How Vampires, Playful Trash Cans and Board Games Create a Better World

When it comes to engagement, you could call it the holy grail of today’s world. We’d all love to have an engaged audience, customers, and users – and games are particularly good at achieving that. Why exactly? 

When you’re enjoying yourself while playing and you’re having fun, that’s not an accident. It’s a result of intentional, conscious design choices of the game authors. Perhaps you could leverage some of these principles when creating the very UX of your product, or they could be used to acquire new habits. It could be anything – improving a healthy lifestyle, turning onboarding more effective, or increasing your brand loyalty. In the end, gamification is about solving real-life challenges through game design principles. 

Oliver Šimko Oliver Šimko

You may think: games have been around since forever, it’s not a big deal – why should we get into gamification now? Yes, games have been a part of our culture since homo sapiens, and you can even observe games as a way to learn new things or explore social behavior in the animal kingdom.

What accelerated the whole process is how saturated are basic needs of so many of us. When that happens, we perceive our “higher” needs more urgently – the need to prove ourselves, leave a positive mark, and footprint in the world. They’re perfectly natural and we crave to fulfill them, but that’s tough to achieve a regular, day-to-day basis. 

As it happens, games are really good at tackling these needs. If you ask players why they are playing games, and they go beyond the usual answer: “I like to win,” you’ll hear fascinating things. They mention the sense of fulfillment of going out of their comfort zone or excitement of accomplishing something grand. And so we can use these principles to redesign our workplaces, or the way we interact with each other, and make them more meaningful. 


What can it look like? 

Improving onboarding

One of the most prominent Slovak banks allows their newcomers to play a board game instead of watching some onboarding presentation. During the game, they get to know each other and learn the bank’s day-to-day routine. It’s a stress-free activity that turns the whole first-day experience into something more “human”. 

Boosting interest in blood donations

Sometimes you don’t need to design the whole game; you can just borrow some of its mechanics. This is what some blood banks are leveraging. 

Every time you donate blood, you feel good about yourself – but how long does that last? Afterward, you just go back to your daily routine, and the “high” from a good deed goes away. Sometimes you might wonder if your blood is ever even being used. But what if these blood banks text you every time that happens? That way, you get a powerful message that you saved a life, making you more inclined to donate even more often. 

Turning people into energy-savers

Sometimes you can use gamified techniques as storytelling and role-playing to get people excited about a topic that really isn’t. A gamification consultant Mario Herger came with the idea that can save energy in office buildings. There would probably be lots of electric devices that drain power when in standby mode. But what if we use a story of electric vampires that infested the building, and we need guys like you to help us find and kill them? 

Suddenly it’s not about a newsletter that you send out to colleagues reminding them to turn off the lights. Now, you’re telling them to become these mighty electric vampire hunters and let them know you’re counting on them. All of a sudden, the emotion of the whole message is reshaped. You can go out with your smartphone, and the daily routine becomes more exciting; you meet friends along the way, and you “save the world”. 

Playful trash cans

Fun Theory created a bottle bank arcade experiment, where they turned a trash can into some sort of interactive arcade. The idea is simple: you need to throw the bottle to the right hole, and if you do, you earn the points. This concept’s playfulness is enough for people to change their habits and throw the bottle into the hole just for the sake of the thrill. This sort of playful intervention placed in an actual physical place can bring real-life results. 

Games can heal

Last but not least, games can be a powerful tool to help out in serious situations. For example, there’s a game called Endeavor RX, which was FDA approved as a treatment for ADHD. That’s a tremendous success, and it’s worth taking note of what game design can achieve if implemented correctly. 

So where do we go from here? The above examples paint a picture of how game design principles can change our behavior, alter our daily routine and improve our experience of products and services. By further exploring the potential of gamification, I believe we can help create a world that is a little bit better for all of us.

Article contributed by: Oliver Šimko, Founder and Chief Gamification Designer at LUDUCRAFTS


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