8 top gamification highlights of 2020

At PLAY, we keep our eyes peeled for playful experiences and trends that separate excellent products from mediocre ones, so internally we share cool apps and fun websites to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.

To kick start 2021, we’ve collated our gamification highlights from last year – covering the products and trends that we’ve seen make a splash. Some are new, whilst others were made before 2020, but have had their moment and deserve a mention.

You might not think of these as gamified products, but we think about gamification a little differently from others. Enjoy!

Couch to 5k


This is an old-ish concept that’s been a game-changer for so many non-runners during a ridiculously tough year. It does gamification well by setting clear goals, rewarding small steps and providing the tools and guidance to help anyone get going.

Behaviour: get people to start running.

Trend: finite experiences that aim for an achievable goal.



The delightful sailing animations make this easy-to-use alcohol tracker feel so much more than a simple drinks diary. Using animation and imagery, the app makes a boring task and a not-so-exciting-goal, really speak to the heart.

Behaviour: drink less alcohol.

Trend: responsive animations that reflect the user’s experience.



The climate crisis is sadly in full swing, and we need everyone to make changes to avoid the worst-case scenario, which Capture helps users do. By turning difficult actions into simple steps, then simplifying behaviours into easy to understand metrics, Capture helps steer people towards a greener lifestyle, and also links their carbon offsetting directly to their behaviour.

Behaviour: reduce carbon footprint.

Trend: gamified incentives to reduce carbon emissions.

Figma Ninja


Collaboration tools are all the rage in remote working, but learning new tools (like learning new games) can be hard, boring or just never happen properly. Figma Ninja is a plug-in ‘tutorial’ for the Figma design tool that takes you through a witty series of steps, making you actually want to learn all the tricks that most people take years to pick up.

Behaviour: learn the tricks of a complex tool.

Trend: witty storytelling to onboard users onto complex tools and processes.



2020 has been a boom for trading apps as more and more people are able to quickly access the market and invest their cash on the go. Games are amazing at displaying complex metrics and to motivate users through feedback loops, a similar feel to apps like Freetrade that simplify complex market data to give traders greater control over their finances.

Behaviour: manage your investments responsibly.

Trend: real-time insights for accessible investing.



Zoom could well have been the word (not just app) of the year. A big part of Zoom’s success is its excellent usability, but there’s a lot to be said about the fun of customising the experience, which lets people goof around and have a bit of much needed fun while providing a stable and consistent video conferencing service.

Behaviour: communicating in your style.

Trend: configurable features in work tools to allow self-expression.

Tik Tok


Tik Tok has been a big mobile entertainment player in 2020 (sorry Quibi). Whether you love the content, or think it should be banned, you can’t deny its outrageous success. Gamification and personalisation go hand-in-hand, and Tik Tok blows every other app out of the water when it comes to its recommendation algorithm, which quickly (and unsettlingly) learns from every video what type of Tik Toker you are.

Behaviour: personalise your experience.

Trend: hyper-engaging recommendation engines that learn with very little input.



Gamification and language learning go hand-in-hand (think Duolingo), but Drops’ $50M acquisition by Kahoot last year stands out during the EdTech explosion of 2020. A smooth and stylish interface that is delightful to use makes learning a language feel more interactive than anything else.

Behaviour: learn a language.

Trend: Simple, animated interfaces that create unique experiences.

Each one of these products is great at driving specific behaviours or delivering particular experiences, and the big thing they all share is the fact they’ve all been built with the Player in mind.

2021 will bring a heap of new tech that’ll aim to help our new COVID world, and the products that succeed will likely be leveraging some of the trends above alongside a truly Player-first mindset

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