I walked out my door Saturday morning to a frenzy of Millennials running around Independence National Historical Park in their best campers’ attire with their smartphones surgically attached to their hands. Immediately I realized I was witnessing the Gamification of USA.
What is gamification? In a nutshell it is the combination of engagement science and game mechanics. As a result, it helps simplifies the processes necessary to obtain personal achievement, as well as improve relationships between constituents and their community. Are you confused yet? Am I talking about participating in Little League baseball or getting together with a bunch of friends to play a good game of Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble? No, I am sharing a new marketing strategy devised by Silicon Valley and Alley. The technology companies are looking at leveraging markets, networks and communities by capitalizing on the competitive nature of consumers and rewarding them with prizes – check-ins to become a “mayor”, loyalty awards, discounts, etc. Technology (web and more importantly mobile sites) facilitates gamifaction and engagement in the form of a game for tasks that are otherwise perceived boring like chores, shopping, surveys or reading websites.
Are you still confused? I am confident most of my readership has heard of or uses Foursquare or better yet Facebook Places. Both are primary examples of gamification. A relatively new player is SCVNGR, a social location-based gaming platform for mobile phones complete with challenges and rewards for their players. Back in March, they partnered nationwide with high-end retailer Neiman Marcus. Imagine winning enough challenges and being rewarded with a $2,500 shopping spree.
So what was happening outside my front door Saturday? A scavenger hunt called The Ultimate Old City Adventure. The hunt was organized by CityHunt whose mission is to make the universe a better place one scavenger hunt at a time, thus inspire people to build great relationships and learn how to have fun together. Founded in 2000, the company will organize public or private (e.g., birthday parties, corporate team building, etc.) hunts.
Is gamification a passing fad or an upcoming trend? I predict a trend given that I just read that the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation will be investing $20 million to develop innovative digital and game based learning tools complete with social networking capabilities for US kids. Fun is our future as we master gamification. A topic for another day since I need to head out now to my local Starbucks to check-in and see where I am on the leader board to be the next “mayor” at 8th and Walnut. Oh yes, I also want to start working on my next business concept while I enjoy my Cocoa Cappuccino – My Sandbox, a new social location-based mobile game.