We talk a lot about what it means for a sales rep to game their comp plan, but the idea of gamification is bigger than simple sales boosts. The core of gamification is the idea that you can incent any behavior by applying game systems to everyday tasks. People want to play games, and by adding the familiar elements of play to work or home life, you can turn any task into an enjoyable and engaging experience, no matter how previously painful it might have been. The concept of gamification is making its way into the workplace via revamped commission strategies, but game designers have been applying game theory to everyday life for years – with incredible results.
And how should I know? Well, I lost 100 pounds because of gamification!
Let me explain – Last summer I began a new diet and exercise program, and like many people I was having trouble jumping head first into this new lifestyle change. I had to walk at least 2 miles a day, but I could barely convince myself to accomplish half that. I knew that exercising would help me be healthier and live longer, and that in and of itself should have been enough to get me going, but I just could not get past the idea of all the work I would have to do. That was before I found an app called Zombies, Run!, one of a new subset of fitness incentive apps from companies who hope to use gamification to help people get in shape. The app works like this – you select a chapter and go out for a walk, and the app tells you part of the story and tracks your progress through the imaginary world. You get items and resources just by walking farther, and hear more music and story the longer you go. When you get home from your walk, you can view your route online, use your resources to unlock more content, and track your physical stats and metrics over time. This app created a very simple and enticing behavioral loop – by walking I got more story and more stuff, which I used to play more of the game, which made me want to hear more story and get more stuff. To do that I had to walk, and so I went from walking 1 mile a day to 2 miles a day, then to 3, then 4 and 5 and soon I was walking 8 miles a day just because I was interested in the app. I almost didn’t notice I was losing weight at first, but after a month I had lost 20 pounds, and continued to do so every month until I hit my first fitness goal of 100 pounds. I could never have imagined losing all that weight if I thought of exercise as work, but it wasn’t work to me – I was playing a game and the game incentivized me to walk. And if this particular app doesn’t sound interesting to you, you’re in luck: this is just one of the dozens of fitness apps now out on the market. Others include: The Walk: This app takes a similar approach to Zombies, Run!, giving users the opportunity to advance in the game by making moves in the real world. FitMob: Incents exercise by reducing gym costs with each workout. These apps are designed like an incentive plan to work for everyone individually and as a group, because they are both personally oriented and collectively based. DietBet: Allows users to sign up for individual challenges and games, and wager that they will accomplish the challenge. For example, you could bet $10 that you will lose 4% of your body weight. This increased motivation, due to the risk of losing money, has inspired many people to get in shape.