Welcome to Part 2 of this case study! I'm still falling through this pipe, but I can feel the temperature changing, so we must be close to the end.

But before we pop out, I want to recap what happened in Part 1!

Did you miss Part 1?




In levels 1 and 2 we acquired the Tome of Gamification and the Trident of Motivation.

We learned how to effectively apply gamification to an experience, how Duolingo uses extrinsic rewards well, what Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is, and how to use Autonomy to give users intrinsic motivation.

Now we'll get into how Duolingo uses the extrinsic reward - daily streaks - to engage users and the upsides and downsides of that approach. Then we'll look at the third component of SDT, relatedness, and how to build good social experiences.

What makes good and bad gamification




 Designing for different playstyles 

 What are failure states? 

How to improve social experiences using gamification 

Downloadable Cheat Sheet 🎁

Case Study Overview

Here we go!


Level 3



Whew, is it just me or did it just get hot in here?

But we won't let that get us down, our Trident will keep us motivated. We've already found two artifacts, let's keep that streak going!

Speaking of which, Duolingo relies heavily on daily streaks to keep their users engaged. You could say that all of Duo's eggs are in the daily streak basket!

So why have they done this? Well, it turns out that people absolutely love keeping a streak alive! Many users have streaks hundreds, or even thousands of days long.

Part of the reason is that Duolingo does a lot to make daily streaks feel important.

Once you complete your first lesson each day, Duolingo gives you a fun animation and lets you know how many days your streak has reached so far.

Your streak is shown to other people who see your profile as a badge of honor and social status within the community.

And Duolingo really celebrates daily streak milestones whenever they can.

But what happens when you go on vacation and forget a day, or lose your internet connection at the wrong moment?

Failure! Or at least that's how it feels.

Losing a streak that you've spent days, weeks, or months building can be extremely demotivating. This is one of the big downsides of building your experience around extrinsic rewards. Comments in Duolingo's own forums show how widespread this problem is.

We can see the downside of streaks elsewhere as well. In 2016, GitHub, a coding repository for software developers, removed its own daily streak element without warning. This provided a really nice natural experiment.

Immediately following the removal of visible streaks on their platform, GitHub saw it's largest decrease in engagement in over 3 years.

Even Duolingo's own former VP of Marketing, Gina Gotthilf, wasn't immune to the demotivating power of streaks after losing one of her own after 80 days.

From Advertising Influencers podcast

Although the daily streak has no impact on how much you've learned, it still feels like you've wasted your time after losing all that streak progress.

Breaking a streak is what's called a fail state or failure state in game design. A classic example is getting a game over screen for failing to complete a level in a game.

But what exactly is a fail state? Essentially a fail state is when a player does not complete a set objective and receives some punishment as a consequence.

Fail States

fail to meet objective

receive punishment

Fail states serve a purpose in games, to enhance the feeling of satisfaction once the game's challenge is accomplished.

Fail States