Philly ETE 2022 — Gamification Without the Garbage: Applying Principles of Game Design to Software — Jessica Kerr

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Points and leaderboards. That’s gamification, right?

These are a characteristic of some games. They’re not what matters.

The essence of a good game is: matching the player’s abilities to the problems they’re solving. The solutions are within reach, and enough of a challenge that the player reaches a flow state.

Can we do that in our teams? Give teams tough problems and abilities to solve them. More than autonomy, more than authority: give them agency.

Get the juice of gamification without the twisted incentives of competition.

In game design, the mediums available to the designer are goals, rules, and environment. In this talk, Jess will discuss how development organizations can use these to make development fun and profitable to the business.

About Jessica Kerr

Jessica Kerr is a symmathecist, in the medium of code. She believes in learning systems made of learning parts: enthusiastic people and evolving software. She is a Principal Developer Advocate at, where she teaches developers to make their software teach them what’s going on inside.

In twenty years of professional software development, she has programmed in and spoken at conferences about Java, Scala, Clojure, TypeScript, Ruby, and Elm. She lives in St. Louis, MO with two children who invent worlds and draw characters with superpowers, and two cats who meow and knock over water glasses.

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