Andrea wears a Fitbit.  She began taking it seriously when our son Sam became her online coach and cheerleader and started tracking her progress through the Fitbit app.  Once she discovered that she could set goals and earn badges for “step milestones” she got really into it. She’s walking more now, she keeps track of how much exercise she’s getting, and she feels great about it—because she’s connected to Sam and because staying fit has become somewhat of a game for her.

Andrea wears a Fitbit.

This isn’t just happening to Andrea, it’s everywhere!  It’s called “gamification.”  Gamification is the process of using game mechanics to shape human behavior in prescribed ways. Jane McGonigal gave a TED Talk where she described her game called Super Better, her talk has pretty much become the unofficial gamification movement anthem.  Here is a link to the talk, it is definitely worth watching.

Jane McGonigal talks at TED about gamification

And then there’s the example of Foldit–the “solve puzzles for science” crowdsourcing experiment that encourages gamers to play a game of folding proteins with the larger goal of making scientific advances. Just like other online games, Foldit includes various game mechanics—such as leaderboards–to reward and motivate players.

Foldit

With this new gamification movement afoot, I’ve been thinking a lot about what this means for the toy and game industry. One would think that this would be a revolution of sorts in the industry. People are finally viewing games as having some higher purpose. They can help you to reach a goal, make you smarter, a better friend or citizen or keep you on track with your exercise routine or diet.

I am not seeing as much as I would expect to from our industry.  What is your perspective?   I welcome your thoughts and I would love to learn more about what’s actually out there.

Please share any examples of creative and successful Gamification style programs that are being used for kids. Just “reply” to this post, give a short description of the program and include a link so that everyone can find it for themselves.  With a little luck we’ll end up with a long string of creative ideas that leads to a bigger conversation.

Take a peek at some of the examples we’ve already collected here.