Overall, start with game thinking in mind, not gamification or game-based learning. Focus on the angle based on the your learning/performance goals, not the means or technology.
Game thinking: the art and science of motivation and engagement appropriately applied to ACTION-DRIVEN learning via game design, focusing on the USER EXPERIENCE.
1. Actions rule. While content is king, content does not drive the experience. It’s the interactivity with the content (better refer to it as a system) and a meaningful feedback loop (with preferable ample time for reflection).
2. You do not have to create a game for gamification. The more game mechanics you add, the more it feels like a game. Sometimes, it’s okay to have a quick contest with a simple leaderboard and only external motivation. If your goal is short term, campaign-style, you don’t need to overcomplicate it. However, remember that gamification is driven by motivation. Different people have different motivations, and over time, external motivation only may not bring consistent results.
3. You must know the basics of game design. Therefore, you must play games. Reading books and blogs don’t make you a game designer. Don’t recreate a mediocre version of a commercial game. Find your spin on it!
4. Assessment is a good starting point to gamify learning. Assessments may not teach new knowledge or skills but they are great reinforcers. Make them simple. Remember, a step forward is a step in the right direction.
5. Use the data you gain from gamified interactions! Design with the end in mind. What do you want to know about the learner? For example, does reaction time matter? If it is, measure it. Does accuracy matter the most? Weigh it against volume.
Finally, find your champions! Your early adapters. Create a special club for those who first participate. Playtest your gamified solution often with them. Listen for feedback and adjust accordingly.