Jan Bidner

Who is Jan?

I am a user fanatic. From my point of view, it’s all about the user! For me, when it comes to digitally transforming our lives – and the world we live in – into something better, it all comes down to us humans and our behaviour and needs.

Regardless of the business or service in question there are users with needs to fulfil and who behave in a particular way because of it.

For the desired effect to occur in the aforementioned business or service the user must be able to understand, have the ability to perform and also the desire and need to do whatever it is that we expect of her. Without active users, there will be no effects and the system is broken.

So what is it that drives and motivates a user to start using a service, remain loyal to it and continue to engage with it?

What is it in the core of the service we are designing? What is it that creates value for the user and how can the design process benefit from regarding the users as potential players regardless of the context.

What is “the game”? What are the rules? What kind of behavior patterns do we want the game to support? What kind of rewards are perceived as rewarding to the player in this specific context?

When I talk about the player I mean several things. When it comes to gamification we choose to view the user as an active part who make meaningful choices and want to be presented with clear goals and receive feedback from the system about their progression.

We can guide the user, we can provide feedback for them and we can reward them. But that’s not all. We can also challenge and entertain them, and make the experience more playful for them in a way that falls neatly into the gamification field.

To me, gamification is about business development, change management, UX and game design working together in a fruitful alliance.

I, myself, am an ordinary person with unusual perspectives. I have worked as an actor, educator, developer, strategist and designer. With more than fifteen years as a project leader and an UX strategist in the IT industry I have gained deep insights about these topics.

Adding to this, I have also worked part time as a hospital clown for eighteen years. All of these experiences have given me a responsive and creative approach to my environment and to my clients.

Problem solving is the most fulfilling and meaningful thing I know.

“To me, gamification is business development, change management, UX and game design in a fruitful alliance.”

What is your background?

I have studied media and communication, gender studies, literature and creative writing. I also have a master’s degree in systems science (Informatics) with a special focus towards HCI and usability or UX as we call it today. I have worked with design and system development in the IT industry for roughly sixteen years. I started my career shortly after the ‘IT bubble’ burst.

Gamification, what is that?

The definition as I see it is: To use game design principles in non-gaming contexts to motivate and engage the user. And to focus the design process with different user behavior and human motivations in mind.

How did you get into the gamification field?

In 2013 I stumbled over both GBL (Gamebased learning) and gamification. This was an awakening for me, a little like when Neo suddenly saw the Matrix. I realized that I was already doing all of that… Using the power of games in contexts that were not games. It was already in me. The playfulness and the game thinking. Adding to this, I had designed games for learning and e-learning.

Where can gamification be applied?

In all contexts where there is a clear conversion and prospective behavior change. I am thinking foremost in the fields of learning and development, online shopping, loyalty programs, sales, onboarding, rehab, specific social contexts and savings. When I think about it I can’t really see any limitations at all. The most important factor, I would say, is that you always have to have the user perspective as the main focal point. To get the user to buy, buy, buy can’t – or shouldn’t – be the central goal for a business or a service. This should instead be the effect of creating a great user experience that meets the needs and demands of the user.

Take e-commerce for example, to only give rewards for completed purchases can easily be cynical and off-putting, not to mention boring.

From the user perspective it might be more about lifestyle choices, exploring, good deals and to learn more about the products. And eventually to learn more about oneself.

The purchase itself is the least engaging thing for me, but it should of course be rewarded. There’s no question about that. But maybe it shouldn’t be a prompted mission…

Where do you think gamification is in ten years?

In the palm of every person.

How do you see the role of UX in gamification?

There are many factors that overlap here. Because design thinking also is about behavior patterns and strategies. The big difference here, I would say, is that gamification takes the more irrational nature of us humans into account. This to a greater extent. While UX is more about optimizing the user experience and to remove all the pain-points for the user it is quite reverse when it comes to gamification. Here it’s more about putting up thresholds for the user to create a little bit of conflict, friction and challenge.

With this said the question about design and user experience is key here. And that you have a long-term strategy both from a business perspective and from a user perspective. This is what good UX is really about.

Do you use any kind of gamification-elements in your everyday life?

All the time. I like to surprise myself by doing things in a randomly order, to do things in opposite ways. I hate to repeat things over and over. Besides that I set goals for myself to work my way through. I use all kinds of apps and watches and use gamified solutions for exercising, travelling, going to cafés, savings etc. and I use gamification even mentally.

You have a background in theatre/acting. Tell us a little bit more about that.

My acting background is really useful when I am in front of a crowd presenting something or leading people in a workshop. I have learned several, valuable tips and tricks that I can use to create a sense of presence. Body language, storytelling… For seven years I was a working actor with a professional stage company here in the north of Sweden where I live. At the same time I was teaching drama to high-school students.

‘Björkpollen of the dead’. How did that come about?

The director for this short movie (you can Google it if you are curious about what it is) was a student in my drama class when I was a high-school drama teacher. I have participated in several of his projects. He often ended up killing me in, macabre ways. I don’t really know how to interpret it…

Working extra as a hospital clown. Tell us about that? What has that taught you?

Sensitivity and empathy. To reflect and understand peoples needs. To see and feel people on a real, tangible level. It has learned me a lot about how to take in the atmosphere in a room and to listen to people’s actual needs, to have empathy and to be able to read between the lines. This is among the most important tool that you can have in your toolbox as a designer and a Strategist.

How did you get into the podcast scene?

I listened to a show called ‘Värvet’ and thought “I can do that”.I like the interview format.

Which are your three favorite games?

Plants Vs. Zombies


The Last of Us


Plants Vs. Zombies – For the combo of sick humor and real-time strategy

Pinball – For the flow

The Last of Us – Solely for the onboarding. This game is super-immersive!

You are a very creative person with lots of ongoing projects. How has this shaped your view on gamification?

Thank you! I see creativity as an ability to solve problems – whatever it takes and this creative thinking also helps me find alternative strategies, break things down into their core parts and to think innovative and out of the box. And creativity combined with frank curiosity – always asking why when you don’t understand – is sort of a super power.