[ Easter Special ] Hide surprises in the garden of gamification!

As much as they may tell us we are too old for the Easter egg hunt, we still all miss it! So why go without? When you create a gamified experience, think about hiding little surprises and clues. Beyond the fun itself, there are some unexpected advantages for user on-boarding and retention.


Yesterday was Easter Monday. The occasion to go check in the garden if the Bunny (or – spoiler alert – the parents) may have hidden some chocolates in a flower pot.

The occasion also to evoke two gamification mechanisms that will remind you of the joy of finding hidden chocolate treats. Those are the Easter eggs and the treasure hunt.


The Easter eggs can be two different things:

The first one is in the form of a hidden narrative element. Many video games have some, especially the ones with a rich background, such as (once more won’t hurt, even though it has now become a habit to use it as an example…) World of Warcraft.

References to series, films or other video games… the WoW universe is brimming with such hints and allusions in the names of the non-player characters (NPC) that you meet, or in your interactions with them.

ClariceOk, the first one who finds what the reference is here and posts it in the comments wins a chocolate egg! Hint: it’s very easy. And associated with the animal we traditionally eat for Easter.


The term Easter eggs can also denote ‘rewards based on unexpected triggers’, to quote Y.-K. Chou (1). It will be granted to a user in a seemingly random way, but will in fact be triggered by an event that you haven’t specified in order for your user not to be aware of it. As landing on a particular page, for example.

In this case, the place has to be hard to find. It can be the very first article you’ve published on your website that will be in the depths of your platform.

(Note that for a player of the Explorer type, the hidden narrative element described above will already be a reward itself.)


A feature that many will enjoy

Those Easter eggs bring an element of surprise to your users. In their search for more, the ones who like to explore will keep on digging in your site/app and will try out every feature it proposes.

The reward-driven ones will try to find what triggered the surprise and reproduce the experience.

The ones who don’t really care about the ins and the outs will just believe they have been lucky.

But all of them will have enjoyed the experience of following the narrative of your system and will feel inclined to carry on with it.

Thus, those are suitable mechanics for the on-boarding step and for customer retention.


Treasure hunt: the “Do It Yourself” of learning

The best way to find a reward or an answer, or to reach the objective you set yourself remains to go take it yourself. And if the way is paved with puzzles and riddles, then the journey is more exciting!

Ok, not much of a puzzle in here. Just avoid the skull, I guess.


A journalism professor at New York University decided to incorporate some gamification elements in his lessons. Including a treasure hunt in Manhattan, where the students had to go and find answers to questions about the Wall Street area.

One week later, the teacher tried a little experiment. He wanted to know what his students would remember better between their “info hunt” (that took place a week earlier) and a short text about Wall Street history read a few minutes before the test.

Result: 59.3% good answers about the hunt and 51.3% about the short text.

Seemingly not a huge difference, but significant considering the different lapse of time in each case. Furthermore, the results of this experiment confirm some of the findings of a report published in 2006 for the Summit on Educational Games of the Federation of American Scientists.

According to the report, students remember 10% of what they read and 20% of what they hear. If visual support accompanies an oral explanation, the respective share increases to 30%, and to 50%  if they see someone actually doing what is being said.

But “if they do the job themselves, even if only as a simulation”, students remember 90% of what they did!

Thus, beyond a fun experience for your users, this method is quite well-suited from an educational perspective. Whether for a tutorial to explain your system or for a demonstraton of how your product works, nothing is better than learning by doing.


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