3 Actionable Gamification Techniques to Design Impactful Products : Journey | Part 1


3 Actionable Gamification Techniques to Design Impactful Products : Journey | Part 1


Journey is a game where you explore the ancient, mysterious world as you soar above ruins and glide across sands, snow and air to discover its secret. It is a breathtaking, visually stunning game. It won many awards and is loved by everyone who played it. And the most impressive part? It's wordless.

Unlike most games, this game doesn't teach you how to play, there is no tutorial, there is no voice-over, there is no name tag, there is no map where you can locate yourself, not even compass, there is nothing written or said on what you have to do in this game, no list of objectives, nothing.

So how do you figure out what to do in this game? How do you enjoy this game? Just good visuals and randomly roaming around? No. You have to play it to know it. There were countless game design techniques that I observed, felt and understood. 3 of them stood out most. Let's begin a journey to understand the journey, Shall well?

Game Techniques

#1 Desert Oasis


On the back: have non-intrusive, non-attention seeking, little to no objects. On the front: Have only and only one glowing/attention-demanding object. Making next steps intuitive, attentive, desirable introducing nothing but curiosity that makes people question: What is there? 😮. Reveal important things when people reach to the final object."

After a short cut scene, this is the first screen you see. It's mostly desert here. There is a small hill and some small objects over there. Sun is in the same direction. So it naturally drives you to wonder "What is there?" and makes you want to go there.

You just go there and this is what you see

Above the huge mountain, you see a beam of light coming out and a big title card drop: Journey. And in that very moment, you are rewarded. You know where you are supposed to go. You know what's your goal and what's your journey. To reach the mountain.

Throughout the game, you can see this effect being used on multiple scales. See the image[with a highlighted light source with yellow marker] to understand this clearly.

Half of the time you will see the mountain in the background somewhere reminding you to your ultimate goal but you will always see a small beam of light coming out something nearby and you will know that that's where you have to go first to reach the mountain.

Why this works?

This taps into curiosity part of your brain. Erupting one question that has even make humans land on the moon: "What is there?". You are consumed by the question and you just want to find out the truth. The driving force is not even the reward of finding the truth but the anticipation of the reward keeps you going. The reward releases happy chemicals and so do the anticipation of the rewards too.

Note: if you want to people to appreciate your product fully, make sure they are rewarded properly as well. If moon was full of gold and gems, there would have been countless trips to moon on regular basis. And if there was oxygen and water, we might have already colonise it.

How you can you use it?

This technique is super useful for onboarding.

Desert - Don't give any direct CTA on screen. Keep the background simple, sublime, and avoid loud background.

Oasis - Have a clickable object. Make it glowing, or bouncing, or have it animated. Take inspiration from nature for best effect. Like display spreading light or water flowing, etc

For the front page of Ithaka. I am using this effect.

Here is work in progress preview.

Text will be removed and I think the finished product will be highly effective.

I'm planing meaningful rewards as well when someone tries to open the treasure chest clicking on it.

#2 The Stranger Companion


Connect two or more people in a safe environment and make them communicate desired things so that together they create meaningful value.

Playing further into the journey, suddenly there appeared another character just like mine. No name tag, no signs and no spoken words. Did I tell you the game is wordless?

The character was playing ahead of me, behind me, around me. I thought it to be my spirit, or same me from the future or a bot to guide me for a while. But sometimes the character was stuck at someplace and I went back and help him unstuck and we both moved forward. At some point, I was a bit lost and he helped me show the right way. Then he wasn't on the game. Then he came back. Then he disappeared. It was on and off.

I thought it to be a mystery. Who was that? What's the purpose? It wasn't until after I finished the game and credits rolled and this appeared.

*Not my own screenshot. Took this form a random image search. I forgot to take a screenshot here, I had a list of 6 different usernames.

Companions met along the way 😲

Those were the username of a real-world player. And It dawned on me. Those clones of mine were not a bot or anything. They were real player connected in real-time. My mind was blown 🤯. I was playing with a real person. God damn ! I was playing with a real person. I searched more on it. Found many, just awed by this concept. Many were playing the game again to start it with someone and to end the game with the same person. (The reason why the character disappeared is probably real player closing the game or losing internet connection and nothing else)

The journey is real and more meaningful when you get the share it with others.

Do you know what I am going to once I finish writing this? To go and play again. People don't usually play story-based games multiple times unless there are some variable rewards to be gained. Unless there is still some novelty left. And this game has cracked that thing really well.

Why this works?

Humans are tribal animals. We've always lived in groups and with a companion. We always find comfort with familiar people. All of us long supportive and familiar companionship. We value the right people in every part of the journey. Whether going for a vacation or going to school. That's why closed and small communities are highly valuable.

If someone familiar and right person joins us in our journey and also help us along the way. That experience is so rewarding to self that we want to go on this journey again and again.

How can you use it?

  • Create a safe environment. Constraint their actions. so whatever they do, it's mainly the desired actions and nothing else harmful. And then connect them. (In real world products, they don't have to be anonymous)

  • Can be used really well in community-based products to make people do certain desired tasks.

  • I am not seeing this used really well in non-gaming products, but this technique has so much potential. I will be doing this too on my own website where I will host all these articles and while reading you may encounter another reader, and another reader may help you read more or share notes or recommend better things. Could be anything of my desired actions at that time.

  • If you want to brainstorm on how you can do it. DM me on Twitter Api42_ . I will be happy to talk about it.

#3 Grace of the Guardians


Share a part of your power to the people, share it in a way that they feel like they are the true hero in the journey that you have designed for them.

When you complete every checkpoint, the character would sit meditating and cutscene would appear with a huge white figure. Never directly explained who or what they were.

But they always revealed something through art. The feeling I got was: they were always looking on us & looking after us.

[big spoiler to game if you plan to play]

There was one time when it became so much hard for our character to survive, but we just don't give up there. We keep going almost frozen to death. Six of them appears and it seems they were always looking at us. On the above screenshot. It's our body laying there unconsciously and they are looking at us.

Then there was a huge spark and lots of golden light. We were flying through the sky, upwards. Such a magical moment to witness and feel.

Then out of nowhere, this scene appeared: In the middle with the long cloth, that's us. Flying. Yes, we could now fly in the air for as long as we want. And the mountain is also closer now.

It felt surreal and powerful. I felt being rewarded with what I truly deserve for what all of my efforts and for my never giving up attitude.

This is so iconic moment that every player I knew bragged about the game and told me you have to just play this. You are in for the big surprise.

Why this works?

Whether god invented us or we invented god, whether god is real or not. The truth is we all need god to survive. In real life and as well as in meaningful games like this.

Nobody achieves anything meaningful alone. Everyone needs help. When someone makes effort to do something and they are rewarded unimaginably with more power then it's limitless and they will be always grateful for the power that you have. They will flaunt the power or use it for the good. The point is the power itself has the mark of you. Creating word of mouth for you.

How can you do it?

  • Ideally, do this for your loyal and power users mainly.

  • Provide something highly meaningful. Something so much surprising that they don't stop bragging about it.

    • i.e Give them premium access to your product for free and give them rare and relevant badge on their profile.

    • i.e. Exceptional customer service, not when they face some issue but also in other cases, Like if you detect certain user have one item in their Wishlist for so long time and they are active but not clearing the one item from the Wishlist. Send them that item for free with some extra discount coupon saying that "you are most loyal users and you deserve this. Thank you". You've given the person their favourite item and they aren't ever going to forget it. They are going to flaunt it and use it. And they will talk about it everyone they meet for a very very long time. You'll get ROI that is beyond the measure.

  • I also plan to use this: Whoever is going to support me in my journey in a long time, I am going to reward them with a lot of power and credits and status when I launch the product and when it gets big enough.


The game ends exactly how it should end, leaving you in Awe. Many players said they were in tears because of its beauty and how it made them feel.

None of the game technique will work if it's implemented without any depth or meaning or used at wrong places. Also, don't try to just replicate everything. Understand the essence of it and see if your own version can work on it.

If you want to build the epic games then your job is not only to make a something that entertains people. Your job is to use the entertainment as a lure and then offer them something that they can't ever forget. Same goes for non-gaming products as well.

Let me know if this was helpful to you. DM me on Twitter Api42_