Gaming might make you think of PlayStation or Angry Birds, yet there is more. Gamification is a way to bring the benefits of gaming into everyday activities, making them more fun and eventually more effective. Here’s how this might work for you.
A while ago I read the book “Reality is Broken” by Jane McGonigal. She describes some great examples of how gaming or gamification can improve your life. She created www.superbetter.com, a concept she conceived when recovering from a concussion. It is based on setting and achieving a goal every day. You can set these yourself or ask your friends to do so. The sense of accomplishment you get out if this makes you feel better and helps you work towards your recovery or any other goal. She also gives other examples where an online gaming community is used to solve complex mathematical problems.
A game has four characteristics: a clear goal, rules, a feedback system and it needs to be voluntary. The voluntary aspect makes it really powerful and sets it apart from a lot of work related activities. The feedback system is usually quite fast and that’s what helps you to keep going. The goal in itself is less important as long as there is one. Think of Tetris, a game you can’t really finish although the goal is really clear; you keep playing even if you can’t reach the goal. The rules add to the willingness to play. Because of all of this, Jane argues that gaming is so powerful for achieving results.
A great example described in her book is Nike+. Nike has developed a whole ecosystem to help you exercise more. The basics are simple. A device (iPhone, iPod, FuelBand or SportWatch) tracks your movements during the day and converts it into NikeFuel, a single universal way to measure movement for all kinds of activities. You set a daily goal and get trophies for achieving them. It will make you exercise more, use the stairs instead of the elevator, or park your car further away, just to get more NikeFuel.
Gamification can be used in a business setting to boost the creativity of people within organisations. There are several software platforms out there that help you set up internal competitions. The aim is to enable everyone to create their next products or services. By adding the gaming aspect to it, you motivate the employees to participate.
One platform is based on an online stock market. You post your idea online and assemble a team around it. Together you write a business plan for your idea. In addition, you can have employees who can invest virtual cash into your ventures. The goal is to get the highest market value for your idea. The investors need to get the highest investment portfolio. This way the best ideas float to the top. As it should be for a real game, this is all voluntary and probably explains the success. But it also shows that there is a big untapped potential in a lot of organisations.
Some companies also involve the outside world in their competitions. The idea is similar, but you open this up to an outside crowd. The key here is to incentivise people to participate. This is mainly done by offering cash prizes, but this is not all that drives people to participate.
A prime example of this is www.quirky.com. Their business model is built around allowing people to post ideas on their website for a small fee. The other members provide input for your idea, design, slogan and product name. Quirky orchestrates the whole design cycle and once your product makes it through, Quirky will make sure it gets produced. You get part of the product revenues, as do all of the people who helped you in the process. It’s worth registering on the platform as it is just fun to help in the design of all these products.
www.swarmapp.com evolved from Foursquare, which allows people to share their location with friends. The old Foursquare version allowed you to become the mayor of a place where you checked in regularly. You could also win some cool badges when you checked in to specific places – like ski-bum (by checking in to ski areas) or Warhol (for art exhibitions). This encouraged people to check in. Of course this was good for publicity for the places they visited and they would in return reward the person with, say, a free drink (this was not a general rule though). The swarm app now has stickers that you can add to your check-in and when you check in more than your friends at a certain category, it becomes golden.
I hope I have convinced you that gaming could have a very positive effect on your life. Encouraging people to do something for a prize is powerful, but making it voluntary makes it even more effective. In a business setting, it has started to gain ground, although I believe it is still underutilised. One lesson I learned is that the size of the incentive is not what matters. When you can challenge people in a fun way, the mere fact of being able to contribute is all that matters.
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