Newbie Badge Achieved: Gamification

I attended the gsummitx – Gamification in Montreal event at the offices of I Can Go Without , where my very good friend, Jihane (@JihaneElAtifi) works, and they had Gamification expert, Gabe Zicherman (@gzicherm) speaking about, well Gamification.

Leading up to that evening, I spent the afternoon playing a video game on my iPad. So I’m not a gamer in anyway. I play sudoku and bejewelled and lots of puzzle games, but hardly ever anything more elaborate than that. Never really had a console except for a Nintendo Gameboy and DS. And if ever I played a computer game, it was more on the strategy side of things like Command & Conquer, Age of Empires and Civilization.

As I ran out the door, late because I was so engrossed in the new game, I updated my Facebook status about how I missed playing video games and how they were addictive. I got a bit of a backlash on facebook about how games are bad for you, or you shouldn’t waste your time all day playing them. I always got very confused about peoples anti-gaming rhetoric, and how they don’t realize how much of life is really a game. How we can actually benefit from games, or game theory being applied to much of everyday tasks.

So here I was at the presentation, and absolutely blown away by some of the most amazing examples of applied game theory, and gamification to solve real world challenges. The definition of gamification, if your not familiar, according to Gabe Zicherman is:

The process of game-thinking and game mechanics to engage users to and solve problems

Applying that to products and services, things can get very fun, very engaging and very useful beyond the intrinsic use of the said product or service. Amazingly enough, there are already an abundance of products/services that apply game mechanics to them, and we hardly notice it. We actually expect that. Exercise equipment that tracks progress, encourages, awards points and achievements and shares them on social networks. Its almost a standard now.

One of the examples Gabe talked about was of a tech company CEO who wanted more people to go to the gym and exercise for a myriad of reasons. So he built gyms in the office. Not much changed until he implemented a game to incentivize his staff to use them. And KABLAM! Around 80% of his staff use the gym 2 days or more a week. Thats incredible! I think at least. (You can hear him tell the story in the video).

Another example was, whose philosophy is that everyone should learn to read and write code in the modern age. They built a gameified system that taught over 1 million people to code. Thats more than all of the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) programs in the US put together.

Gabe gives a bunch of great examples in the video, so I wont repeat, but they are astonishing and innovative. Check it out.

I’ve never really thought of games as bad for you, even while growing up, boys my age would always get in trouble for playing too many video games, and i think till this day it happens. I think society in general should really have a second look at what games and video games are, and how they impact our lives for the better, and how we can leverage that.

I bought the book “Gamification by Design” , and will be learning how to implement these ideas in to my next web app project, which i’m in the process of building these days.

You can find out more on the subject at

Question for you: What service, product or app do you use that has elements of gamification, that you didn’t notice was kind of a game? eg: gives you scores/badges/rewards and incentivizes you to achieve more with instant gratifications and recognition.

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