What is gamification ?
[Definition] The application of typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity.
How did I become a gamification expert ?
I am CEO and founder of Pilly, a medication adherence app, that seeks to solve the following problem: people take only 50 % of their prescribed pills.
In two words, a medication adherence app is basically reminders and motivation. Reminders are as simple as it gets so I spend most of my time designing and refining motivation techniques.
I started Pilly because my mom, as many other people, was not taking her medication properly. She would forget, mismanage and (even though I was terrified) she thought it was not a big deal to miss a few pills.
My mom wouldn’t use the app for its reminders, nor the health outcomes, because she simply didn’t care. So I needed to work extra-hard on motivation to make her use the app !
I believe games contain the most powerful motivation techniques in the world because they succeed to make people spend time on a task that has no apparent real-life purpose (some even think they are a waste of time). This is totally remarkable because the human being is lazy and he wouldn’t spend that much energy if the motivation techniques were not super-powerful.
Are games a waste of time? Not at all !
From a Darwinian evolution point of view: Why would we spend so much energy on games? Why such an “ill-equipped” animal ( heavy-headed, vulnerable, defenseless, weak, slow) would be able to survive, and even thrive, while spending so much time playing with no apparent real-life reward ?
As you already know, we survived in a hostile environment because we were smart. What you may not know is that gaming is the key mechanism that makes us smart! We play because that’s how we learn the essential individual skills of life (classifying, prioritizing, searching, aiming, being thorough, space-aware, …), and it’s also how we learn competition, power, team-work and social status within a low stakes “training” environment.
Playing is learning.
That’s what games are, in the end. Teachers. Fun is just another word for learning. That’s why real fun comes from challenges that are always at the margin of our ability. When a game stops teaching us, we feel bored and we quit it because we mastered its inherent pattern.
We play because our brain gives us positive feelings when we learn, exercise and refine survival tactics.
Stop talking games, time to gamify !
Games made us smart, at the price of spending time for no apparent real-life benefit. Gamification is reversing that path and using gaming techniques (motivators) to achieve useful tasks, like changing mom’s behavior and improving her medication adherence with an iPhone app!
Next week’s blog post will talk about how we used gamification techniques (showing a goal, getting rewards, etc.) on our Medication Adherence iPhone / iPad app. In the meantime, should you have any question or comment, please do not hesitate to contact us through the Pilly website contact form, our Facebook or Twitter page.