Gamification, or the application of game-design elements and game principles (such as point scoring, leaderboards and rules of play) in non-game contexts, has been behind recent revolutions in everything from dating to online education.
Part of the reason for its effectiveness, and broad application, is that it taps into some pretty universal human traits. As such, it can be used to engage a broad audience – this makes it ideal for projects such as CityVerve, which aim to benefit people of all ages and interests.
Clicks + Links currently has a game, called The Age of Energy, in which the saving of energy is gamified for young people. The game uses real-world energy data to inform the narrative of a post-apocalyptic survival game in which the earth’s energy resources have been exhausted.
It works on the hypothesis that if people can be encouraged to spend money in app-based games – plenty of us are guilty of exchanging a few pennies to get past a particularly tough level of Candy Crush – then why not see if you can use the same model to bring about positive real-world change? Rather than spending money to progress, players of The Age of Energy save energy in their homes.
With this, there’s a huge opportunity to use reward mechanisms to encourage other, similar behaviour changes.
Generally, these changes will be something that a person would be interested in doing anyway but somehow can’t get around to keeping up with. It’s often referred to as ‘desirable habit forming’ and it’s something anyone who’s tried to eat healthier, exercise more, or go to bed earlier will no doubt be familiar with.
As part of our work on the CityVerve project, Clicks + Links is building a generic mission engine application that will allow us to apply the existing Age of Energy template to other themes within the project, such as Health and Social Care.
We’ll be able to design new missions and target new audiences to tackle different issues. Indeed, one of the biggest challenges we face in this is producing games with a wide audience appeal: The Age of Energy is heavily targeted towards active mobile gamers between the ages of 16 and 24, and is slightly skewed towards male gaming preferences.
If we’re to build something to support the Community Wellness programme, which will be likely to apply to an older audience, then a redesign will need to take this into account.
One way to address this is to place greater emphasis on the tasks or missions involved in the game itself, rather than the world in which the game is set or the narrative that it follows – otherwise arbitrary points could be earned by going for a walk, for instance. The point is to encourage people to be active, and sometimes, as the popularity of fitness trackers is proving, all that’s needed is a little nudge or reminder to get up and get moving.
Using this template, there’s an opportunity to promote social cohesion and spread the appeal of the game across generations and audiences too. Youngsters, for instance, could be given missions by their grandparents – ‘help me carry my groceries upstairs for 100 points’ or ‘take the dog for a walk three times to level up’ – effectively extending the benefits of the gaming activity.
We’re still in the early stages of planning with this, but it’s clear already that there’s huge scope and opportunity with such an interconnected system of incentives.