Back to Blog

5 Must-Read Books on Gamification

September 19, 2015 • gal

5 gamification books to read by gameffectiveThe topic of gamification and its impact on employee engagement is “hot”; but what does it all really mean?  Is gamification a video game implemented in the work place, a new form of corporate performance management, a FitBit for work, or ruthless competition between workers?

It is important to fully understand what gamification really before contemplating using it in your enterprise.

I tend to agree with Brian Burke, Gartner’s research vice president and the Author of “Gamify – how gamification motivates people to do extraordinary things” who defines gamification as:

“the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.”

The following five books  provide invaluable insight into exactly how and why gamification is applicable in the work place:

1:‘Gamify’ by Brian Burke

Let’s start with Burke’s book. As mentioned, Gartner’s gamification expert explains that gamification is about motivating players to achieve their goals and not about making employees more productive or having fun at work. Burke is adamant that gamification engrosses people by creating motivation and meaning. In his words: “If the player’s goals are aligned with the organization’s goals, then the organizational goals will be realized as a consequence of the player achieving her goals.” Burke also discusses how gamification can be tied to corporate culture.

2: ‘Drive’ by Daniel H. Pink

Gamification is not about driving people by using monetary rewards or competition. Why not? Because money and competition are not real drivers or motivators of human nature.  Daniel Pink explains in his book that people are motivated by a sense of autonomy or mastery which he has coined the “third drive.” Drive, he says, is an intrinsic motivation, the sense of “flow”. Pink’s opinion is backed up by  scientific data and this fascinating book is full of interesting experiments showing that extrinsic motivation and rewards can actually impair an employee’s performance.

3: ‘For The Win’ by Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter

This is another excellent read especially for those wondering about the power of gamification as a tool and how it is implemented. The authors contend that a business can be transformed through engagement and motivation by addressing issues like a game designer. They also back up their premises with real-life examples of various corporations from different industries using game thinking. In addition, they include a useful guide and structure for implementing gamification and when it makes the most sense to use gamification as a tool.

4:‘Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They can Change the World’ by Jane McGonigal

McGonigal explains in her outstanding book the science behind why games are so good for us. She maintains that games make us more creative, more resilient, happier, and better able to handle change. However, before you go ahead and gamify all aspects of your life, McGonigal cautions that not only can some games suit some and not others, but also that too much gaming can be bad. What I also love about this book is her notion that games can be “hard work” and a concrete need that we have to fulfill. Gamification can only be a success if it touches these deep motivations within us..

5: ‘The Small Big’ by Steve Martin, Noah Goldstein, and Robert Cialdini

This book, as its name suggests, discusses how small insights can have a big impact. Note that the book is not only about gamification, but one of the inspiring stories within is that of an experiment by Professor Adam Grant from the Wharton School of Business. Professor Grant took as a case in point the university office responsible for fundraising from alumni. He studied how reminding staff of the greater overall goal, or outcome, of their actions — i.e. helping college students get scholarships, would affect their performance. He compared this to reminding them of their personal benefits, such as salaries, bonuses, etc. Employees with the greater or “higher goal” were much more productive. Bottom line, communicating the core of the company makes workers perform better. Gamification is the perfect tool to achieve this.


These books provide an in-depth look at the real meaning of gamification. I truly believe that by penetrating the fog of buzzwords around gamification and what it really is, is the first step in using this incredibly powerful tool correctly in the enterprise.

Request a Free Demo