GDC Day 1: Gamification Plays a Productive Role

GDC Day 1: Gamification Plays a Productive Role


When you see a 20×8 foot metal board, you’re probably thinking like me…that Tyler Perry may one day have a zombie themed pizzeria with a coinciding game–the more zombies you kill on screen, the more starving people (in real life) you can feed. This concept, a sure winner, was imagined using a gamified ideation tool by iam8bit. A wonderful example of enterprise gamification used for innovation.

Gamification definitely made a other strong appearances in Day 1 at GDC. There were two sessions that were very focused on gamification and very well-received by the audience. The first was Entertaining the Enterprise: Helping You Level Up & Conquer Work. Filling this panel presentation was Le-Te Cheng from IBM (a GSUMMITx Boston member), Jennifer Michelstein from Microsoft Office Labs and Alexander Moore from Baydin, moderated by Ian Bogost from Persuasive Games. Le-Te shared some examples of gamification used to engage IBM employees. His fascination with games is that they’re “pushing the boundaries to make the world more fun.” I think most people would agree with that statement. My top takeaway here was the answer to the question that I didn’t even have to ask. The question I would have asked was, “How did you sell the idea of games in a very non-gaming business.” Le-Te included this in this talk when he said his response to negativity from colleagues has been, “Don’t worry about calling this a game…it’s a tool to reach the goal. We can talk about the philosophy of gaming at a later point.” Brilliant!

Following Le-Te was Alexander Moore from Baydin, an email game who’s goal is to help users get to inbox zero quickly. Moore stated that his gamified email client helps save people 5 hours per week on average. His idea originated when he realized that he wanted his email experience to relate more to slaying villains. With the help of a timer, some smiley faces, and points in disguise of time saved, his application has been successfully used by over 100k users and growing.

Jennifer Michelstein from Microsoft Office Labs spoke about Ribbon Hero, a game for Microsoft Office Suite. The goal was to make a utility experience fun & engaging. There is definitely a theme in these talks. These applications are all productivity tools first, a game second. The game element just makes it more enjoyable to conquer your mision.

In the second gamification session, Health IT! Enterprising Approaches to Combining Health and Games we heard from Jane McGonigal of Social Chocolate (a past keynote at GSummit-The Gamification Summit), Rajiv Kumar of ShapeUp, and Brian Krejcarek of Green Goose. Jane lead the pack with a great presentation of SuperBetter, which uses game dynamics to encourage players to rethink personal health goals in a positive and social frame. By interacting with SuperBetter during Jane’s talk, everyone in the room who played were rewarded with 7.5 minutes of longer life. An epic win for all!

Following Jane came a talk from a medical doctor who discovered a way to see and treat over 2 million patients using game-mechanics. This application is called ShapeUp and it was created by Rajiv Kumar, MD. By gamifying corporate wellness solutions, ShapeUp has engaged over 2 million people and made a positive difference in their lives.

Up next was Brian Krejcarek from GreenGoose, who everyone will remember for his water bottle. Brian’s goal is to make everything fun and turn life into a game. GreenGoose is a hardware & software company that creates sensors for everything. Add one to your toothbrush to track toothbrush usage, add one to your rake to get to the next level on a Farmville-like game by raking in the real world, add one to the toilet seat to make it fun for little boys to learn to put the seat up and down (similar to what Kevin Richardson has done with Fun Theory). His water bottle also had a sensor on it and when he took a sip of water, he was rewarded by getting to the next slide in his presentation. Not the new wheel, but definitely a clever way to incorporate his product into his talk…points for that!

Day 1 taught us that gamification is not just about fun & games. Productivity definitely takes priority. The game elements just make being productive more fun. Overall, a big win for gamification!


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