How to create an app which will engage users for hours? Storytelling & gamification in mobile apps

Mobile games market grows rapidly and it earned $40.6B in 2016 – the equivalent of global box office sales for the year. It is expected that this trend will stay with us for a very long time as a revenue of mobile games increased 14% year over year, largely due to Android, which saw a 32% uptick in revenue.

Game App Market

No wonder that more and more mobile apps have got gamification and storytelling features as they often guarantee high users engagement. Thanks to them you can, for example, change your everyday running into surviving the zombie apocalypse! Application ideas with such features are endless – they can help you with changing your everyday habits, increase your productivity or even make your children excited to do their chores.

What exactly gamification & storytelling are?

Storytelling is all about writing an extraordinary, engaging adventure and presenting it to your users. Just like in books, games, or movies – in mobile apps, implementing that component is possible as well. With your app, you can take your users far, far away and tell them a story they won’t be able to get away from until they know the end! As the trend shows that games where the core stone is an interesting story (for example The Walking Dead, Life is Strange or Heavy Rain) gain a spectacular success worldwide, it is definitely worth considering writing an interesting scenario for your mobile app.

On the other hand, gamification is, as the definition by J.J. Rosen says:

Easy-to-use Web- and mobile-based learning platforms (…) [that] take the boredom out of long training sessions by gamifying the entire process. A training manual is replaced by an interactive game that allows participants to win awards and be acknowledged.

One of the first and best-known learning platforms with gamification features was Duolingo – an app which purpose was to teach foreign languages. By gaining experience, collecting achievements and prizes, you were able to uprate your language skills significantly, simultaneously feeling excited to unlock a new app level. But gamification goes far more than just learning nowadays! And it’s definitely not only for children as it was initially perceived.

Now let’s move along from theory to practice. Check these examples of mobile apps using storytelling and gamification features in the best possible way.

6 examples of mobile apps using storytelling or/and gamification

1. Zombies Run!

User engagement type: storytelling mixed with gamification – you not only get an opportunity to collect items and raise your experience while running but also immerse in an apocalyptic world thanks to fascinating and constantly developed story

Most engaging and innovative sports app you have ever seen as it throws you in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. In the app, you are one of the few survivors on Earth, living in the small place called Abel Township. And your job is to collect necessary supplies to ensure your comrade’s survival. And how do you collect those items? By running!

In your earphones, you will be hearing a radio transmission alternating with your own music where you will get the newest information considering the situation on a battlefield. The app has got a very expanded story as the new seasons of the plot are appearing constantly. And watch out for Zombie chases. Once in a while, you will hear a distant noise of zombies approaching you and if you do not want to loose your precious items – it’s time for a RUN!

2. ChoreMonster

User engagement type: gamification – changing children chores into task they need to fulfill, with an award selected by their parents awaiting if succeeded

ChoreMonster 1 ChoreMonster 2 ChoreMonster 3

Do you have problems with encouraging your kids to make their beds or water the plants? This app may be a true salvation for you! ChoreMonster main goal is to motivate kids to make their everyday duties and it achieves that through gamifying the experience for both parties – parents and their children.

After completing a chore, the child is rewarded with a fun and friendly screen that lets them know they earned points that can be redeemed for parent-selected rewards such as gift cards or an ice cream outing. Such a pity that it hadn’t been invented when we were children, right?

3. SuperBetter

User engagement type: gamification through collecting experience points, completing quests and creating your own tasks to fulfill

SuperBetter 1 SuperBetter 2 SuperBetter 3

You want to start a healthy lifestyle but your motivation holds out for only a few weeks? This app can help you in becoming a super and better yourself!

SuperBetter is a free game and once you sign up, you can choose a goal you want to work towards and add “quests” to your account that you can complete achieving healthier yourself. When you manage to complete your quests, you’ll earn points in different character areas, like mental, emotional, social, and physical resilience.

You can also create your own goals and quests or choose a “power pack” that’s a bundle of quests, activities, and “bad guys,” (or things that stand in your way) that will help you get started.

4. Habitica: Gamify Your Tasks

User engagement type: gamification through changing your habits into a role-playing game where you gain experience points, complete quests and advance to the next levels

Habitica

Habitica started as HabitRPG web app but thanks to a huge success on Kickstarter, it’s mobile version also appeared soon. Now it has got more than 500 thousand downloads in Google Play store!

In Habitica you can create your personalized avatar and feel like a true adventurer doing quests in your real life! At first sight, it is another motivational app, but thanks to an extraordinary design which is imitating an old RPG indie games, it is much more exciting to use than others.

Enthusiastic users feedback states clearly – it can really help you with changing your everyday habits! And motivates you to do so by giving you experience points for every task fulfilled, which leads you to level up. You can even assign quests, to-dos, and tasks to your friends! Maybe one-day companies will use it to manage employees work? That would be fun!

5. Fitocracy

User engagement type: gamification through enabling you to challenge your friends on duels where you are gaining or losing experience points + gaining them in a more traditional way of completing various sport quests

Fitocracy 1 Fitocracy 2 Fitocracy 3

You are sick of your friends bragging themselves about how faster, stronger, and better they are than you? Challenge them to a true fitness duel!

Fitocracy is a fitness app developed in an MMORPG style – you collect experience points and badges for your every sporting achievement. And as I mentioned before, it has got one especially fun function – challenging your friends into a true fitness combat.

Fitocracy has been chosen an App of the Year by Men’s Journal and won Mashable’s Innovation Index for Health & Fitness. There is also a strong sports community gathered around the app to encourage users even more in changing their life to more active. Honestly, if this app won’t get you off your couch, nothing can!

6. Covet Fashion

User engagement type: gamification through creating your own character, completing challenges and earning virtual (and sometimes real-life!) prizes

Covet 1 Covet 2 Covet 3

Gamification can be also implemented in m-commerce apps – the perfect example is Covet Fashion. For users, it’s an engaging app where you are creating your own avatar and dresses him up in the newest and most desirable clothes. You can also take part in a “fashion duels” where other members of the app community choose which Covet Fashion user stylization is better.

From the developer perspective – it’s a great opportunity to advertise designers work and even sell real-life clothes, that your users “wear” virtually. It’s a perfect win-win situation for everyone.

The app has got more than 10 million downloads in Google Play store and became a huge success worldwide.

Summary

As you can see, gamification can change almost every mobile app into something extraordinary, beginning with letting you sink in a world of the zombie apocalypse when you simply run (Zombie Run), till changing dull and boring everyday duties into a mission (Chore Monster).

Cleverly used, gamification can be your app’s biggest asset, transforming your ordinary users to engaged and simply having a lot of fun players. Everybody has a small piece of a warrior in themselves, willing to collect points and solve difficult quests that will lead them to the victory. No matter what the actual victory is: cleaning their room or running a marathon, I assure you that developing an app that will help people change their lives in an extraordinary and pleasant way is a priceless and very profitable experience!
 

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Izabela Majocha
Marketing Specialist
A journalist by education, a Marketing and PR enthusiast by choice. Fascinated by an IT world, especially by storytelling, gamification and their applications in technology. In my free time, I play indie games, cook and watch tons of TV series. 

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