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Your Move: Gamification


I grew up with video games. Working to better my high score at a certain game is in my blood. At one point, I was obsessed with getting the absolute lowest time possible on the first level of Sonic 2. (For the record: I’ve done it in 20 seconds, the world record is 18.)

Product designers have caught on to this, and have started taking some of the design elements of video games to use in contexts that are definitely not video games. This is called gamification.

You can see this most readily in fitness trackers like FitBit. Every day, you get a score in the number of steps you take in a given day. The app tracks this, gives you your score, and even awards you badges for crossing certain milestones - a certain number of steps walked in a day, a certain lifetime distance, or climbing a distance. These are just like getting achievements in an Xbox game.

Internet-connected thermostats like the Nest will also give you “leaves” for each day you have a particularly efficient day in heating or cooling your house, and it will email you a report every month to see if you are being more or less efficient than the other homes in your area with the same thermostat - and give you tips on how to do better than your neighbors.

Even driving can be gamified. Some people do their best to absolutely maximize the gas mileage they get out of their car. New hybrid cars promote the most efficient driving by encouraging the driver to stay in a green range, and giving an efficiency report - basically a score - at the end of a drive.

Major studies show that gamification has a positive impact on people and the type of activity they are being encouraged to do, increasing engagement and motivation. Although perhaps not everything lends itself to this kind of rewards system, I like finding some of the elements of games in more aspects of everyday life.

Samuel McConnell is a games enthusiast who has been playing games in one form or another since 1991. He was born in northern Maine but quickly transplanted to Wichita.