39 Cases of Intelligent Game-Based Design For Newbies, Old Duffers and Your Precious Customers

Step-by-step, Charlie Kim, CEO of Next Jump, observed an uptake in exercising among his staff, but each level of progress did not fully sate him. Charlie would not give up on his goal to make physical fitness widespread among employees at this $100 million tech firm. So he experimented with incentives.

one colleague piggy backs on another, to cheer on their team

Colleagues at GEICO want their team to win, during an Employee Recognition Day outing.

Ultimately, he upped the rate of exercise among former coach potatoes from 12% to 75%. By trial and error, he arrived at a program incorporating basic principles of game design:

  • first, he put gyms into office buildings
  • next, he offered cash prizes to a top adopter, but this only boosted exercising rates a bit
  • next, he made teams of carefully chosen sets of employees, to invoke a social angle
  • then, he set up a leaderboard so the teams could see how they were doing, and through subtle peer pressure give a friendly tap-on-the-back that hauls one off to the gym.

As Gabe Zichermann, a thought leader in gamification relayed to our gathering, some of the games developed in the private sector would be a surprise. For example, AXA Equitable created a game about how life goes on after you die, and the effect of your life insurance choices on survivors. The game, appropriately entitled, “Pass It On!”, is a hit. You can play it and see for yourself.

Why use gaming principles in business, not-for-profit and public arenas? Game-based design reflects the palpable, real human motivation to persevere in tasks and master challenges. And when the motivation is there, people take the steps you want them to take, for the rewards you have so carefully put in front of them.

We call that adaptation of game principles gamification.

According to Deloitte, gamification is going to be one of the hot tech trends of 2012. According to Gartner Inc., “more than 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes, and by 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and consumer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon.”

Gaming Meetups offer demos of new games

The other day I was at a gaming Meetup and saw live the attraction to gaming. Ovelin, a Finland-based start-up, developed a game called WildChords that changes the way youngsters learn to play the guitar. Did you know that 85% of people who take up the guitar drop out in Year One? In fact, WildChords teaches music by tying instrument practice to the action of characters on the iPad. The more someone plays correctly, the more the animated figures gather and march down the road, like the Pied Piper. A user must master more complex musical composition in order to proceed to the next level.

Within 2 weeks of launching, this game became the #1 music app in 31 countries. And then it captured the title Best European Learning Game of 2011. But here’s the true measure of its success (from the view of its purchasers): Parents report that kids who didn’t practice even a few minutes a day, were spending hours practicing guitar.

What does this have to do with businesses achieving business goals, for companies that don’t make gameware?

live presentation of a game

Finalist presentation at a Game Design conference, Belgium 2010.

The principles of game mechanics are broadly applicable. The basic “addiction” that games offer is their basis in real drivers of human behavior–getting what people normally want and crave. People are attracted to the feeling of being challenged, becoming more skillful at something, gaining positive feedback and rewards, and ultimately achieving mastery.

It’s not so much about badges and levels and virtual currencies, as it is about reaching intermediate goals, seeing the progress, feeling the love (so to speak), and incentivizing players.

The principles of game mechanics can be applied to:

  • increase user engagement
  • improve customer loyalty
  • improve training
  • improve employee morale and productivity
  • steer public behaviors in a desirable direction.

There are heaps of case studies of organizations showing successful game-based principles in marketing, product design, and HR functions.

Some of my greatest hits are:

Games to increase user engagement (i.e. smart marketing at its best)

  • Top Chef Texas. Top Chef Texas is a program from BravoTV. The media company sought to increase engagement with its content and hired Bunchball to help achieve this. In the viewers’ favorite game, played online at the website, players can join a team of past contestants on the show, and earn points for that team by reading blogposts, tweeting about them, and viewing videos.
  • Docomomo. A physical scavenger hunt launched to prod people to travel the five boros of New York, to better appreciate the variety and splendidness of modern architecture. Snap pictures of yourself in front of buildings, upload to Flickr, and label and tag them.
  • Samsung Nation. Badgeville has gamified Samsung’s platform and offers badges and rewards for behaviors like commenting on articles, reviewing products, and participating in user-generated Q&As. As you earn points and unlock badges, you can follow your progress on the leaderboard, and get rewarded for loyalty with entry to sweepstakes for real stuff.

Games to improve training

  • LiveOps. LiveOps is a virtual call center. Bunchball created a game for the client to increase its operators’ participation in eLearning, and thereby increase sales. The cleverness of this game is how it helps virtual agents become better connected with their managers, and allows them to “manage their reputation” by featuring their badges in an open (internal) showcase.

Games to improve employee productivity or morale

  • Keas.com. Keas creates happier and healthier employees by bringing corporate wellness goals to an enterprise. From the CEO to the mailroom clerk, teams comprised of various co-workers are encouraged to take walks together, take the stairs, and compete for bragging rights. People not only bond in the program, but 70% remain engaged after signing up, and 90% would recommend it to a friend.

Games to steer public behavior

  • Speed camera lottery. In this game, instead of simply ticketing drivers who exceeded the speed limit– a purely negative reinforcement–Swedish authorities were able to achieve a 22% reduction in overall speeds by offering a positive reinforcement. Anyone who drove BELOW the speed limit was entered into a lottery to win the money assessed against speed violators. Watch below.YouTube Preview Image
  • Coolchoicesnetwork.org. This Wisconsin-based not-for-profit seeks to help corporations steer their employees to engage in sustainable, environmentally friendly behaviors, which range from not idling the engine of their cars to shutting down their computers so they aren’t wasting energy 24/7. The game-based initiatives attract widespread participation.
  • Another project from thefuntheory.com, see below and you will understand both the aim and the result!YouTube Preview Image
  • Dailyfeats.com. This is designed to get you to take small, positive actions every day, and reap benefit from that continuous commitment. There are sponsorships for the platform, and various brands provide tangible rewards to people who document, in a private protected area, their daily good deeds.

Why did I title this post 39 cases? Because you can hunt for additional case studies on Badgeville’s and Bunchball’s sites. Ready, set, go!

Mojo Moves

  • Follow Gabe Zichermann (@gzicherm) and make it a point to attend meetings and venues where he presents. He is mesmerizing; it will build your mojo just to listen and learn.
  • For job seekers among readers, many companies mentioned in this post are growing and need talent. Check out their career pages and get on it.
  • If you are gainfully employed, think about one area of your firm that could be invigorated by incorporating game principles. Volunteer to make an internal presentation on adding game-based design to achieve real business objectives. Then research and rise to the challenge. Here is a way you can get people talking about You the Initiator.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, Elyse & Joe, ImagineCup.

Does it look like fun to you? Let me know in the comments.

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Did you enjoy this post?
  • http://sharonoday.com Sharon O’Day

    How thought provoking, Diane! Even if not in a corporate environment (or not having the resources they have), it’s made me question how I could incorporate more of the challenge concept into what I do. Thanks!

  • conflux

    This article is very thought provoking … nicely done! I am blown away by the variety, the range and the depth of gamification.

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      Yes, it is amazing how innovation has spread…

  • Mktg Maven

    This is so exciting!! It has so much potential in all aspects of business and organizational process management for rapid growth and engagement.

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      It sure does. Let me know if you see some interesting use cases and we can share the knowledge, k?

  • MariePalasco

    This is a great idea and it has so much potential to help people with bad habbits, and I’m glad, Diane, that you put in the videos. great post!

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      You’re welcome. I am so glad that you liked it!

  • Lenore N.

    Who had any idea all of this was going on, yet it all makes perfect sense? One of the more interesting blogs I have read in a long while.

    Thanks Diane.

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