Nicole Lazzaro Gamifies Happiness

nicole lazzaro


Fast Company called her one of the 100 most influential women in high tech. Gamasutra named her one of the Top 20 women working in video games. Her company has served more than one billion gamers. In other words, XEODesign, Inc. President Nicole Lazzaro knows her stuff when it comes to gaming, and especially regarding gaming’s effects on our emotions.

During her talk at’s Gsummit conference, Lazzaro broadly described what she does as “The Science of Fun.” After her speech, she spoke to TechnologyAdvice’s Clark Buckner about leveraging happiness for better gaming experiences, detailing the brain’s four major chemicals that cause us to feel happy.

A DOSE of Happiness

Our brains release four main chemicals when we feel happy—dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins—and each chemical plays a unique role in influencing our feelings.

Lazzaro noted that dopamine’s often defined as the happiness drug, but that’s a misnomer. Dopamine release occurs when anticipating a happy event rather than during the event itself. In other words, it’s an emotion someone feels when they’re striving toward a goal.

Oxytocin has been referred to as the “cuddle hormone” because it’s often released when in close proximity to another person. However, oxytocin can also be released through other events like eye contact, social bonding, and being attentive to others. Oxytocin helps to deepen existing relationships.

More people are familiar with serotonin’s work in the mind and body. When your serotonin level is up, you’re in a good mood. When it’s down, you’re down. Lazzaro also shed light on the plight of the angry, hungry person: 80 percent of serotonin lives in the guy, so a skipped lunch could lead to a detrimental drop in serotonin.

Endorphins are often associated with our fight-or-flight responses because they’re released to help mask pain. Endorphins provide that extra motivation to finish a challenging task. For example, Lazzaro is a runner and mentioned that endorphins help her break through mental and physical barriers so she can run longer distances over time.

Lazzaro encourages people to discover ways to responsibly release each of these chemicals into their brains more often so they can experience more happiness. Increased happiness often results in increased productivity.

The DOSE of happiness principles that Lazzaro prescribes for people in general can also be used in games, especially concerning user loyalty. By keeping neuroscience in mind when designing the user experience, a developer or company can work to keep consumers wanting more and playing their game or using their product over and over again.

Ultimately, Lazzaro wants to change the world through positive thinking. Part of that path means “gaming yourself into happiness” because of its many benefits, like more individual productivity and better user loyalty.

To hear more from Nicole Lazzaro on DOSEing your games and your life, listen to the podcast interview below or an earlier interview, “Changing the World Is One Big Game.” Read more of Lazzaro’s fascinating insights at


The Interview was conducted by Clark Buckner from (they provide coverage content on loyalty software for businesses, medical billing tools, gamification trends and much more). Also be sure to check out their Tech Conference Calendar.


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