Engagement, no matter the scenario, is all about designing from a pure user-centred approach.

I grew up in a small -very small- village, almost 300 people. Twice a year the town next to us was celebrating a big party and with it, the entertainment industry was settling down. My friends just loved to jump into the roller coaster, the crazy frogs or this diabolic thing that pulls you up to the sky and suddenly drops you down without any kind of regret.

Does it sound funny to you? It was certainly not for me. You could picture me waiting, with the feet on the ground, keeping their coats, bags and a huge teddy bear someone won, so they could freely enjoy the ride.

However, from time to time, some excellent theatre company was joining the entertainment offer. Dancers from different countries, with sophisticated dresses and choreographies were contributing to a different kind of spectacle. And that’s where I loved to be, enjoying the discovering & creative ride. Pity, it was not the most common offer… most of the activities were designed for a type of kid (player) seeking for similar things: adrenaline, sharing the excitement with the group of friends & big stuffed soft animals (or should we start talking about extrinsic rewards?).

The entertainment industry is perceived by everyone as the masters in creating experiences, the authors of magic moments. And it is indeed what they do, with a clear goal: to create activities people want to enjoy because they are having fun while doing them, and fulfilling their own business objectives at the same time.

But, hold on a second. If they are meant to be the fun experts, why was it a nightmare for my little-me? Here, 5 keys that they are frequently missing:

  1. Designing in order to satisfy insights from all possible motivational types. There are people who seek to explore, or to help or even to achieve. Or, so to say: potential “players” who enjoy posting their latest achievement, others who feel fulfilled when they unlock a new level or those who want to increase their status in the community by helping others with their deep knowledge. Experiences should be designed from the basis of the concrete motivations of the final users.

  1. Designing taking into account psychology before technology. Therefore, designing multiple interesting options so the player can choose (autonomy), ensuring the difficulty is adapted to each level of skills (control), and also clearly defining which are the elements that will activate the desired behaviours. Once we have drawn the roadmap, technology will participate where it’s required, and it can even become irrelevant if the activity is well designed, or don’t you remember the “choose your own adventure books”? Or even your mom feeding you with a “magic plane-spoon”?

  1. Building a reward strategy which balances extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. As human beings we find pleasure when discovering, learning, receiving surprises, expressing ourselves, understanding that we are doing some good or that we belong to the community… The so-called intrinsic insights. And, on the other hand, we also enjoy winning, having a shiny award we can show proudly or beating the opponent -the extrinsic ones. The key relies on the balance among them, as well as the balance between short easy-to-achieve challenges with the long-term quests.

  1. Creating a story that connects all the points of the experience; drives the players. Stories are fuel for our soul; they connect us with memories, project us into the future, shake us, push us towards an action, increase awareness of a certain topic or transport us to a new reality where none of our preoccupations have a place. Why not use its power to connect all parts of the experience and drive players into action?

  1. Let the content be where people want to find it. Empathy, analysis and observation to understand which platforms your target feels comfortable with. They won’t come to you. You should go to them if you want to catch their attention the same way a good book, an intelligent metaphor, a funny meme or a VR movie hooks them.

But enough discussing about theme parks. What does it have to do with companies? Well… aren’t they also struggling to engage with their employees? After many years when culture, internal communication, learning & development have been designed under “push” and one-direction strategies, everyone seems ready to give it a shift. But, how?

Engagement, no matter the scenario, is all about designing from a pure user-centred approach. Asking first what they want to do, what they like, which stories amuse them… in order to design afterwards activities, dynamics or exercises based on that, and of course connected with the goals we’re pursuing. As a consequence, the bigger the target, the more possibilities to find all kinds of players, which will imply a more sophisticated design. But no one said engaging spaces were easy to create, right? Or do you still think that some points, badges (and huge teddy bears) will do?

At Cookie Box we help companies boost their transformation by focusing on their people. Using our own methodology we understand what the target wants, design challenges based on that and create gamified spaces where people have fun while delivering results. Since early 2017, we are also members of TEA (Themed Entertainment Association), improving experiences in parks, museums and other entertainment spaces.



Hunicke, R., LeBlanc, M., Zubek, R. MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research. Website: http://www.cs.northwestern.edu/~hunicke/MDA.pdf

Schell, Jesse. (2008) The art of game design. Morgan Kaufmann Publisher.

Wesner, John W.(2013) Entertainment Engineering.