February 15, 2013

Gamification Of Life: Giving Meaning To The Mundane

Gamification as a buzzword seems to have lost its lustre as of late, and I couldn’t be more pleased. As a gamer, I’m delighted that more and more brands are infusing familiar gaming elements into their programs, promotions and platforms. As a marketing professional, however, I cringe any time I hear the word. Much of our industry’s doubt around the validity and longevity of the concept is arguably the result of several brands haphazardly tacking game dynamics onto things simply to capitalize on novelty and hype, instead of building game mechanics into products and services, working outwards from there. Google News Badges is an example of gamification done poorly.

All things considered, here’s what we know about potential of gamification for brands: as a planet, we spend 3 billion hours a week playing video games; over 5 million people play an average of 45 hours of video-games a week. We’ve been playing games – console, mobile, MMORPGs, social, and more – since childhood. And though we’ve been immersed in the language of metaphors and gaming our entire lives, some companies still fail to grasp how to properly design gamified systems. That’s where I think that self-improvement apps have got right: by adding meaning to the mundane, these apps answer the “why” question. Here are 4 such apps which I’ve personally used, which I think are  examples of gamification done right:

1. Nike Fuel Band

I tether my Nike shoes to my Nike Fuel Band bracelet and go on my runs as normally would, except that when I get home, I upload data from my run and view statistics. I also compete against millions of other Nike+ users via a global leaderboard. I then discover ways to optimize my performance and train harder and smarter.

2. Fitbit Aria Smart Scale

I track my weight, body fat percentage, and BMI on a scale which syncs with my phone, helping me visualize my long-term progress. I set goals for myself, earn badges for achieving these goals and stay motivated to keep my weight under control.

3. Chains.cc

I form new habits and break out of existing ones using Chains.cc, a motivational tool predicated on the simple challenge of not breaking habit “chains”. Seeing gaps in my chains can be so demoralizing, trust me.

4. SuperBetter

Through SuperBetter, I stay motivated to achieve my larger health goals through overtly gamified challenges built around achieving them. A combination of points, levels, badges, leaderboards and competitions blend seamlessly into a digital layer atop my otherwise boring health goals.

I concur with Matthew Shaer, author or Among Righteous Men, in that “treating your life as a game can make you a better person.” As I continue to subscribe to these games in pursuit of my new years resolutions, it’s clear to me that the “game layer” is no longer just on top of the world, as SCVNGR Founder Seth Preibatsch said – for me, it’s meshed into my reality. Brands that recognize our psychological predisposition to engage in gaming and that design with intent stand to make their product or service more engaging. According to Rajat Paharia, Founder of Bunchball, “Using gamification, companies like Eloqua are seeing a 55 percent lift in active users in their user communities, companies like Zamzee are motivating kids to exercise 59 percent more, and companies like Bluewolf are experiencing a 68 percent increase in traffic to their website.”

It’s my sincere hope that in time, gamification loses its buzzword quality and becomes a more respected model for making products and services more accessible and fun.


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