Why It’s Important
Gamification has become old news in that it is almost ubiquitous to a modern 21st-century consumer. Seldom do we stop to notice the game-dynamics at work on us when we engage in social networks, or use apps to monitor our fitness, or check-in on Facebook’s ‘Places’ or on FourSquare. But the reality is that much of what we find ourselves doing voluntarily is simply because of the gameplay that has been set up to encourage this. Gamification is proving incredibly important in that it cultivates habits, augments reality, and provides feedback channels not just to the gamers, but to organisations as well.
What’s the Butterfly Effect
Pushing for world-change, whilst it sounds rather pretentious, is already being addressed through gamification. In social or political arenas where the average person feels unable to contribute or make a difference, games bring out meaningful activism. Great examples of this are EVOKE (urgentevoke.com) and very recently Camover (guardian.co.uk), whose objectives are to save the world from crises, and destroy CCTV cameras respectively.
It is no stretch at all to see that gamification promoting activism has large potential to do good. This is supported by growing trends of millennial humanism. Although many an eyebrow has been raised over whether or not a campaign like #StopKony2012 was worthwhile, it undeniably gained more momentum than any other documentary narrative before it. And it is equally undeniable that the “diverse range of youth conversations” was key to driving the video viral. (thelede.blogs.nytimes.com)
Millenials have been born with an ingrained sense of activism, and unlocking this via gaming will encourage them to enthusiastically seek opportunities to make the world a better place.
The second notable butterfly effect is that gamification focusing on activism will begin to erode consumer-driven behaviour constrained to mindless shopping apps and sales or bargain services. The causes and engagements that an organisation has or supports will begin to hold significant value for the consumer, who wishes to support organisations which he perceives as adding value to the world.
This leads to two interesting business opportunities. Firstly, and most obviously, if companies want to actively engage consumers via game-like apps and the like, there must be a social consequence. A wonderful example of this has been developed by the UN World Foods Programme (freerice.com), where every time you win a level in the game, real rice is sponsored and donated around the world. Making the consumer feel like he made a difference is vital to engage with them further and open up a channel of positive communication.
The second effect to be had on business is that product placements and marketing should now be targeted around organisations that have an image of charity and positive intent.
As the world becomes increasingly globalized, collaborative and connected, social consciousness brought purposefully into games will reap good returns in brand loyalty as well as consumer engagement.
The Pioneers and Global Hotspots
Pioneers of activism through gaming are emerging in greater numbers each year, and there are a myriad of examples of how this has promoted good. Here are just two:
Fold It! is a game where PS3 users are offered the opportunity to contribute to research being conducted on protein-folding (folding.stanford.edu). Protein-folding is seen to be the key in developing cures for Alzheimer’s, Mad Cow disease, and even a variety of cancers. Fold It! allows average people to help develop incredible cures.
The other example where we see humanist gamification is in Joe Edelman’s Groundcrew. Groundcrew is centred on the understanding that there is happiness to be experienced in doing good, and this good could be directed at making another person happy. Geo-coordination is the fancy term for pairing like-minded or goal-linked individuals with each other, based on real-time proximity of location, and essentially this is whatGroundcrew does – by matching do-good requests with responses.
Thus location-based information; in the form of jobs, recommendations, sales information or social networks, are beginning to disrupt the traditional models of behaviour. New start-ups are focusing on coordinating real-world activities, collaborating, and engaging with good causes. Activism enhanced by gameplay dynamics is sure to change the world.