“Gamification” is getting lots of attention as a tool for engaging people in social causes, job training, even health – but what is it? And does it really work?
A simple definition of “gamification” is applying game features to experiences outside of games. Earning points, leveling up, building and discovery, unlocking special features – all the things that make Angry Birds, Minecraft and Super Mario Brothers so engaging are being used to focus people’s time and attention on real-world issues, not just entertainment. In fact, an entire industry of designers and developers is emerging to create games and “gamified” systems. The team at Bunchball has put together a Gamification 101 guide that provides a helpful overview for anyone who’s new to the topic, and the folks at Gamification Co have compiled some great information on the growing field.
But can gamification help us improve our own health and wellness? The short answer is yes. In fact, there’s a growing body of research that shows the potential for games and gamification to improve lives in a variety of ways. Game designer Jane McGonigal, who delivered a compelling TED Talk on how games make us better, has compiled a helpful list of scientific references. Our research partners at HopeLab have also published scientific data on how games can motivate healthy behavior in young people.
Whether games and gamified systems really work to improve health is a question we care a lot about at Zamzee. A variety of game-like features are baked into the Zamzee product experience as a way to engage kids and families in regular physical activity, and we’ve seen some great results – research shows Zamzee boosts physical activity in kids by 30% or more. We’re excited about these results, and we’re constantly working to improve the game-like fun of Zamzee and its positive impact on the health of kids and families.