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Gamification Inspiring Social Impact

Just as the digital age is transforming and disrupting industries, gamification with its in-built digital and social components holds promise in changing individual behavior and solving social problems.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 10.23.00 AMApplying game-design elements in non-game contexts is known as gamification. Gamification attempts to improve user or “player” engagement and learning, thereby seeking to make the journey to the end goal more enjoyable. A popular example of gamification would be Fitbit which uses leaderboards and badges as rewards, motivation, and incentives to ultimately help users become more physically active.

Gamification has been used most successfully in the fields of marketing and education. In marketing, gamification is widely used for customer retention. For example, in 2010 Starbucks gave custom Foursquare badges to individuals who checked in at multiple locations and offered discounts to people who checked in most frequently at individual stores. While the purpose of the game was to keep customers coming back to the store, the incentives and game-like feel of the process were its hallmark of success.

In the field of education, gamification is a powerful concept. The Institute of Play and the New York City Department of Education have created a new public school in New York City with a curriculum developed collaboratively by teachers, game designers and curriculum designers. The curriculum design mimics the design principles of games by framing every piece of the curriculum as a mission that involves game strategies such as role-playing and simulation. By reimagining traditional curriculum as games, educators can engage, stretch and challenge their students’ imaginations and skill levels like never before.

Gamification is also an interesting and growing model in the social impact realm. Crowdsourcing games for donation platforms such as FoldIt and CrowdRise are attracting players and raising millions of dollars for non-profits worldwide. Within the sphere of environmental sustainability, RecycleBank is helping consumers to reduce landfill trash by awarding points and offering competitive challenges which incentivize players to remain engaged. In an effort to tackle world hunger, FreeRice feeds the hungry by creating a quiz game where each right answer buys 10 grains of rice for someone in need, paid for by the site sponsors. In the case of each of these social impact projects, gamification is creating awareness, attracting individuals who may not typically engage in social impact missions, and ultimately creating win-win scenarios with global ripple effects.

The ecosystem around the gamification is also progressing to meet its bright future. Organizations such as the Knight FoundationGames for Change and Impact Games grant funding and incubator support to social impact missions that use gamification. Similarly, conferences such as the GSummit, and eLearning Guild convene experts, practitioners and gamers to share best practices and collaborate on breakthroughs. The future of gamification appears as far-reaching as the future of digital technology itself – everything can be turned into play!

At Digital Union, we support all things social – the power of social media, the hyper-social millennial generation, and especially, the power of gaming – an inherently social tool, to help solve social problems.

Maggie& Hector

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