Keith Ng gamification specialist and master of Gametize | Episode 63

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Keith Ng (@keizng) co-founded Gametize (with his best friend Damon Widjaja, and later Brenda Nicole Tan), a digital gamification platform to motivate behaviors through challenges and rewards such as in recruitment, learning & development, marketing and community advocacy. Gametize won funding in a reality TV show (Angels’ gate), the People’s Vote in IBM’s Asean Smartcamp 2013, and most recently SBR’s 2015 20 hottest startups in Singapore. The platform is powering fun for over 300,000 users with 10 million challenge completions. Keith was nominated as one of the most influential people in gamification globally by Gamification Summit (2014), as well as the top 100 gamification innovator/consultant by Sparkah.

Keith is still asked if he invented the word gamification, which though there is a lot to credit to his name in the space means we still have a lot of evangelizing to do in the field so the public knows what gamification even is about! A lot of his working time is spent on figuring out what can be done with his gamification platform Gametize. It is often that he receives requests asking if his solution can help with this or that problem. A recent one that comes to mind is a recycling project in Trinidad & Tobago by a student, which they have sponsored. Of course, he also has clients paying for the company which keeps the doors open and he is also focusing quite often into integration possibilities with other software. Something else that happens often is he talks to clients or potential clients to find the best solutions to solve their problems, which is often not to create a version of Angry Birds for that company.

Keith was quite generous to give us several stories. One was about their first gamification project back in 2008, that was about buying shares of other people. Their idea was to get market sentiment and data, as well as crowdsourcing for opinions in a fun manner. They wanted for people to bring in friends which is how they came up to the idea of listing humans as shares. They never made money out of it, given among other things that the user base was too niche. The first lesson was to make the design simple enough for the target audience to be able to understand it. This idea then turned into a dating site of sorts, where if you owned enough shares of people you were able to unlock the instant messaging possibility. They achieved a good amount of users in a couple of months but then realized that they weren’t really solving any real problem and this made them lose their motivation to continue developing the game. At that point, they came to the realization that what they really wanted, and made sense for them, was to create a platform where you could create these games in a much simpler way, which leads to the next story. This led them to create this solution where anyone can create a game to challenge others but they also realized they needed to curate the content. Among many more lessons they learned, he shared what he feels were the main lessons, to find the right audience, to simplify things to not confuse them and that human resources departments are the main target for Gametize.

Keith’s process for gamification starts with what is the actual problem statement, you have to find the problem you are trying to solve. The second step for him is to find the small problems that create a major problem and the metrics to measure success, which leads to finding what would be the behavior changes that solve these small problems. He has found that over 90% of his clients are not able to state the problem completely, so this is something he does need to spend a good amount of time on so the solutions can actually make sense. Another step he usually includes is to figure out what is the emotion that the client wants to have the users feel when using the application. It could be to feel competitive, to feel proud or many others. It is important for the behaviors created to go beyond the online activities into the offline world, he has found gamification is really useful for this as well. Once emotions and behaviors are clear, it is important to understand the players/users of the system. It is often that he gets people saying that they want to target everybody in the company. However, when you design for everybody you design for nobody. He usually pushes back because he has seen this fail many times. He has seen how targetting even just target 10% of the users. The next step is to actually insert the game design elements, and of course, he feels that Gametize is the best place to begin the tests with your design. Within one month they have gone through four or five versions of the system, that helps the iteration which is always perfecting to reach a better design.

A best practice is certainly to use this free gamification platform called Gametize! He would also recommend creating the gamification design document, outlining the objectives, the mechanics and most of the design and use things like Google Slides combined with Pixabay, Canva and similar because even though games and gamification are not all about the visual side, the visuals certainly help a lot and there are many tools out there so you don’t have to spend too much time on that yourself. He also recommended the many resources, many of them freely available like Professor Game Podcast, and if you have a chance to meet him on talks or others he is always happy to share some inputs.

His favorite game would certainly be Pac-man! He would love to interview Rob, me! It sounds like a lot of fun to do this, I will certainly consider this for the future! It was also suggested by prof Richard Bartle back in episode 34. He would recommend us to read Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He even suggested we get it on Audible with the free trial! We then talked a bit about being a guru or even expert, even though we talked about amazing people like An Coppens, and the fact that before he found the word gamification he went around saying he was in the business of the “hybridization of reality and gaming.” Hi niche, actually his superpower, is to make gamification really relevant for businesses! He believes the ideal gamification design is one where the player is not really doing anything digitally but instead carry on with their lives and work and getting a lot of constant and instant feedback.

We can find Keith on his webpage, where he has his social media accounts like Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram (both as keizng). His final advice would be to start by prototyping by pen and paper, start small and involving friends and colleagues to test and validate, and definitely have lots of conversations. And don’t forget to have fun yourself!


There are many ways to get in touch with Professor Game, you can go to my Twitter @RobAlvarezB, my Instagram, our Facebook Page, subscribe to our email list and even ask a question to future guests!

Looking forward to reading or hearing from you,


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