Gamification with Dr Kevin Werbach

I’ve enrolled in a short course about Gamification. It’s run by Kevin Werbach of the University of Pennsylvania, and I’m studying online via Coursera.

What is gamification? It can be difficult to pin down the definition of a fast-evolving phenomenon, because it changes so quickly. But let’s try. Right now, in the context explored by this short course, gamification is the use of game elements in non-game contexts to engage users or change behaviour.

By non-game contexts we mean, simply, not as part of a traditional game. What kind of game elements are we talking about?

  • points
  • leaderboards
  • badges
  • levels and levelling up
  • player avatars

How does that look in a real application? Here’s an example from Codecademy.

Some of the badges on Codecademy. Note that streaks of points are rewarded like other 'achievements'
Some of the badges on Codecademy. Note that streaks of days are rewarded like other ‘achievements’

Gamification is a good way to think about how people can interact with connected devices that make up the Internet of Things. Increasing amounts of data from smart sensors can shape behaviour using targets, levels, and achievements. I don’t mean including game elements in the interface for a connected egg box. Imagine if using connected devices in a desirable way could lead to rewards in the real world. What if driving economically could earn you Green Points that led to lower taxation? What if your smart pedometer score reduced your waiting time at the doctor? Or earned you money off your next pair of running shoes?

An excerpt from my Fitbit dashboard.
An excerpt from my Fitbit dashboard.

I’m a new Fitbit user, and so far I’ve earned a handful of badges. The daily scoreboard and the weekly email summaries that it offers are impressive. I’m looking forward to developing my understanding of the techniques used in this context, and others, as I progress through the gamification course.

I’ll be posting my thoughts about the course here under this tag. Use the hashtag #gamification14 on twitter to join in the conversation.

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