An argument about why everyone is a gamer whether they realize it or not as the world seeks to gamify various aspects of our lives.
I was browsing for apps yesterday on the App Store and one of the featured apps was called The Walk- Fitness Tracker and Game. It is basically an interactive adventure wherein you are an “unwitting suspect on the run after a bomb detonates” and it has 13 hours of audio in 65 chapters. I was interested in it because (1) I love games especially story driven ones and (2) I’ve been trying to be more fit lately. I’ve even looked into getting a new band for my Apple Watch from Mobile Mob to help with my fitness and being able to gamify the experience would help a lot. I thought that this was an excellent idea because truthfully gaming isn’t really a proactive hobby unless you only play Kinect games 90% of the time which I doubt. Therefore, I think a lot of gamers who aren’t really gym buffs would be more open and interested in exercising if gaming elements were introduced.
The Walk is far from the first game to gamify non-gaming related activities. The developer Six to Start actually developed another app before this called Zombies, Run with the exact same idea only with zombie themed storyline. Aside from fitness, I’ve also seen other apps that introduce role-play gaming elements to boost productivity.
Epic Win is an app by Rexbox and SuperMono that aims to make completing chores feel like a role-playing game. Whenever you accomplish a task in your t0-do list, you can improve your character’s skills and gain some loot in the context of an on-going quest.
I’m sure there are many other games that employ this tactic, so forgive me if I don’t mention some. However, these are some examples on how gaming elements are incorporated to make it appealing to gamers and non-gamers alike. You might say that this strategy would only work towards the gaming audience. For Epic Win, yes that may be true since but Six to Start’s apps can easily appeal to those who don’t play video games at all. It’s not like you need to be a gamer to appreciate zombies and action packed storytelling.
Another app I’d like to share with you is called Duolingo. It’s an app that offers fun and comprehensive language courses for free. Yeah, I hope Rosetta Stone heard me because their products are too expensive. The gaming aspect of it is that their are leader boards and the app notifies you if your friends have overtaken you in a particular language. You have lives/hearts during each lesson which challenges you not to screw up. You also get rewarded with lingots to buy bonuses that can either make you look cool or give you more hearts. I think that Duolingo is a bit more subtle in its gamification since it doesn’t push the idea as much that it’s like a “game” unlike the first two.
There are also numerous apps that teach its users how to code. Some appeal to “hardcore” gamers with shooter and RPG mechanics, while there are also others that can appeal to broader audiences. Hakitzu: Robot Hackers and Cargo-Bot are respective examples of what I’m talking about. Having coding skills and background isn’t an exclusive thing in the video game industry. It’s a skill that is helpful in almost any field nowadays. Code.org demonstrates this through a video that encourages others to learn coding by people from different walks of life. So, it shows how gamifying something like coding isn’t a tactic aimed only at gaming enthusiasts.
Social media isn’t shy about this strategy as well. Just think about Foursquare and how they make people compete to be the mayor of a certain place. I can vividly remember the time when two of my friends were constantly overthrowing one another just to be the mayor of a sushi place we all loved dining at. In addition, you get all these badges for visiting certain places whether it’s your first or nth time. It’s not just about getting the rewards of beating someone or going to places, but it’s also about the competition it breeds among its users. The perfect example is the mayor of sushi place showdown I mentioned earlier. It’s like racing against your friends to find all the collectibles in a video game.
Waze is another application that uses gamification to get its user excited and active about navigation. This time you have points and rankings to brag and compare with other users. Microsoft Office even made a game called Ribbon Hero 2 that helps users learn Office applications. I could go on and on about this but I think you get the idea.
Can we make obeying the law fun through making it seem like a game? Kevin Richardson submitted his idea called The Speed Camera Lottery wherein people who are caught speeding pays a fine to a pot. You are eligible to win the pot if you obey the speed limit. That’s the idea in its most basic essence. If I’m not mistaken, it won Volkswagon’s Fun Theory contest and it was tested in Stockholm, Sweden with great success.
Gamification extends beyond the digital realm. There are a myriad of examples, but let me pick something that’s close to home. I went to school in Manila, Philippines before I moved to the US for college. My school wanted to teach and encourage students to speak English. So, the administration implemented a program wherein a section/class (40 in one) gets 5 points at the end of the day if everyone spoke straight English. The class gets deductions if we slipped and spoke in our native tongue. There’s a leader board posted in the hallways and the winners are entitled to some perks and school wide recognition. This was done with zero technology! Anyway, some of my peers had a hard time with English but incorporating the game element gave them motivation to try when they weren’t willing to learn at all.
Now just because something simply has rewards, that doesn’t automatically mean it is gamified. If a teacher praises you for doing your homework, that alone is not gamification. Add the element of stars/points, scoreboard, and perks, then that can be called gamification. It’s not just one thing, but a combination of various key factors.
I’m not saying that gamification is a new trend, but I’m writing about how gaming or the idea of games appeal to people outside of people who play video games. Fun is an important aspect of our lives. Heck, in The Sims fun is a freakin’ need you need to fulfill or else your sims go nuts. Centuries ago, Romans wanted to make it fun to torture or kill their prisoners so they have those games in coliseums to entertain people. Sometimes the gladiators enjoy it too even if there is a chance they get killed!
So the next time you hear someone say that they aren’t gamers or you think someone isn’t, look closely at how they use the aforementioned applications or perform certain practices. Do they enjoy the thrill of beating someone to be the new mayor of your town’s Chipotle? Do they shop using a store’s game-like program? Keep these stuff in mind. They may never play Battlefield with you or never know what The Last of Us is, but to some degree they are gamers like us.