June 8, 2021

4 Chemicals That Activate Happiness, & How to Gamify Them

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Nicole Lazzaro is a world-renowned game designer. And if you’re thinking, what does game design have to do with a website that covers workplace software, you haven’t been paying attention.

Gamification is changing how companies build software and how consumers interact with it, not just at home, but at work as well.

To get an insider’s perspective on this revolution, we spoke with Nicole about her theories on the science of fun. Listen to our short interview then read on for more about why gamification works so well (hint: you’ll use brain power).

If you’re interested in hearing more from Nicole, check out her website, 4k2f.com. And if you need a gamification platform for your own business, check out these great options.

1 Engagedly

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Beyond talent management, Engagedly includes functions for performance management, including 360-degree feedback, real-time feedback, goal management, and more. Engagedly offers add-on modules for team collaboration, learning management, employee surveys, and rewards. Based on HR best practices, the Engagedly approach to performance management has been shown to improve engagement at client organizations by as much as 40 percent.

Learn more about Engagedly

2 Spinify

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Motivate and drive your sales team with Spinify's gamification software. Work together on team based goals and measure progress in real time, giving real visibility of the task. Drive engagement with fun competitions that boost performance. Use personalized video to celebration achievements. Connect offices located all over the global. Celebrate your success as one. Change the company culture by creating personal announcements, countdown timers, and birthday messages.

Learn more about Spinify

3 Ambition

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Ambition makes it easy for sales leaders to draw smart insights from data, and create a culture of success on the sales floor, so that every rep can drive revenue in a measurable way. Ambition’s platform gives companies actionable data, which executives can use to make informed, strategic decisions and sales leaders can leverage to inspire long-term behavior change on their sales teams. Ambition enables increased productivity, enhanced performance — and measurable, meaningful revenue growth.

Learn more about Ambition

4 Agile CRM

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With Agile CRM, it is possible to engage your sales force like never before by treating sales like a game. Features include custom leader boards, real-time alerts and advanced sales metrics. Track each and every key performance indicator (KPI) with cohort analysis, conversion reports and advanced analytics. Know your customer’s profile, social presence, web activity and track every interaction through a neatly arranged timeline tracking the customer’s journey.

Learn more about Agile CRM

5 EngageBay

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EngageBay is an integrated marketing, sales, and service automation platform with a built-in CRM and live chat functionality. Their marketing automation software is designed to save time while allowing users to nurture their audience and automate routine and manual tasks. The CRM & Sales Bay lets companies organize all email contacts as well as track deals and sales pipeline in one place. The unified platform is intended to help businesses convert customers, scale, and grow.

Learn more about EngageBay

6 SalesScreen

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SalesScreen is a sales performance management tool that combines the fun of gamification with the transparency of data visualization, allowing managers to drive performance in a fun and engaging way. The SalesScreen software helps organizations around the world to track progress on KPIs and surpass sales goals. As a result, sales teams experience stronger sales culture, lower turnover, better awareness of goals, and increased activity on the metrics that drive revenue growth and success.

Learn more about SalesScreen

7 Hoopla

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Hoopla is an automated, real-time motivation and recognition solution that is designed to motivate teams. Hoopla helps celebrate wins through streaming channels with leaderboards, dashboards, progress bars, and more, with data automatically gathered from Salesforce. Hoopla can be used to provide real-time data to sales, customer service, support, marketing teams, and more. Hoopla provides real-time celebrations anywhere with deal alerts triggered as soon as an employee reaches a milestone.

Learn more about Hoopla

8 LevelEleven

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LevelEleven uses gamification to increase employee motivation and productivity through social contests. Their Compete platform appeals to brands that rely heavily on sales and service teams to generate revenue. With LevelEleven, companies can launch team-wide contests, reward top performers, and increase performance. LevelEleven specializes in helping brands identify the driving principles behind productivity, and then apply this knowledge to sales and service teams.

Learn more about LevelEleven

9 SmartWinnr

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Give your sales team the winning edge. Motivate, train and coach from a single platform—SmartWinnr. Drive real-time sales contests with points, badges, challenges and more to track and improve sales productivity. Help teams to uncover additional revenue opportunities by applying proven up/cross sell techniques and better product knowledge. Keep the reps trained and up-to-date with the latest knowledge about products, processes and competition intel.

Learn more about SmartWinnr

10 Prodoscore

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Prodoscore gives you unparalleled insight into how your workforce is operating, using non-invasive technology that works to streamline the employee experience and create transparency across teams. Prodoscore takes the guesswork out of managing remote or in-office teams so leaders are better informed and better prepared, and creates transparency across the organization. You can better predict and improve performance, as well as replicate top employees and identify coaching opportunities.

Learn more about Prodoscore

What chemical makes you happy?

There are four major chemicals in the brain that influence our happiness (DOSE):

  1. Dopamine
  2. Oxytocin
  3. Serotonin
  4. Endorphins.

As Nicole explains, each plays a different role in happiness. And guess what? They are all triggered by gamified experiences. Let’s dig a little deeper.

Dopamine is what we normally think of as the happiness drug. However, that’s a big misconception. Dopamine is actually involved more with anticipation than the actual “happiness” feeling. Nicole describes it as a striving emotion.

Oxytocin is the neurochemical that has allowed us to become social creatures. It makes us feel empathy which helps us feel close and bonded to others when it’s released.

If you’re in a good mood, you’ve got serotonin to thank. And if you’re in a bad mood, you’ve got serotonin to blame. It’s a regulator. Interestingly, Nicole explains, 80 percent of serotonin exists in the gut, and is governed by your state of hunger (yes, this is why you’re hangry).

Endorphins are responsible for masking pain or discomfort, which explains their association with the “fight or flight” response. When it comes to designing happiness, endorphins help you “power through.” Nicole, for example, is an avid runner. Endorphins allow her to push farther and harder as she works towards distance goals.

Together these chemicals create desirable brain states (and keep people coming back).

Experiences that release the DOSE neurochemicals make us happy, which makes us want more of the same. Does a desire to return to the same experience sound like a desire you probably have for your customers? Yes, it certainly does: customer loyalty. Gamified user experiences created with neuroscience in mind keep consumers coming back for more.

Whether those experiences are created to keep employees returning to your LMS for more gamified training, or to keep readers revisiting your site for more gamified content, this scientifically-backed approach works. It’s the reason gamification is expected to grow to a $5.5 billion industry by the end of 2018, and the reason you should be thinking about how to include gamified experiences into your technology.

The Takeaways:

  • There are four primary chemicals in the brain that effect happiness: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins
  • By designing gamified experiences that activate these chemicals, you can increase your users’ happiness and loyalty

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Listen to more episodes of the TechnologyAdvice podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes, or follow us on Twitter, @Technology_Adv. If you are in the market for gamification software, we can help. Use our nifty Product Selection Tool to find the gamification software to best fit your needs.



  1. Benjamin

    I’ve worked with Nicole, and let me tell you, it’s an immense pleasure to work with someone who is constantly pulling the covers back on a subject to see exactly how the inner workings function at their base levels and then problem solve to give users/designers/players more direct access to those interactions.

    -Benjamin Lehman

  2. Art

    Excellent article on neurochemicals (neuromodulators is a better word, since they activate or modulate clusters of neurons in the brain). Here is different perspective, based on the work of the distinguished affective neuroscientist Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan (who vetted and endorsed the argument by the way), which demonstrates how to ‘bootstrap’ both dopamine and opioid systems in the brain. The link provided is to an little open access book that develops the argument more formally. pp.43-45 for synopsis.

    Below is my argument in a nutshell:

    Individuals who engage in tasks in which they perceive a consistent and high degree of present and anticipated novel and positive outcomes or ‘meaning’ (e.g. sporting events, creative activity, doing productive work) commonly report a feeling of high alertness and arousal that may be construed to be due to the activation of mid-brain dopamine systems. However, a significant subset of these individuals also report a feeling of pleasure that is characteristic of opioid release, but these reports occur only in non-stressed situations when the musculature is relaxed. Since relaxation engages opioid systems in the brain, and because opioid and dopamine systems stimulate each other, the resulting blissful states or ‘flow’ like states require the simultaneous engagement of resting protocols and meaningful cognitive states, behaviors that are very easily achieved. In this way, which engages both resting protocols and an active sense of meaning, both dopamine and opioid release can be increased in the brain, and provide a level of blissful engagement with life’s challenges, or ‘flow’ that can effectively mitigate stress and anxiety.