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How Gamification Can Beat Fake News


In the decade-ish since the second coming of social media, global democracy has been severely impaired by the spread of fake news. I believe that using gamification techniques could substantially retard this phenomenon and reset the balance.

N.B. I’m using “fake news” to refer to things which are actually fake, not things that are true but a certain someone (et al) doesn’t like to hear.

The Fake News Industrial Complex

Before we dive into the solution, it’s worthwhile starting with a brief recap of how fake news spreads on social channels. If you understand these algorithms feel free to skip this section.

All social media companies monetize by micro-optimizing your attention. That is, they understand that your only finite resource is time, and if they get more of your time, they control more of the revenue generated from your attention. Therefore, they have developed complex machine learning (ML) algorithms to try and figure out what you will want to consume next. The most sophisticated (and therefore dangerous) of these is the Facebook News Feed, but every major tech company has their own version (Google, Netflix, Youtube, Amazon, Apple, etc.). They usually wrap this idea in “Things You May Like” or “Coming Up” but the basic premise is the same: if I can figure out what you want next I can keep you on my site/app for longer and make more money from advertising/e-commerce/etc.

The algorithm uses a combination of techniques to figure this out, but the simplest formula is:

You are similar to Person X.
Person X looked at this.
Therefore, you might like this.

There’s a lot of additional information being fed into this system, but the concept is quite democratic: the best content (for a given audience) should win. The most popular videos on YouTube are — by definition — the most popular videos in the world. This tells you that the basic algorithm is doing its job. As with all algorithms of value, it is subject to perversion and manipulation.

There are three basic ways to propagate content into this algorithm that are likely to result in the growth of your idea:

  1. Buy advertising that puts your content in front of people based on criteria you choose, regardless of their consumption preferences.
  2. Use influential people — real or fake — to propagate the content. In both cases, you want to ensure that you match the influencer with the target so that the mass of real people want to like, share, etc.
  3. Create content that is so novel, so great and so interesting that people naturally love it and share it on their own.

Regardless of which option you choose, the social media platform makes money. Sure, the advertising revenue in 1 is higher margin, but they will eventually get that ad revenue if 2 or 3 are successful as well by capturing more of your attention.

The bottom line is that they have little incentive to address the issue of fake news or undue influence because they are making money on it. Lots of money. Attention is revenue, and the most salacious of fake news stories tend to drive the most clicks.

Interestingly however, the data gathering apparatus of these social media giants can also be leveraged in a positive way. By taking advantage of the algorithm’s underlying calculus and combining it with human pattern matching, we can potentially fix this problem quickly and cheaply. Of course, we’ll need a little help from gamification

How to Stop the Spread of Fake News Using Gamification

One of the most important core experiences in gamified systems is the “trust score”. Examples of this can be seen in your eBay seller/buyer score, your Uber score, and your Credit Score. Admittedly, each of those numbers has a wildly different impact on your life, but the fundamental premise is the same: an algorithm made up of different inputs calculates a number that tells someone whether or not to trust you.

These algorithms exist primarily to optimize commerce among people without established trust. However, they are modeled on the basic sociology of real-world trust: tracking and feedback. If you know everyone in your community, you likely also know how trustworthy the people are through experience. A trust score usually attempts to do the same thing.

It is important to note that a trust score merely provides guidance to the decider. Each person / company has to make up their own mind about whether or not to trust, but such a score makes it easier to decide.

In the case of a given piece of content on social media, it would be easy for the platform companies to expose a set of scores alongside the content they present. Like a credit score, this could give users an idea of whether or not to trust the content they are seeing.

Some of the factors that I believe should be scored include :

  • Credibility of the Originator (number of followers, time on the platform, engagement percentage)
  • Credibility of the Amplifiers (followers, time, engagement of followers)
  • Partisanship (extremity of response, scored lower for very partisan)
  • Velocity (speed of social spread, scored lower for very quickly)

The ideal way to present this information would be as a single “Trust Score” (out of 100) with the option for the user to drill down and see the scores of the component elements. It could also be implemented as a color or shading scheme. We could also show the scores together in a simplified view and with every post in a news feed. For example a given post might show data like this:

Trust: 75 — O:90 A:20 P:30 V:20

Elements of the score would not necessarily be weighted equally and could have aging factors.

If accompanied by an education campaign, people could start making informed decisions on the content they consume. Because of the prevalence of such trust scores, I believe most consumers would be comfortable with the basic premise of analyzing a score before deciding to act. It’s not dissimilar to looking at the mutual friends list when someone friends you on Facebook or elsewhere. The social proof is a kind of quick “reference check”.

Importantly, all of this information is already in most news feed algorithms. You don’t actually need many human moderators or major data restructuring to achieve it, and it would be cheap to implement and test. Also, when used in combination with fact checking, you could provide a double-whammy for truth and give people multiple sources to draw from. In the long term, this would also help tech companies navigate the publicity surrounding fake news and their profit motive.

Gamifying the Reporting of Fake News

Many experiments been done on gamifying micro-work for the greater good. Captcha is a good example — every time you identify an image in one of those grids you are helping train machines on how to “see” images. There are also more fun examples, such as the Google Image Labeler or Foldit, but the basic premise is the same: do a little work for me, and I’ll do something for you.

With some funding, we could build a game that would employ everyone to spot, tag and filter fake news. The basic design could be an upvote/downvote system (perhaps using a browser plug in) that would allow you to tag and vote on the accuracy of a piece of news for cash, prizes or glory. As you progress through the game, you unlock more and more complex types of interactions, including comparing two different articles against each other or a fact check-off in a Supermarket Sweep style.

I don’t know precisely which design would be optimal, but I think we could develop something here that might move the needle.

Transparency is Key

Some argue that the spread of fake news would not be slowed by more transparency. That is, people love to espouse false narratives that fit their worldview, and have been doing so since the dawn of time. Unfortunately, confirmation bias simply serves to worsen this phenomenon and enable people to simply discard facts they don’t agree with.

However, I think the game here is not to get people to admit things they believe are false. Rather, it is to slow the spread of false ideas before they reach everyone. With transparency and good scorekeeping, we could also empower those with better critical thinking skills to act as additional misinformation firewalls — weighting their opinions more heavily in the score, for example.

If you gamify their participation, you could increase efficacy even more. People could fact check for cash, prizes and status, and this information could be included in the score when available.

Some also argue that if you put too many roadblocks in peoples’ way they will simply shift to more peer-to-peer communication methods. For example, nothing can stop people from making a huge Whatsapp group and sharing information there free from any filters. I don’t believe this is a real consideration because quickly get overwhelmed with too much content. And once they do, they tend to abandon the most cacophonous spaces.

This is precisely the reason we invented these content prioritization algorithms in the first place — a truly unstructured communication channel quickly becomes unusable. But if you control the structure of information, you can achieve both financial and behavioral goals with a single silver bullet.

That same power can be used here to harness and promote good. It can be done cheaply and easily, and will help people stay informed. It’s mostly already built and baked into what we see. To make it work, we’ll require greater transparency.

It may not solve every aspect of the misinformation problem, but gamifying fake news can certainly help.

Why Public Health & Civics Lotteries Are So Highly Effective: Gamification


This year I got a pretty amazing birthday present: a public example of highly effective health gamification.

Namely, Ohio’s Vax a Million campaign, which is giving away $1M per week to residents that get vaccinated. Vaccinations jumped 28% total, with weekly vaccinations increasing by over 50% week over week, according to the state. Maryland and New York have followed suit, and several other states (and perhaps even the Federal government) are poised to follow suit.

Large scale social good gamification is not new, per se. And we’ve been talking about the importance of lotteries to incentivize good behavior for years, including in the fields of prize-linked savings and rescuing journalism. But with the COVID-19 pandemic looming large, and a sinking vaccination rate in the US, the idea has received some major new attention. So why do behavioral lotteries work so well, and how can we expand their use?

Behavioral Lotteries take advantage of several cognitive biases and psychological processes that are relevant for public health and social good:

Optimism Bias

Optimism Bias holds that people will underestimate their odds of avoiding negative outcomes, and overestimate their odds of encountering positive outcomes. This is important because the risk of the underlying problem (getting sick from COVID) is being underestimated in the target population. Tying that to an unreasonable belief in your odds of winning a lottery replaces the negative optimism with positive optimism towards the potential of winning.

This is particularly important in public health settings where optimism bias drives a large part of the “bad” behavior. For example, smokers famously underestimate their chances of getting lung cancer when asked. Distracted drivers also underestimate their chances of getting into an accident and executives lowball their risks of stress-related disorders.

Gambler’s Fallacy

Sometimes called the Monte Carlo fallacy, this bias causes people to believe that — after witnessing several draws in a row — the next instance of that draw will be the opposite of those seen previously. That is, if you see heads 4 times in a coin toss, you assume the next result will be tails.

This plays out positively in lotteries, but very negatively in areas of public health. For example, if your house is spared from flooding in the past 2 hurricanes, you may assume that the next hurricane will destroy it. And conversely, if you’ve been hit by an adverse weather event, you believe you might be spared in the future.

A behavioral lottery refocuses that energy on the odds of winning, encouraging the individual to take the action that is actually statistically more likely, versus betting it won’t happen to them.

Bandwagon Effect

When an individual sees someone else engaged in a behavior — positive or negative — they are more likely to want to do the same. The bandwagon effect can explain many phenomena, such as the rush to a particular table at a flea market while others sit empty, or the contagion of suicide.

In public health, the implications are quite stark. For example, if you are in a community of anti-vaxxers, you are significantly more likely to avoid vaccination. The best way to overcome this bandwagon effect is to replace it with someone people will want to join in on (e.g. a free-to-play lottery), and hopefully generate a new, more positive bandwagon for everyone to follow.

Cost Differences

The other major consideration for the efficacy of behavioral lotteries is the cost. Ohio set its prize at $1M. The estimated cost of uninsured/out-of-network COVID treatment is close to $40,000 per person. Given that states bear the brunt of covering the costs of the uninsured, the “breakeven” point on this intervention is 25 high-risk people vaccinated per prize, or approximately 2500 people in the general population.

Obviously, $1M is life changing for individuals who might (or think they might) win. But for the lottery entity this is a very cheap intervention. This means that each dollar spent gets an exponential potential ROI purely from the gap in consumer and governmental expectational biases.

Gamified public health and civic innovations have a proven track record of success where governments and NGOs have been brave enough to try them. The country’s laws must change to enable this kind of widespread incentivization. Of particular note, a Federal law prohibits the use of incentives for voting. This law — and our public policy framework — should be revisited and amended, for the common good.

Test Post


The Sweet Way that Gamification Helps M&M’s Boost Consumer Engagement


It wasn’t long ago when marketing choices were relatively few and messages were simple. Companies pitched their products via the old standby of print advertising. Eventually, broadcast advertising emerged as the surefire way to bring a product to the attention of the largest captive audience. But the digital age has eclipsed the broadcast age and companies need new ways to support consumer engagement. M&Ms, an old standby candy product, is overcoming these new digital challenges with gamification.

M&M’s USA turned to a gamification strategy for a campaign promoting its pretzel-flavored version of the candy. The company’s marketing efforts included an eye spy game in the campaign, according to Digital Training Academy. Promotional images posted online were comprised of an image of M&M’s. The campaign challenged consumers to find the single pretzel hidden in the image.

M&M found that the game readily engaged consumers. The campaign also generated some tasty results for the company. M&M’s digital marketing efforts garnered more than 25,000 new likes on the brand’s Facebook page, plus 6,000 shares and 10,000 comments, according to Digital Training Academy.

Just because consumers are living digital lives doesn’t mean that marketing campaigns need to be stuck in the past. More than 77 percent of Americans own smartphones and many of them connect with brands through “micro moments,” Paul Polizzotto, president and founder of CBSEcoMedia, writes in AdExchanger. “Gamified ads may be the perfect way to attract this audience and have been shown to increase consumer engagement,” Polizzotto says.

But there’s a right way and a wrong way to digitally engage consumers with a game. If the game is complex or cumbersome, users will lose interest. The genius of M&M’s campaign is that it is based on the relatively simple concept of hide and seek, Polizzotto says. If a campaign can successfully manage consumer engagement, it stands a stronger chance of spring boarding the interest of one consumer into shares and online discussion with others. Word of mouth, whether it happens in person or online, counts as a marketing win.

Insurance Companies Gamify Healthcare


Gamification has been used by schools and private business as a way to make learning more fun. Now, insurance companies are using the technique to change people’s behavior toward maintaining their health, according to Healthcare Dive. The idea is that the more individuals who pursue healthier lifestyles, the less burden they place on health insurance companies and health care providers.

The gamification efforts are being delivered through mobile apps. Some of the apps, such as the ones offered by Blue Cross, Cigna, and United Healthcare, invite participants to search for more information on healthy lifestyles, diet, sleep, and exercise, or the locations of in-network health care providers and hospitals. United is also working on an app called United Healthcare Motion. People carrying insurance will be given wearable devices that will track their daily activities, including the number of steps they walk. Participants will be given financial incentives for meeting certain goals. A number of other apps, such as Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, and Zombies Run also track activities.

The Affordable Care Act has built in incentives for helping people pursue healthier lifestyles. Younger people are more use to gaming, both as recreation and as a technique that delivers education. So marrying gamification with mobile apps is a no-brainer.

The trick is to continually evolve the gamification apps, to keep them fresh and prevent them from becoming stale. As more data is acquired that can be applied to wellness, these apps can constantly be refreshed with more versions. Thus healthier lifestyles can become something that is second nature.

Happy Atoms: An Elementary Interview with Jesse Schell


At this year’s Games for Change, Jesse Schell of Schell Games showed off his company’s newest idea for making chemistry more approachable for middle and high school students — Happy Atoms, a mixed reality, lego-like experience that asks people to explore atom formation through play. G.Co was fortunate enough to speak with Jesse last week about the game, its current crowdfunding campaign, and his plans for making chemistry more approachable to a wider audience than ever before.

Happy Atoms has been in the works for over five years; long before a prototype existed, Jesse had been thinking of ways to make chemistry easier to digest. Traditional chemistry classes were frustrating and difficult to learn from, and there was a need for a way to learn the subject more easily. To make these connections form in a more understandably way, Jesse tinkered around with a digital prototype of his vision — but this too had its limitations. The prototype had a hard time dealing with one electron at a time.


Physical models were more approachable, and tangible — students had access to tinker toys and other models, but these limited platforms made it challenging to really see how things connected. When Jesse thought of a physical model for expressing chemistry to students that incorporated digital components, things really clicked. There were moments of discovery when models were put together in a tangible space and later researched digitally to see if they made anything. The act of building a model in real life and testing the model on a computer created a deeper sense of understanding, and, more importantly, fun.

With a department of education grant in hand, Schell Games went on to manufacture a larger print run with the help of Thames & Kosmos, a leading publisher of physical toys and kits geared around science and education. Through their partnership, they developed a model where electron snapping is innovative, intuitive, and easy. Atoms connect through magnetic tips on the ends of rubbery “arms” that extend of out the atoms and fit into magnetic bonding sites on other atoms. This process represents how electrons (the tips) bond with empty spots in other atoms’ electron shells. With a few snaps, anyone can create a molecule that actually exists.

HA 2

To check one’s work, all the models can be scanned into an app, which will inform the creator of the resulting molecule that they made. After the molecule is discovered, the app gives additional information about it, such as its name, its structure and its composition. The overall direct goal of the game is to make models in the real world with the physical atoms and scan your creations into the app to see what you’ve made in an effortless, seamless way.

The experience of designing Happy Atoms has not been effortless for Jesse, however. To create Happy Atoms, he’s had to make a few concessions. Chemistry is complicated because of the ways things connect, and sometimes, it can be beyond our ability to model it at all. As you start modelling, you can run into exceptions where models generally work, but a few corner cases don’t. Chemistry experts can be susceptible to perfection — if a model isn’t perfect in every situation, then it’s widely not viewed as an accurate model.

Jesse argues that the purpose of a model isn’t to be accurate; rather, it’s to give insight. A universal modeling decision is difficult, and because of that, it is difficult to find the “right” way to look at something. Regardless, these corner cases have caused interesting design decisions, such as the choice to leave out more common elements like Boron and Aluminum out of Happy Atoms.

HA 3

Despite these challenges, Jesse has big plans for Happy Atoms. Schell Games has received great feedback and is already working with schools to test the game’s effectiveness using lesson plans specifically created for teachers to integrate it into classrooms. Jesse envisions a popularity like the levels of Minecraft or Lego Mindstorms, where children get into it, want to go deep into the experience, and engage with the game on a level similar to how students engage with robotics or other hobbies today. Happy Atoms is Jesse’s vision to get young children to fall in love with chemistry, and to begin to cultivate a long term commitment to the science.

Happy Atoms is expected to launch this fall. For more information, visit its crowdfunding campaign or website.

GamEffective Raises $7 Million for Employee Training


While gamification is no longer a revolutionary way of training employees, the start-up GamEffective is claiming that their take on the trend is a fresh one. The company, which operates out of offices in both North Carolina and Israel, boasts some large-scale customers like Microsoft and Ebay. They’re confident in their ability to boost employee performance across the board with their no-code integration.

According to GeekTime, the largest international tech blog outside the U.S., GamEffective has raised a total of $10 million under the leadership of CEO Gal Rimon.

Rimon says, ‘At GamEffective, we focus the employees on their personal goals, and motivate them to achieve them by expanding their know-how, and through other activities. The employees know at all times what their status is and what is expected of them. Just as people using fitness trackers are more conscious of their health, our system instills a similar process at the workplace for performance management purposes.'”

The company has done so well that they’re on the cusp of something huge. How huge? Try a $7 million financing round. That money will be used to develop sales, marketing, and R&B efforts. Some within the industry have suggested that the company’s training model is second to none. According to GamEffective that is accomplished not by making competition with other employees the main vehicle for enhanced performance, but rather by having employees work to better themselves, and improve upon personal past performance.

In the past things like real-time feedback, engaging narratives, and clear objectives have set the company apart. Now, they also have a hefty sum of money to further their advances in the world of employee training.

Image credit: flickr

3 Positive Impacts of Gamification On Agent Retention


Increasing Contact Center Agent Retention

According to North American labor statistics, employee turnover is at an all-time high in today’s workplace, and the implications for the contact center industry are significant, considering its reputation for being a volatile employment segment with a lower median employment age, high-stress work environment, and lower than average remuneration.

This workforce dynamic has created opportunities for applying the theories of game mechanics, or gamification, to the real-world problem of retaining valued agents. And at the epicenter of the contact center workforce is the agent.

Unique attributes and skills are required of agents in a contact center environment, e.g., infinite patience, finely-honed communication skills, and a superior ability to prioritize and organize their workload.


  • How can contact center leaders retain and reward their agents?
  • How can they ensure that they invest in the right talent?
  • What kind of incentives will motivate agents to continue to perform in the long-term?
  • What kind of financial and environmental factors can be positively impacted by increased agent engagement?

Attrition by the numbers

Overall attrition averages for the contact center industry range between 30–45 percent, with some sectors showing attrition rates in the triple digits!

In fact, according to Quality Assurance and Training Connection, replacing one front-line agent can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $12,000. And when you multiply that by the high numbers of agents who end up leaving their jobs within a couple of years—up to 45 percent—the costs become astronomical.

The process of replacing an agent necessitates recruiter fees/referral bonus, and newly-hired agents will start drawing a full salary well before becoming productive, as they navigate the necessary orientation and training stages that are part of any new position.

And how about those training costs!

Not only do new agents require formal training, there are colleagues that have to back-fill the departing employee’s workload, fill in-costs for overtime, as well as a noticeable productivity lag.

The less-quantifiable, but still very tangible cultural factors to navigate, such as getting to know the rest of the team, their work habits, and individual communication styles, should also be added to the equation.

But let’s take a step back – how can we prevent agent attrition in the first place?

There are so many surveys, polls and studies that have been published over the last few years on how to motivate, or engage, employees across industries. For the Contact Center industry, these are the factors that stand out, other than actual salary, which, somewhat surprisingly, ranks somewhere in the middle in terms of importance:

  1. Meaningful feedback
  2. Strong collaborative environment
  3. Possibilities for advancement
  4. Performance-based incentives

…and a sense of belonging, or team spirit. these are all factors that contribute the most to “Employee engagement”, which translates to prolonged retention and company loyalty.

The derived benefits are numerous for the employer, but front and center are the golden metric for any contact center: Customer Satisfaction.

How can gamification help retain agents?

Gamification is a proven performance management method that can improve how an employee interacts with their work in terms of collaboration, commitment and competition.

Training and Self-Assessment

Agents need to feel attached to their jobs to continuously improve their skills. Traditional training, whether by classroom or web-based, requires pulling agents from their assigned tasks, thereby reducing their efficiency.

Gamification introduces an alternative where agents can improve skills on their own time, and at their own pace, while being recognized for their efforts.


Traditionally, creating competition was done on whiteboards and through email. Such approaches are cumbersome and tend to becomes less frequent, losing momentum as other important and urgent tasks come into focus.

Gamification provides contact centers with multiple, continuous agent challenges. Research has shown that agents are motivated to work harder, and with an improved attitude, when they are directly rewarded and are able to gauge their own improvement.


Another successful game mechanic is automated team challenges. Agents who become high-performers are inspired to pass on their best practices to those who may require more encouragement, thereby assisting with a task that is typically reserved for managers. Working in teams creates a stronger sense of camaraderie, making the workplace feel more like sports team striving for the same objective.

In conclusion, Gamification in the workplace is an employee-centric interaction model with a higher purpose; there is a world of difference between playing games for fun (…and there is nothing wrong with that), and providing a gamified interface to a business application. The benefits are two-fold: the application is used to its fullest potential and intended purpose, while the agents using the gamified interface are more engaged and will develop a strong loyalty to both their employer and their customers.

This article was written by Jean-Marc Robillard, Marketing Manager at nGUVU. You can follow nGUVU on twitter.

Image credit: flickr



Transforming the Call Center Workplace with Pascal Leclerc


Revolutionizing the Call Center Workplace One Agent at A Time

Last week, we featured nGUVU’s VP of product strategy, Pascal Leclerc to talk about how nGUVU’s platform help to create a better workplace environment for contact center agents. Using a combination of game mechanics, social interaction features and behavioral analytics, nGUVU helps motivate agents to achieve their goals in a fun,game-like environment.

Watch the full interview below to learn about:

  • What was the central problem nGUVU aimed to resolve in the contact center working environment?
  • How did nGUVU present KPIs to contact center agents in contrast to traditional layouts that centers solely around competition?
  • How did call center companies reacted about having a layer of social mechanics for the agents on the nGUVU’s platform?
  • what were nGUVU’s key lessons in finding the balance between game-like elements and gamified, progress-orientated mechanics?
  • What were some of the behavioral changes that occurred among contact center agents as a result of gamifying their workplace?
  • Have nGUVU used rewards for knowledge sharing or knowledge base contribution among contact center agents?

Watch the video, listen on the audio podcast or subscribe to our iTunes channel below. Be sure to catch our next episode of the Gamification Revolution.

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Five Impactful Experiences From Games For Change 2016


Highlights From This Year’s Games For Change

Last week, Games For Change had their 13th annual festival at the New School’s Parsons School of Design. New to the festival this year were three featured tracks participants could focus on: the Games for Learning Summit; health and neuroscience; and civics and social change.

Gamification.Co was lucky enough to attend, and from what we saw, some exciting new products and services are on their way to consumers’ hands.

Civilization for the Classroom

Image Credit: Twitter

Perhaps the most exciting announcement out of Games for Change, Sid Meyer announced a partnership with Take-Two Interactive Software and Glasslab Games to release CivilizationEDU in the Fall of 2017. The first Civilization designed to integrate into classrooms, CivilizationEDU will include tools for teachers and students that help evaluate critical thinking.

Virtual Reality Workouts

Image Credit: Blue Goji

Blue Goji has been gamifying cardio for several years through its exercise peripherals and games. Now, they’re entering the VR space with games designed to work in tandem with your workout. We got to try one at Games for Change, and the feeling of flight while on an elliptical is a hard one to describe (but definitely positive).

Mixed Reality Gaming

Happy Atoms
Image Credit: Indiegogo

Jesse Schell delivered an excellent keynote regarding Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality experiences during the second day of Games for Change. His studio’s newest project, Happy Atoms, is a mix between digital learning and physical presence. Happy Atoms is a teaching tool centered around assembling atoms from models in real life and exploring those models in a digital companion app. Schell Games just launched their crowdfunding campaign this week.

Learn Business Analytics Through Play

Image Credit: Wrainbo

Ever wanted to learn economics while playing an RPG? Then Wrainbo’s Magitech is just for you! Featured in the Games for Change Marketplace and mentored by a Duke University professor, Magitech’s gameplay is centered around analysis, production and trade in a fantasy setting.

Life is Strange Wins Big

Image Credit: Wikia

Dontnod Entertainment’s Life is Strange was the big winner of Games for Change, earning the “Game of the Year” award and the “Most Significant Impact” award. Life is Strange is an episodic game about Max Caulfield, a senior that tries to use newly discovered time travel powers to rewind time and save her best friend Chloe. Life is Strange has a unique gameplay element for its genre, allowing players a great degree of control through its time manipulation mechanics.

Title Image Credit: Games for Change

Growing Conservation Awareness with Save the Park


Save the Park Gamifies Education on National Park Conservation Efforts

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most popular of the nation’s 409 national parks, drawing visitors from across the country and around the world. But not everyone who visits Yellowstone understands the wildlife that make these parks home. Recently, two well-meaning tourists driving through Yellowstone came upon a baby bison standing in the middle of the road. Fearing that the calf was cold and at risk of dying from exposure, they packed the bison into their SUV and drove it to a ranger station seeking help, according to Time. That was a mistake.

Park rangers tried to reunite the calf with its herd, but the herd rejected it due to its contact with humans. Unable to rejoin the herd, the calf instead sought out more human contact by positioning itself in the middle of the road. Rangers had no choice but to euthanize the calf due to the danger it posed, Time explained. While the calf’s death is tragic, the circumstances leading to this outcome expose the lack of understanding that many people have about park wildlife. A new conservation endeavor is using games to fill the gaps in conservation education.

Games for Change has developed a game that aims to engage people with the workings of national parks. In the game, “Save the Park,” players must complete activities that help support a national park. Players control two characters, a park volunteer and a Junior Ranger. The two characters must work together accomplish tasks that conserve the park. As players progress through the game, they can reveal Easter Eggs that unlock shareable digital postcards of National Parks. Players are also presented real-life opportunities to volunteer.

Multiple parties came together to develop Save the Park. American Express asked Games for Change to create a game recognizing park volunteers, Save the Park President Susanna Pollack told Forbes. Games for Change brought in Schell Games to develop it. American Express funded the endeavor with a $250,000 grant, part of a multi-year, $5 million commitment with the Department of Interior to increase volunteer efforts at national parks.

Save the Park comes too late to avert the circumstances leading to the baby bison’s death. But as awareness of the game grows, more people will learn what is appropriate conduct in our national parks. The developers of the game aim to recruit one million volunteers each year by 2017. Save the Park is doing its part to reach that recruitment target with each game played.

Image credit: Wikipedia

McDonald’s Eats Up Game-Based Training for New Meal Prep System


McDonald’s will use a new meal prep training system for its staff this fall

McDonald’s customers in the United Kingdom will soon notice subtle changes in how their meals are prepared. To carry out these seemingly small changes, corporate leaders are making some big changes in how they train their managers. In order to bring all restaurant managers up to speed in a quick and uniform manner, McDonald’s is turning to games-based training.

McDonald’s needs the new training system because the company will soon be launching a new approach to food preparation at many of its UK restaurants. Instead of stacking burgers and fries ready to go, food will be prepared as it is ordered. For customers, this preparation should result in burgers that are hotter and fresher, and fries that are crisper. But this “just in time” process will be more complex and will call on store managers to manage their staff differently, Diginomica explains. Traditional McDonald’s restaurants that keep food stacked up and ready to go operate with more staff at the counters to take orders. But in the new model of McDonald’s restaurants, staff need to be more flexible to adjust to the changing demands.

In order to train managers on this new food preparation system, McDonald’s will use a 3D virtual reality game that simulates the new approach. The 3D environment allows a player to virtually walk through a McDonald’s restaurant and react to changing scenarios. Mark Reilly, UK head of corporate training at McDonald’s, told Diginomica that the game allows managers to make decisions just as they would do doing an ordinary work shift. As they make these decisions, they will see the consequences of their choices play out in the store – even the mistakes. The hope is that managers work out any trouble spots in the game before they try the new process live and in person. “The most powerful way to learn is by doing and by making mistakes,” Reilly said.

This 3D game is new to McDonald’s but the restaurant chain is actually well acquainted with gamified training. The company started using gamification several years ago when it developed a game to train staffers how to use new cash registers, according to Diginomica. The game simulated processing orders and serving customers, becoming more challenging as players progressed. Diginomica reported that McDonald’s saved approximately 500,000 British pounds in training costs. Depending on how the 3D training progresses in England, McDonald’s could roll out the training system to its managers worldwide.

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A Systematic Review of Virtual Reality Stroke Therapy


In the past couple of years, there has been an increase of game device use for areas other than actual gaming. The newest area of use is for physical health. Medical researchers and physical therapists are finding that using virtual reality games are very helpful in terms of treatment and rehabilitation for stroke patients. The interest for this type of treatment has been gaining popularity, and researchers are starting to realize and prove that using games provides better results than conventional methods.

Keith R. Lohse et al published a study in 2014 that compiled other research studies that used various gaming equipment to help post-stroke adult patients with their rehabilitation. Their article, “Virtual Reality Therapy for Adults Post-Stroke: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Exploring Virtual Environments and Commercial Games in Therapy”, takes a look at how well custom-made virtual environments and commercially available gaming systems, such as Nintendo Wii and PlayStation EyeToy, worked for patients in comparison to traditional therapy.

Below is a link to the table of the characteristics of each trial compared in the research paper study:

Table showing characteristics of trials comparing virtual reality therapy to conventional therapy in adults post-stroke

The table shows: the researchers of each study, which therapies they compared against each other, and the expected outcome versus the actual outcome.

Overall the study shows that Virtual reality therapy, when delivered as virtual environments or commercially available games, was more effective in comparison to traditional therapy. However, there was not enough evidence to clearly see the benefit of commercially available gaming systems with post-stroke patients’ rehabilitation. Nonetheless Lohse et al stated that future research in that area, specifically, could help with the lack of evidence. If funded properly, this research could even help expand the use of gaming to different areas of health, and eventually every area of life; making the world a more interesting place to live in.

Image credit: flickr

Gamifying Home Energy Management with Homebeat


Gamified Energy Management App HomeBeat Uses Analytics and Engagement to Save Energy

When summer temperatures spike and air conditioners run full throttle, the demand for electricity strains the power grid. Utilities try to manage these peak times of power demand with an approach called demand response: industrial users and residential customers are encouraged to cut back on their power use to ease the load on the grid. But it’s not enough to ask people to curtail their electricity use. Customers need incentives. That’s where energy analytics company Bidgely enters the picture.

Bidgely has developed an app that turns demand response into a game that people can play on their smartphones. The California company’s app, HomeBeat, shows homeowner their baseline energy usage, and also shows a target they should strive to reach, according to Utility Dive. When a peak power event occurs, the app encourages consumer engagement in power-saving activity through a combination of psychological cues, financial incentives, and an innate sense of competition that can be a motivator for many people. Beyond offering cash rewards for saving energy, the app shows progress toward reaching goals, and encourages some friendly competition by comparing a user’s energy savings against those of neighbors.

Bidgely piloted its app in partnership with United Energy, the electric utility serving Melbourne, Australia. It’s the third year that United Energy has used HomeBeat and the utility’s experiences with the app show both benefits and shortcomings that are instructive to others considering a gamified approach to demand response. Last summer, HomeBeat helped the utility reduce the electricity load by 30 percent last summer. That’s good. But United Energy initially had a hard time recruiting customers to the program. If too few customers sign up, participation won’t be meaningful enough to make a dent in power demand.

Also, United Energy told Utility Dive that some customers who were initially enthusiastic about saving power at the start of a peak event did not sustain those efforts throughout, leading to appliances and other energy-sucking devices drawing power while the grid was still strained. The utility solved that problem by offering an additional reward to incentivize continued energy-saving behavior.

HomeBeat is apparently catching on with United Energy customers. In the three years that the utility has offered the program, customer participation in HomeBeat has grown from just 30 to more than 1,000. As other utilities look for ways that they can manage demand response, United Energy’s use of HomeBeat stands as an example of the role gamification play in saving energy.