Jordan DeVries with the UX to make gamification great | Episode 114

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Jordan DeVries is the Director of UX at Brave UX, based in Washington DC. His clients include Royal Caribbean, Marriott, Discovery Networks, Gensler, Eli Lilly, Rosetta Stone, and ClearChannel. His first exposure to gaming was watching his mother beat Super Mario World. His most recent gaming achievement is reaching Elite in Smash Bros Ultimate Online.

Jordan is inundated with user interfaces from the moment he wakes up, with a smart display, Nintendo Switch Lite and more, and most of his day is spent with coordinating with clients, collaborating with team members and keeping up with all the things that happen and how they are evolving at such a fast pace. In the afternoons he likes to both watch some streaming media, play games and spend time with friends whenever possible.

His favorite fail is related to board games. One of his group of friends likes long, complex games and another group that is kind of interested in the idea of board games but not into it. He had an idea of a board game with cats, it was really funny but he made incorrect assumptions about what the logic would be and creating some runaway conditions. One of the learnings, however, was that even though they were competitive in their own right, their main motivator was not the first place but rather being able to affect and interact with other players. Sometimes it is more about the agency and less about the points!

A big challenge that Jordan has taken on is what resulted in LifeCents. Their objective is about having a healthier relationship with money for Americans. This is when they decided to explore gamification to solve this because games are constantly challenging you into situations that are more and more difficult while making mistakes and learning to do a better job at it. They get people to have fun and improve their understanding and relationship with their personal finances. They started with a pilot program and their numbers are quite encouraging.

His process starts with verisimilitude, which is all about finding an accurate enough model to make an experience feel “correct”. Both in gamification and general UX, it is about finding out what is the user’s mental model and what are the most salient details to bring them forward and get them to feel correct, such that they are enough but not too much either! In most games, you don’t get to watch the character sleeping for the X amount of hours. Then it is usually about the verb, the action that the user can do. However, it is fundamental to identify the objects first and how they work so that we then get them to perform the actions. Jordan goes really deep into the process, you will certainly benefit by hearing it from him if you haven’t yet!

A best practice in games and gamification is what he calls rhythm and dynamics. It is almost like the choreography or timing of the game, even beyond the games that involve music and rhythm itself. He finds this can often be saved from going in the wrong direction is by… testing of course!

Jordan would like to listen to Anthony Rando and Eric Cesare of Devious Devices and the creators of Panda Craves Danger. They have a lot of very accessible and tangible ways of making many of these concepts come to life. The book he would recommend Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra, which has a fantastic mental framework to hold many ideas he feels are central.

His superpower is to be able to pick up underlying patterns and frameworks, to “see the matrix”! His favorite gaming franchise is Assassin’s Creed, by hours invested he has spent quite some time in certainly Smash Bros and a game he has been enjoying recently is Control.

A piece of final advice would be not to start with just game mechanics but rather the journey and the intrinsic motivation of the player. Once that is figured out, we can go for the points and other mechanics.

We can find Jordan as @theastralj on Twitter and Instagram. His team’s work is at and he strongly encourages us to check out their most recent gamified project at


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