And here’s another nifty example that doesn’t directly involve playing a video game. Volkswagen ran a competition for gamification ideas as part of their marketing campaign, thefuntheory.com. One winner came up with the idea that speed cameras can actually be fun. Instead of the boring old high-speed cameras that can take snapshots of drivers who exceed the speed limit and then penalize them with traffic fines, why not call it “Speed Camera Lottery” and have the cameras take your picture too? (I mean, you were obeying the speed limit, right?) Then enter you and all the other obedient drivers into a lottery to win some of the money from the fines that the speeders pay. The result of this gamified speed trap? The average speed before the experiment was 32 km/h, but the average speed during the experiment dropped to a mere 25 km/h. That’s a 22% reduction in driving speed. Talk about a simple paradigm shift: drive legally and win extra cash. Check out the other winners at thefuntheory.com.
If you do a search online, you’ll find plenty more examples of gamification in action. New generation websites and online social media are chock-full of gamification in the form of badges, leaderboards, achievements, and points (the so-called BLAP principle that’s floating around) to keep you coming back to visit, build your status, interact with others, write feedback, post your comments, share your purchases on Facebook, or whatever other behavior the organization wants from you. When an online forum rewards you with access to additional parts of their website or grants you exclusive virtual gifts to download because you’ve attained a particular status with them by making a specified number of posts, comments, or contributions, that’s gamification in action. When you earn points that are redeemable for discounts and gift cards because you’ve signed up for a website’s referral program that has you “liking” their products, and then has you reviewing or sharing information about them with your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter, that’s gamification in action.
And if you pay close attention to your daily activities, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself already a player in our gamified culture. Look around you: supermarkets, gas stations, stores you visit, online merchants, the coffee shop around the corner, the lessons at school, job training… the moment you see the world as a series of quests, challenges, and levels, you’re on the road to gamification.
But be alert: if you’re a player, then it also means that you’re being “gamed,” which means that you’ll need to expend more effort to think clearly, resist addiction, and make wise, healthy choices in your daily decisions amidst all the gamified activity around you. It also means that you’ll be wise to help your loved ones be alert to their being “gamed” too, and teach the kids to be aware of the diverse distractions that follow them wherever they are. Amidst this gamified environment, it’s all the more important to appreciate the preciousness of time and to learn to prioritize. We certainly wouldn’t want to be so addicted that we experience an incessant need to earn points and level up. Neither would we want to be so altered in our gamified thinking that we begin to gamify the practices in our faith and expect the Mass to be entertainment (for example), or practice our faith solely for the sake of a reward. Yes, we certainly hope for the reward of heaven, but it’s not so much about the gift as it is about the Giver. We want to be very near to Jesus, the love of our life. It’s about being in the family of God, not gaming God.