Ipsos Encyclopedia - Gamification

Gamification is a process that can be described as "the application of game elements, and techniques used in game design, into non-game contexts".


Gamification is a process that can be described as "the application of game elements, and techniques used in game design, into non-game contexts". So, it should not be confused with game-playing, gaming, or the process of turning something into a game.  And the term "game" is used broadly here, not just in the sense of digital games.

Done well, it will improve engagement with the gamified activity and so improve the quality of the outputs. The underlying principle is that gamification will incentivise people not just to take part but to give their best while doing so. In the context of market research, this means not just driving up response rates to surveys, but also motivating the respondents to provide better responses.

Realistically, it is only possible to truly gamify surveys where completion is self-administered by respondents - usually via a PC, laptop, mobile, tablet or other device.

To gamify a survey, one needs to:

  • create an underlying basic story or premise for respondents - this will typically offer some form of fantasy fulfilment, and give a narrative structure to the exercise that makes deeper sense to them than a simple transactional "answer these questions to get paid"
  • give respondents incentives to keep participating from minute-to-minute - for example: by offering points, badges, high score tables etc to tap into the natural human competitive spirit and desire for achievement
  • provide periodic and not entirely predictable sensory feedback to participants - this feedback should be pleasant and provide some reward. It might take the form of noise, images, video, or unexpected bonuses

A key benefit of gamification is to help people forget they are in research. When people are consciously aware of being in a research environment they sometimes over-analyse and over-rationalise their responses. Successful gamification leads people to momentarily forget they are in research, and can draw more natural, and instinctive responses.

Ipsos Point Of View

​Gamification can be a powerful tool to drive up engagement and response rates to surveys, but we are aware that there may be a trade-off, and that the more intensively gamified a survey is, the greater the risk that the data quality can be compromised (insofar as it may effect the validity of the outputs). So we are careful about how and where we deploy the technique.

There are some common mis-conceptions about gamification, including that it means investing a lot of time and money in making surveys look and feel like a computer game. This is rarely true – most of the gamification we do is much more straightforward than this, and is often simply about phrasing our questions in a more engaging way, by linking them to the everyday challenges faced by consumers. So, rather than ask a dry, unambiguous question (e.g. "what is your favourite genre of music?") we might personalise it by asking something like "if you were having a party for your own birthday, what sort of music would you play?"

When understood in this way, we can see that gamification is actually quite similar to the Projective Techniques we often use in our Qualitative Research. Indeed, we often use gamification techniques in qualitative contexts, in what we term "disruptive qual" which is designed to create a playful environment.

Although more intensively gamified surveys are possible, it is unusual for us to invest considerable amounts of resource, because:

  • the additional costs required can make the surveys unattractive to our clients
  • the risk of introducing bias into the response grows.

Access the full Encyclopedia

New Services