Today people use the power of games, networks and data to change their behavior.
Behavior Change Games use game design elements and the power of communities to motivate people to achieve challenging tasks in the real world. Behavior change games have been used to enable people to lead a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, recover from illness and injury, manage time and money, learn new skills, and engage with political and social causes.
The rise of behavior change games can be tracked to three changes in how people play games.
First, social games on Facebook have widened the appeal of games beyond the video gaming niche of kids and young adults. For instance, Zynga’s Farmville had more than 83 million monthly active users at its peak.
Second, marketers, entrepreneurs and change makers have adapted game design principles in contexts other than entertainment, to design marketing and loyalty programs, social networks and training software, and serious games for social impact. For instance, location-based social network Foursquare, which uses gamification to make “checking-in” more fun, crossed 25 million users in September 2012.
And, third, the explosion in personal, social and location data has led to the popularity of the quantified self movement, enabling people to track and change their behaviors. For instance, 10 million people use personal finance management service Mint.com to track over $80 billion in credit and debit transactions and almost $1 trillion in loans and assets.
Behavior change games use the power of games, networks and data to help people create meaningful change. In 2012, a number of niche behavior change games emerged across a diverse range of topics.
Quentiq, FitBit, Nexercise, Healthrageous, Hotseat, Jawbone UP, Striiv and Zamzee help people track their workouts and activity automatically. Fitocracy, SuperBetter, Habitual, SlimKicker, Hubbub, HealthMonth, Mindbloom, HealthyHeroes and Goalpost help people become healthier and develop good habits. PracticallyGreen, RecycleBank and OPower help people adopt a greener lifestyle and save electricity. Mint and Payoff help people manage their finances and debt. Urgent Evoke and World Without Oil educate people about social issues and encourage them to contribute to solutions. Code Academy and DuoLingo help people master a programming language, or learn French. Epic Win and The Email Game help people increase their productivity and complete tasks or clear their email inbox. Finally, Goodify, Keas, Shape Up and Youtopia are focused on organizations and schools, and help them motivate employees and students to volunteer or get fit.
Some of these behavior change games have also created social impact at scale. Shape Up has helped 700,000 people lose 1 million pounds, PayOff has helped members pay off $41 million of debt, and OPower has helped people reduce energy consumption by 1.6 billion kilowatt hours and save $179 million on electricity bills.
The success of behavior change games shows that people can change deeply entrenched behaviors and form lasting good habits, if they are able to break up big challenges into small goals, receive feedback on their progress, and tap into their networks for support.
This is not surprising. Game researcher Jane McGonigal, who is also the author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World explains why such games work:
“Gamers spend on average 80% of their time failing in game worlds, but instead of giving up, they stick with the difficult challenge and use the feedback of the game to get better. With some effort, we can learn to apply this resilience to the real-world challenges we face.”
This has been your prime minister of fun and mischief. Let the games begin! Come join me spread the fun, follow me on Twitter @hubiesocial. I'd love to hear from you.