Game Theory in Product Design


Game theory is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Especially considering an upcoming app we recently launched (tripwow).

Here is a great video about the topic and some take aways:

  • Good game design keep the users in the “Flow”, hovering between boredom and anxiety.
  • The most powerful reinforcement schedule is to reqard users without them knowing 100% how they got the reward (think “slot machine”)
  • 5 foundational elements to game mechanics:

1. Collecting (Collecting Badges, points, trading cards, twiter followers, etc.)

  • The power of completing a set. Think: “Your profile is 40% complete.”

2. Points

3 types of points

  1. Game points: points you have to achieve by playing
  2. Social points: points others give you (comments, ratings, etc.)
  3. Redeemable points: loyalty programs, redeemable within the system, give community a sense that they are accomplishing something


Express what’s valued in your system (number of comments? number of uploas? most active members?)


Drives behaviour and gives a sense of accomplishment

3. Feedback

  •  Stats and data about progress
  • Give a sense of progress; is fun

Social Feedback

  • Getting “friended”, retweeted, etc.

4. Exchanges

  •  Think, “turned-based games” (Chess)
  • Swapping goods (World of Warcraft)
  • Gifting (reciprocity)

5. Customizations

  • Adds stickiness to the system. More customization = harder to leave


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On September 24, 2010

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