When some one is engaged with a gamification experience, one of the key elements is often some type of reward structure. In most obvious situations, the rewards are the in guise of points or badges or a similar element. The reward structure, however, plays as much into the continual motivation of the learner as does the form of the reward. I have written about this before in Measurement vs. Completion Achievements in Gamification.
However, there are many different ways to look at rewards and achievements. Understanding the concepts from several different angles helps with understanding the best methodology of applying rewards to help motivate learners. One way to think of them was developed by Game Designers Neal and Jane Hallford and written about in the classic book Rules of Play by Salen and Zimmerman.
In the book, rewards (originally derived from thinking about computer role-playing games) are described as such:
Rewards of Glory. These are are the things the player is going to receive that have no impact on game play. This could be a “Five in a Row” award in a game where the player does something five times in a row. No additional powers or skills are obtained just the glory of knowing that they did something five times in a row. These can also be accomplishing a side quest or mission or even obtaining fancy clothes or other cosmetic attributes. Rewards of glory are great for bragging rights and tie into the social aspects of gaming. A good gamification experience will have some rewards of glory but not too many. Balance is needed so that the rewards of glory don’t become the rewards of over doing it or the rewards of the mundane accomplishment.
Rewards of Sustenance. These are rewards that allow the player to maintain the current state and to keep what he or she has achieved. These could be health packs that restore a character’s health or a shield that keeps a player from dying right away. Anything that allows the player to remain on a level or in the thick of action. These can even be strategic save points that enable a player to keep everything they have earned up to a certain point. (This is important because games do need to put players at risk to maximize the playing experience.)
Rewards of Access. These are rewards that allow players to go to new places or gain new resources. Rewards of access generally have three characteristics. 1) They allow a player to access new locations or resources that were previously inaccessible. 2) They are generally only used once. 3) They have no other value to the player after they have been used. Things like secret passwords, keys or other similar items are typically the embodiment of rewards of access.
Rewards of Facility. These are rewards that allow a player to do something they were previously unable to do. This can be a power up giving the player the ability to avoid sword swings or it can be the ability to see in the dark. When well handled, according to Salen and Zimmerman, rewards of facility should increase the number of strategies and options the player has for playing the game.
So when designing you gamification experience, consider what type of rewards you would like to offer.
Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, 2004), p. 345-346.
Neal Hallford with Jana Hallford, Swords and Circuitry: A Designer’s Guide to Computer Role Playing Games (Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing, 2001), p. 158.