Pleasure is tied to the release of dopamine in the brain. After making a choice and receiving feedback that the choice was correct, there is a dopamine release that prompts the brain to seek to repeat the behavior.
Games are great at providing feedback for progress. Things like accumulating points, progress in a story, visual success indicators, sound effects, animations, social recognition, all help trigger that crucial release of dopamine.
Through feedback, neuronal circuits become stronger, reinforcing the desire for the activity that triggered the dopamine response. Sounds a bit like addiction, no? Well, yes, games can be addictive!
With proper feedback, the desire to continue transcends external rewards, becoming internal, as the brain seeks another surge of dopamine. This is the basis for behavioral change the lasts.
“Gamification” is a term that means applying game design elements to things that aren’t designed to be games. In plainer terms, gamified experiences are usually otherwise boring things that are dressed up with game elements like badges, achievements and leaderboards.
What “gamified” products usually lack are the foundational mechanics of games that make the experience intrinsically fun. Unfortunately, all the badges, trophies, achievements, points and leaderboards in the world won’t ever make up for a dull core experience.