Living a smart life means both work and play, and the truly smart realize they don’t necessarily need to be different things. The “gamification” of repetitive tasks is a great way to provide motivation at work. Thousands of office workers spend millions of hours throwing Angry Birds, clicking on Farmvilles, and analyzing grid information patterns for numerical proximity (aka Minesweeper.) But repetitively clicking and moving little numbers and icons is exactly the same as the job they’re trying to escape — so why not use the same tactics to make the work more enjoyable?
It’s not as simplistic as it might sound. Game theory is a valuable and very well developed branch of mathematics, applied to everything from the stock market to nuclear war strategies. Once you set a victory condition, anything can be “played” – and that includes your office, management of resources, or even how to clear a spreadsheet in the fastest possible time. There are already lots of games based on exactly those things.
A big part of gamification’s appeal is that, deep down, we want to succeed and enjoy ourselves. We want to know what to do to achieve those states, and then do it, and that’s where gamification steps in. A simple scoring system doesn’t make the work easier, but it does make it clear what you should do. Video games reduce the endless complexities of the world into a simple number. Make that number higher and you’re doing better. That’s why people count how long they spend on the treadmill instead of how they feel on it.
We’ve found some innovating, entertaining ways to to combine work and play.
Chore Wars turns a to do list into a…well… a much more appealing to do list. One that keeps score instead of being left on the fridge to fester with guilt. This is a perfect team game for new students, setting up a task list around the house and awarding experience points and rewards for those who level up by doing their jobs.
More importantly, every group has a master score list — so it becomes immediately obvious who isn’t pulling their weight. This is the best part of the system. When one roommate or office colleague sends out a mail calling out the lazy and filthy, it’s the complainer who can end up looking like the villain. With an automatic and impersonal website tallying score, no-one can be blamed but the guilty party.
DevHub is a simple, smart website construction service for small businesses. While corporations need an entire IT division to maintain sites, freelancers and small businesspeople need to make their own site on top of everything else. And even though it’s essential to be online, many people just don’t get around to building and maintaining their own website. DevHub changed that by “gamifying” the website-building process.
They reported a 70% increase in website completion, shooting from 10 to 80% completed, by adding scores and rewards for going through the process. It doesn’t matter that those rewards only apply to the process itself — it’s enough to engage the part of the brain that really wants to finish tasks anyway, and override the part that wants to go check Twitter.
On the other end of the business size spectrum is Badgeville, a consulting firm available to “gamify” anyone’s content.
Part of the new breed of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) firms, Badgeville builds games to engage customers or motivate staff, whichever their client requires. And, they have a lot of big clients. Their focus on gamification means you’re hiring experts, and a big part of SaaS is that you never have to deal with the complicated details of balancing, polishing or servicing the game. If you pay them, you get a fully-functional, polished game tailor-made for your needs, leaving you free to reap the rewards of team building games or customer involvement. Badgeville themselves sum it up in a fun and handy graphic, which is kind of their job:
Expect a storm of gamification apps, thanks to the recent Gamification Summit.
The first is SuperBetter, a rewiring of social networking which is equal parts obvious and brilliant.
Designed for those recovering from illness and injury, SuperBetter directs the constant communication and status-checking of social networkers to positive reinforcement and support. It evaporates the boundaries to checking on a friend who’s had some serious trouble — in real life you might feel awkward about bringing it up, or bored if it’s been mentioned before. But online everyone comments on everything all the time! We’ve seen facebook threads extending to two hundred comments for a particularly well-made sandwich — that’s the sort of support someone struggling back to health could do with.
Mozilla’s Open Badges project is an incredibly ambitious attempt to gamify everything you ever achieve – so that others can see it.
The open-source architecture reduces resumes, references and repeatedly-reformatted CVs to an easily accessible architecture. Meaning you can spend more time actually doing things instead of trying to prove to others that you can. It’s already in use by the School of Webrcaft, who are the kind of people who get in on smart new online projects for sharing information.
Everything has been gamified. Even things you wouldn’t think would need any extra motivation. Femjoy’s Android app takes “playing with yourself” to a whole new level, no pun intended.
This is a more important program than you’d think, as the FemJoy app is Android only. Apple purged their App Store of all pornographic apps, along with anything that even rhymes with “naughty”, causing a resultant surge in Android adult content. It’s also proof of just how fundamental a drive gaming is. If people prefer to play with games even when playing with themselves, you can be sure they’d rather play while working too! And any motivation for work increases productivity.
Image credit: ktsimage / iStockphoto