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A Quick History of Gamification Vol.1
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A Quick History of Gamification Vol.1

With such an omnipresent feature, it’s easy to forget that, pre-2003, no one had even said (much less heard) of the word ‘gamification’. We’re going to backtrack the steps of those who recognised the potential of games, and game mechanics to involve users.



So, step aboard our nostalgia mobile and join us on a voyage back in time while we explore the roots of the revolution but before we explore the origins of gamification, let’s figure out the 8 core drivers that are key to bringing engagement into any task. This is based on world-renowned gamification expert Yu-kai Chou and his seminal book on gamification, Octalysis.


8 Universal Core Drives


  1. Meaning – the desire to feel that our actions have a purpose
  2. Accomplishment – The drive to achieve and overcome challenges
  3. Empowerment – The desire to choose one’s own direction and try a variety of solutions to a problem
  4. Ownership – The desire to own things and have possession
  5. Social Influence – The drive to interact with, help, learn from, and compete with others
  6. Scarcity – The drive to want things you can’t have
  7. Unpredictability – The drive of wanting to know what will happen next
  8. Avoidance – The drive to avoid pain or negative consequences.

With these 8 core human drivers understood, we can jump into the timeline of gamification from the 1900s to the present day.

To find out more about the 8 core drivers in more details, you can refer to this link here that talks about the model in great detail.


The Timeline of Gamification: The 1900s


1908 – The Boy Scout movement was founded


The Boy Scouts bestowed members with badges to acknowledge their achievements. Scouts could earn badges to become proficient in an activity, act according to the organisation’s principles, and attend special events.

 Boy scout badges


1973 – The potential of games to engage employees is acknowledged


Released in 1973, The Game of Work was inscribed by Charles A Coonradt to discuss the issue of flagging richness in the US. Coonradt recommended that fun and games might be the answer to the thorny employee engagement problem, noting that productivity was failing as sports equipment rose and recreation sales.


1978 – The Nativity of Social Video Games


Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw developed MUD1, the first-ever Multi-user Dungeon game. Though its text-based interface was relatively unimpressive compared to today’s standards, it lit the igniter for the bang of online social gaming.

Social games 

1981 – Gamification takes a flight to the skies


AAdvantage, the world’s first frequent flier program, was issued by American Airlines. The drive sought to encourage customer loyalty by offering rewards for common civility – a standard we very much see today in every high-street coffee shop.


1982 – Academics acknowledge the potential of gaming


With computer games showing inherent abilities to engage users, studies exploring potential uses began to surface. Thomas W. Malone, in 1981, released Toward a Theory of Intrinsically Motivating Instruction and Heuristics for Designing Enjoyable User Interfaces. These two articles outlined what could be acquired from computer recreations and how it could be applied to other areas.


1996 – Game players are characterised


Richard Bartle (MUD1 developer) represents four gamer types based on how different personalities play a game. This model would go on to become the foundation of many gamification leads.


1999 – Fun is taken gravely!


More and more people have started to realise the power of ‘fun’. Stephen W. Draper published a paper suggesting that user satisfaction should be a fundamental requirement of all software configurations.


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The History of Gamification: The 2000s


In the years leading up to the end of the millennium, the power of game mechanics was gradually gaining acknowledgement. As 1999 drew to an end, and everyone was singing Prince songs, nobody could have suspected the cultural sensation that gamification had nearly become.

Through the latter part of the 20th Century, people were starting to consider games to enhance productivity in the workplace. Do check out our previous blogpost on just this topic of “Effective Gamification and Game-Based Learning in the Workplace“.

We had our victories, and we had a notion of a genuinely powerful and practical guide for engagement – and the only thing we were missing was a name.

 Phone gaming


2002 – “Gamification” is born


While composing a game-like user interface for commercial electronic devices (mobile phones, ATMs, vending machines), Nick Pelling invents the ‘deliberately ugly’ word, gamification. With a name, the history of gamification truly begins.


2005 – The Prime Modern Gamification Platform


Rajat Paharia founded Bunchball, a platform designed to boost website engagement by adding a layer of game mechanics. It would be another three years before they adopt the term ‘gamification.’ Also, in 2005, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Gamerscore system is presented, instituting in-game achievements.

So far in this volume, we have seen how Gamification was first conceived and implemented from as early as the 1900’s to the early 2000’s. You can deduce that the early years were mainly about experimentation to see how people would adapt to the new game-based landscape.

Stay tuned for VOL. 2 to see where we are now, and the exciting new possibilities it presents! Also, do check out what TalentStore has to offer in terms of game-based solutions for corporate learning and development.

One more last note: if you’re a Malaysian L&D provider or freelancer, reach out to us at and we can discuss about having you onboarded as a partner on TalentStore! Training success starts with access!

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