Game mechanics

Techniques refined by designers to engage users in gameplay. Examples include intangible rewards and recognition for achievements, including points, ranks, badges, leaderboards, and progress bars, as well as penalties and other obstacles to progress.

Game dynamics

Techniques designed to affect the pace of gameplay, including variable reward schedules, time limits or countdowns, appointment requirements, or behavioral momentum.

Game narratives

Epic or dramatic story lines that provide each user at least one role, situation, and mission along with a series of increasingly difficult challenges during the course of gameplay.


The use of game mechanics, dynamics, and narratives in nongame environments.

Self-determination theory (SDT)

Richard Ryan and Edward Deci’s theory regarding the importance of self-motivated human behavior. Ryan and Deci draw a sharp distinction between such intrinsic motivators as autonomy, competence, and relatedness, and the extrinsic motivators of tangible rewards and punishments that B. F. Skinner favored in his earlier theory of behaviorism. Dan Pink, in his book Drive, based his notion of 21st-century motivators (autonomy, mastery, and purpose) on the intrinsic motivators identified in SDT. Pink believed that knowledge workers needed to be intrinsically motivated to be productive.