Turning our humdrum lives into a game

Gamification has the ability to re-energise the most mundane of tasks says Cathie McGinnCathie McGinn

One of the buzzwords that’s circling boardrooms and blogs is ‘gamification’.

It’s an acknowledgment that it’s hard to get people to care about banking or washing powder, or even emotionally potent things like films or cars.

Everything we have, we come by in a fairly undramatic way: by hard work, certainly, but generally by walking into a shop and proffering cash.

Most of us in the developed world have the luxury of boredom. When things are easy, we don’t care very deeply about them. And so we yearn for excitement.

Philosopher Bertrand Russell said: “Civilized life has altogether grown too tame and, if it is to be stable, it must provide harmless outlets for the impulses which our remote ancestors satisfied in hunting.”

What better way to do that than by constructing a world that offers a modulated experience of risk and some sort of reward?

There are examples of gamification done with flair, creating nail-biting tension, like Mini’s Getaway, where people chased a virtual Mini around Stockholm using their mobiles, competing against other wannabe car thieves.

Or the Steal Banksy campaign, a game of strategy and cunning where would-be thieves pitted their wits against vigilant Art Hotel staff to make off with a valuable painting.

Even the Weight Watchers point system or Nike’s Fuelband introduce an element of play to the  business of diet and exercise.

Where this idea starts to go awry is when people jump on to the bandwagon without understanding what gamification delivers.

The purpose is not to pretend that something is more exciting than it truly is, but to build interesting mechanics into the day-to-day.

Gamification is an escape from the mundane, creating an experience that lets us forget we’re bill paying automatons. It makes us feel the thrill of the wildness we once inhabited.

Cathie McGinn is a journalist for Encore and Mumbrella.


  1. Keaton
    13 Sep 12
    8:54 pm

  2. Agree!

  3. Darren
    14 Sep 12
    1:06 pm

  4. We are now seeing traditional sectors like FMCG and Pharmaceutical introduce gamification into product education and representative tasks as part of the sales process.
    Our platform http://www.fieldintouch.com utilises gamification not only in e-detailing and product messaging but also in onthe job training. We also utilise leaderboards and scoring to foster competition between users.
    It will be an interesting space to watch.

  5. Cognitively DIssonant
    14 Sep 12
    8:05 pm

  6. Penn State is offering a fantastic online course in Gamification through the Coursera website. It’s a freebie and it’s the latest thinking on the matter from the Wharton School. 71,000 students are enrolled and about 13,000 look like they’re going to push through for the qualification.

    Some great insights coming through in the lectures. If you want to check out the buzz, #gamification12 on twitter

  7. Nicky
    21 Sep 12
    3:28 pm

  8. Jane McGonigal takes a wonderful approach to gamification. “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change The World” is well worth having a look at if you’re interested in this area.

  9. nomnomnom
    24 Sep 12
    2:14 am

  10. I’d prefer a game of Angry Birds