy turrets to get closer to the Inhibitors and Nexus
= Destroy Inhibitors to get stronger minion and get closer to the Nexus
= Gain gold for items
= Build your items to counter the other team and gain strength
= Kill the dragon, herold and baron to gain buffs for your team
= Kill the enemy team for gold and objective control

How does it benifit my everyday life

Psychological studies have shown how priming effects our brain impacting our decisions. Goals are psychological hack to prime yourself into achieving them more effectively. “How does goal priming work? What are some of the mechanisms by which a simple external cue, for example words or images representing a certain concept, can affect a person’s behavior without the need for conscious reflection and intention? Through their repeated pursuit, often in similar situations, goals are associated both with situational cues, and with effective means for pursuing them. As a result, a situational cue can serve as a prime to activate goal representations, which in turn can lead to goal-directed behaviours, without the need for conscious intentions or awareness. This can happen to the degree that the representation of an outcome or behavior is indeed desirable and thus associated with a reward. Additional cognitive resources are recruited to support its pursuit, for example to keep the goal active in mind until a suitable opportunity for goal pursuit arises, and to inhibit temptations that would interfere with goal pursuit. In addition, nonconscious goals are supported by seeing the world in ways that facilitate reaching them, for example by perceiving relevant external stimuli as bigger in size, allocating more attention to them, and evaluating them more positively when they serve an active goal. Thus, fundamental processes of learning and information processing are involved in facilitating the effective pursuit of those things that individuals value, without requiring conscious intentions and awareness.” (Papies, 2016) Okay that was dense, if you are interested in this topic, check out the full article here, or do your own research on “Priming” I promise you it is worth it. To make this just a bit more clear, lets take the goal of losing weight as an example. By setting this goal you are priming your mind to unconsciously raise its awareness towards anything relating to that goal. By looking at this goal repeatedly you will teach your mind to keep an eye out for things that could help you achieve this goal and additionally stop you from doing something that might jeopardies your pursuit of this goal. Gamification aims to use the goalsetting techniques found in games to improve this priming effect in our lives.

How i can implement this gamification idea

Implementation of gamification always requires testing out different methods for yourself to find the best way that suits your needs. But I am not gonna let you hanging here. There are many tools out there that can help you with goal setting and priming. The easiest and most reliable is simply a piece of paper and a pen. Write down your goal, think about the sub goals, and then put it next to your bed. Read it when you go to bed and when you wake up. If you want to take this further I suggest getting an app for habitualization. You want to remind yourself of the goal as often as possible, so that your brain understands that it is important to you. Then all you need to do is let your brain do what it does best, create connections. Go to the tools page to find inspiration and suggestions on what could help you achieve your goals.

As an example I will present some of my goals that I wish to gamify, with a small description on where I think the beginning is and what the win-condition should be, as well as how I might track the progression. In the future a visual representation of these goals in context with my progress will be found on the page “Player Profile”.

1- Live intentionally: Goal oriented behavior

  • The beginning of this goal started before writing it down and relates to my personal struggle to stay focused on big projects that require long term commitment.
  • The win-condition is that I am spending my time intentionally working on predetermined goals like building this website, learning webdesign, game-design and more. I would consider this goal achieved when most of my day is oriented around goal oriented behavior.
  • Tracking the progression here will be done by writing down goals and sub-goals, noting down when they are completed in a goal diary. (This will be offered in the tool section of the website soon)

2- Essentialize: Reduce my lifestyle to the essentials, less distractions, less choices, more clarity

  • The beginning of this goal starts by finding out what is not essential. For this purpose an inventory will be made to get an overview of what I posses.
  • The win-condition is when I have reduced my belongings to the lifestyle I wish to live, hopefully resulting in a less cluttered mind.
  • Tracking the progression will take place over an inventory (This inventory will be offered in the tool section of the website soon)

3- Master Tracker: Become a professional

  • The beginning of this goal started once this goal has been written down.
  • The win-condition is being able to track my behavior good enough to create valuable data for gamification and to create tools that other people deem useful.
  • Tracking this progress will be reflected on the different forms used to gamify. The publishing of these tools for others and getting feedback on their usability will show how professional I am at tracking.

4- Start an influences career: Podcast, YouTube, Blog, Twitch…

  • The beginning of this goal started in April 2020 when I conjured up the idea to start a website on gamification.
  • The win-condition is finishing the website and gaining a substantial following on either platforms. (1000 + visitors/users)
  • Tracking this progress will be done by keeping a schedule on the publishing of content

5- Finish iArts Bachelor

  • The beginning of this goal started September 2020.
  • The win-condition is getting my bachelor in 2021.
  • Tracking this progress is being accomplished by my university.

While writing this I noticed that most of my goals are tied to values I hold and therefor are fairly open ended. Never the less, writing my goals down and thinking about the end result inspired thoughts on sub-goals that could be relevant. Honestly there is also something daunting about writing down goals, especially when they are big and with a lot of unknown components. Writing down my goals left me mixed with excitement and fear of failure. Keeping your goals to yourself is probably advisable, unless you are asking someone to keep you accountable. Here is a quick article on psychological tricks to reach your goals. (5 minute read)

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: I would argue that outside of games humans depend on goals for progressing through life. We set unintentional goals all the time without thinking about it. For example picking up the clothing from the bedroom is a goal that might pop into your mind right before you clean your room. Its hard to imagine doing anything without first deciding to do it. This may be a little philosophical, but goal setting seems to be part of the human condition. As a being that is stuck in the dimensions of space and time, we are organisms that have been born in a moment and time, never to return to that exact constellation again. We live in an ever progressing environment that is like an existential one way street and our brains must have evolved mechanisms that keep us going, ideally in a positive direction. That is why I think goals are so beneficial to motivation and our mental health.

Papies, E. K. (2016, April 20). Goal priming as a situated intervention tool. Retrieved March 30, 2021, from

Wu, J. (2020, January 14). 4 psychological tricks to reach your goals. Retrieved March 30, 2021, from

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