From Tag to Fortnite; Games have certainly come a long way. Yet we still seem to think of them as meaningless activities. Distractions that inevitably get in the way of learning and doing work. But the truth is, games might just be the key to improving ourselves and the world around us.

We seem to forget that a lot of our early learning came through play. And we aren’t the only ones who enjoy the odd game. Many animals will also use play to learn and practice their survival skills.

You see, when we play, we remain motivated and engaged in our activity because we actually enjoy what we’re doing. And that is the crux of Gamification. To make mundane tasks enjoyable through the power of play.

So what is Gamification?

Gamification simply refers to the process of incorporating game mechanics into something that already exists. In other words, taking a laborious task and making it fun by incentivising us to stay engaged and perform well.

But Gamification is by no means something new. The concept of Gamification has been around for quite some time. Slowly incorporating itself into our society. You may already be affected by Gamification without knowing it, and I’m not just talking about racking up points on your credit card or earning a free cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Gamification goes much deeper than that. It really embraces the best elements of game design and applies it to real-world problems. Making life that little much easier and more enjoyable.

And to prove it here are some of my favourite examples:

Gamification in Hospitals: PAIN SQUAD

Pain Squad is an app which encourages kids with cancer to accurately record their daily levels of pain so that doctors can diagnose them better. Something which was previously very difficult as there was no obvious way to motivate kids.

But that’s where Pain Squad comes in. It gamifies the experience. In Pain Squad you’re not just a child struggling with cancer; you’re a part of the secret police dedicated to hunting down ‘pain’ and keeping it at bay. You’ll soon find yourself rising through the ranks from rookie to chief so long as you’re consistent with your documentation.

Check out this article if you would like to learn more about Pain Squad.

Gamification in Education: DRAGONBOX

Keeping kids focused on learning has always been a problem. Particularly when the subject is as dry as maths. DragonBox is an educational game which teaches kids math, such as algebra. It does this by seamlessly integrating math equations into the gameplay.

In DragonBox, you’re not just solving equations. You’re trying to rid the area of nasties so your frightened dragon can come out, eat, and grow.

Check out this article if you would like to learn more about DragonBox.

Gamification in Traffic Control: THE SPEEDCAM LOTTERY

The Speedcam Lottery started off as just a crazy idea pitched to Volkswagen for a competition back in 2010. However, Volkswagen ended up liking the idea so much that they decided to put the idea to the test in Stockholm.

The Speedcam Lottery is an ingenious idea to encourage people to stick to the speed limit.

Unlike most speed cameras, if you’re keeping to the speed limit when you pass by The Speedcam Lottery, you go into a draw to win the money taken off other drives who were court speeding.

Check out this article if you would like to learn more about The Speedcam Lottery.

Gamification in Scientific Research: FOLDIT

Foldit is an online game about protein folding (who knew that could be fun!?).

The idea came about as a creative way to try and tackle the aids virus protein structure. Something which had previously puzzled scientists for 15 years. The game gives players the objective of experimenting with a protein while trying to maximise surface space.

The problem with the aids virus protein structure was eventually solved after the game’s release. However, it wasn’t solved by a scientist but by a gamer, and it only took him 10 days.

Not only does Foldit have the power to greatly aid medical science but it also educates potential future scientists in a fun and engaging way.

Check out this article if you would like to learn more about Foldit.

Gamification in Energy Saving: OPOWER

Opower is an American software-as-a-service (SAS) company which aims to lower the utility bills of its customers.

What makes them interesting however is their approach. Opower entices its customers to lower their energy consumption by showing them how they compare with their neighbours. They show their usage, their average neighbour, and their best neighbour.

With this approach, Opower managed to save its customers a total of $250 million dollars in utility bills (over 1 terawatt of electricity).

Check out this article if you would like to learn more about Opower.

Gamification in Crowdfunding: KICKSTARTER

Kickstarter is one of the companies responsible for transforming crowdfunding into an incredibly popular and mainstream financing solution for creatives.

But what many people don’t know is that much of its popularity can be traced to its successful implication of gamification mechanics.

These mechanics include dangling the ‘prize’ in front of you before you can obtain it. Adding a sense of urgency by including a count down timer to force you to act fast. And giving you a sense of purpose within a community. The campaign can only be successful if you become one of the much-needed backers and offer your support to the cause.

Check out this article if you would like to learn more about Kickstarter.

Gamification in Health & Fitness: ZOMBIES, RUN!

‘Zombies, Run!’ is an exergame (exercise game) which spruces up your casual jogging by combining it with the popular setting of a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland.

Instead of incentivising you with points, distance run, and leaderboards, ‘Zombies, Run!’ keeps you going the distance by playing emergency radio and zombie sounds through your earphones. Stopping or slowing down means you’re probably going to get eaten (maybe shouldn’t be using too late in the evening).

Check out this article if you would like to learn more about Zombies, Run!