The secret powers of gamification

Louis Piaget, Jun. 10, 2016
Playing a game is the voluntary effort to overcome unnecessary obstacles. Bernard Suits

Humans are mainly happy when they experience two situations: working towards a motivating goal and reaching that goal to receive the rewards. It is the promise of a future, improved situation that makes us get out of bed every day and it’s the day our work is rewarded that makes us feel a deep satisfaction…Until we want the next one.

This system is at the core of every human being. It is what drives us through difficult times, and help us overcome, one after the other, the obstacles life throw at us. It is deeply hard-wired in our brains and that is exactly why we love games so much.

Remember the first time you played Super Mario. Could you do just one level? Could you stop after 5 minutes of playing? If you’re a human like me, chances are you got addicted to the game too. I felt a deep sense of satisfaction everytime I overcame an obstacle I was struggling with for a time, and I was really happy when I finished a level. The game made me go through too many good emotions to stop right there. I had to click "continue" to try the next one.

This is such a powerful tool. People’s brain is designed to want more good emotions created by the games. Obvisouly I’m not the first one to recognize this, since this is what gave birth to the trend we’re currently seeing called gamification.

Gamification is the art of transforming anything into a game-like experience. We’re seeing it taking over by brands mostly in marketing and education. When games was just a succession of unnessary obstacles, brands decided to add meaning into the mix and attach their marketing messages to a fun experience. Customers can now learn about a product in a fun and addictive way.

For example, when Nissan wanted to market their new 100% electric Nissan Leaf, they created an app linked to the car where customers could monitor their performance and environmental effort and compare to other Leaf’s owners. Nissan ranked them in a leaderboard and the best performers could receive rewards such as a 3 years complimentary service. This experience was a success.

But here, at Lift, we dive deeper into the impact of new trends in technology. Needless to say that it is technology that enabled the rise of gamification. But what impact can it create? Is it just about selling more cars?

The answer is no, of course. We looked around and found some great examples of meaningful projects powered by gamification.

Urgent Evoke is a project created by the World Bank where you are the hero omaf a comic book story where you’re asked to find solutions to real world problems. World Bank calls it the “Crash Course in Changing the World”. Those who complete the required challenges earn the distinction of “World Bank Institute Social Innovator.” They even took it a step further: the winners from the original graduating class in 2010 received benefits such as seed funding for new ventures, travel scholarships at the EVOKE Conference in Washington, D.C., and online mentorships with business and social leaders from around the world. All thanks to a game. Cool, would you say?

But the domain where gamification has its biggest impact is education. The learning process can be overwhelming, especially if you are doing it the old-fashioned way. I remember trying to learn by heart german vocabulary by reading it. Horrible. I tried with cards with a word on one side and the translation on the other, and it became a bit more fun. I learned better. It was the beginning of gamification.

Nowadays, hand-written two-sided cards is something of the past. Kids are learning to code with Raspberry Pi and think like entrepreneurs with Minecraft.

Can you picture a kid being able to build anything that comes out of his imagination. No more laws of physics or some kind of rule. That definitely create outside the box thinkers. You know us, we like to think about tomorrow. What is the next field that will benefit from gamification, and come together with the most meaning?

Gamejam was a 3 days hackathon who took place during #Lift16. We gathered different skills and amazing people to work on a project to gamify what we think is the next field suitable for innovation.

Everyday, kids suffering from Mucoviscidose have to perform exercises to clear their lungs in order to breath more easily. These exercices consists of blowing into a tube for 1 hour to get the muccus out. Every day kids are doing this tedious, boring but vital task. It has been 50 years now since patients having Mucoviscidose last saw an innovation in their treatment. We wanted to change that thanks to the power of gamification.

The idea is to use the heavy breathing as a controller to the game. Breathing out becomes the action that control the hero in the game, so it becomes less meaningless for the patient.

The first day saw some amazing action.

The second day saw some challenges but we overcame them by being awesome :)

Overall, the experience convinced us that healthcare is a field where gamification can play a huge role. The Lake Geneva Region is becoming the Health Valley of the world, so we believe that Gamejam has an opportunity to propose their knowledge and game design skills as a go-to solution for medtech startups.

Whatever the result, what truly is inspiring is the potential to change the perspective on the most tedious, painful and unpleasant tasks in the world and the powers it creates.

I strongly encourage you to think about the one task on which you could have the biggest impact, no matter the field, and tell us in the comments section below.

Maybe we can do something about it, so that playing games becomes the voluntary effort to overcome meaningful obstacles.

More information about the Game Jam at Lift16 here