“Killer Apps” for Gamification

Today we will focus on a very specific topic. The “killer app” for Gamification.

Yeah, I know… Again? For the -nth times? Yes.
You can find a lot of similar topics, posts and comments on the subject… but most of them are either outdated, or use gamification in PBL approach (I’ve discussed about that topic here). There are some different topics, but usually there is an hidden agenda (for example, when you find a topic in gamification vendor’s website/blog… and usually the “killer apps” are those supported by their engine – funny isn’t it?).

I am not involved in sales (cause I work as a consultant). That means I’ve got a greater freedom in exploiting what can be the best applications, regardless of any platform/support/technology/vendor.

So, if you’re target market may use one of the following, you should think very seriously about gamification: your operational result will thank you.

Top 6 Gamification Application

  1. People Management
  2. Data Cleansing/Data Scrubbing
  3. Crowd[out]sourcing
  4. Testing
  5. Market Research
  6. Diet Management

People Management

managementThis summer I was on the Manhattan Beach Pier (California), and I found myself wandering within the “Acquarium“. It’s a quite small museum, in fact, crowded with a consistent number of fish pool and some very particular species (for example some shark’s eggs about to open, and a lot of eel).

But the thing that hit me more than the exposition, was the urn right in front of the exit (that is, by the way, the same as entrance). “Free Donation – 5$ suggested“, states a sign right there. So, I take a few minutes disguising myself as an eel fanboy while I kept watching the urn, those who are exiting the museum, and how these two interact.

As you probably may imagine, a great majority of the people exiting the museum made their donation. In fact, on about 20 people going out, none leaves without giving something. But that is not the most interesting thing: none gives less than 5$.

What was happened there, from a gamification perspective? Well, there are two kind of pressure (push) toward “players” (users).

  1. social pressure, related to competition and social recognition. In fact, as long as the others leave their money for visiting the museum, you will do the same to not to show yourself as an outsider.
  2. An experience pressure, due to the fact that you see the urn when you enter, and you can skip that. In fact, none leaves money entering. At the same time, you feel obliged to leave something because you have already used the museum as it a “free sample”. and, in the end, someone ask: “was it good or bad?” The museum was good, so leaving the money is almost as giving a “like”.

So, you should need to write down the “Gamified Access Management System” (GAMS). A free-will donation ticket you can use when you exit a museum or some else exposition. To reinforce the social pushing, you may develop a gate that will light as green (if the user leaves a tip) or red (if exit without leaving anything). Other ways to achieve this objective may be a leaderboard of the most generous tips, and/or the request (for those who do not leave any tip) to motivate their choose. So you can, if not money, to collect useful feedback about area to improve.

Data Cleansing / Data Scrubbing

Probably you have heard that buzz around “Big Data”, right? Eventually, you’ve also heard that “Deduplication” of data is a primary issue for IT controller in the last years. But, how could we solve this hyper-technical problems with a simple gamification idea?

Exactly like in Fold-It, of course! Convert the data into an image (even abstract) and ask player to find out the exact two images. Or something similar. In fact, spectrography has been recently crowsourced this way in Europe.

This idea works very well because can be double-layered with gamification (exactly like when you double-fill your sandwich). At level one, you may create a fun game to allow player help your business recognizing pattern or identifying similar file, so they can be highlighted and removed if duplicated. On the second level, you may add prizes, competition, badge and anything else usually relates to PBL gamification to increase awareness and engagement towards these issues.

Why is this hypothetical solution #2 on the list? Simple: because gamification is about manipulating the context and the meaning that an action have. Data Management is a classic task that requires an high level of attention and human work. At the same time, it’s one of the most annoying and less stimulating task ever. Gamification it’s exactly about lightening those tasks and engage those workers.


This is basically my stuff. I mean, in the background of Gamification, as far as I know, many work on social media, on engagement, on HR and on PBL. Very few (possibly none else) approach this side of gamification.

Imagine that you a have a critical business process, like one described in Socket Puncher. Imagine to “cover” it with a gamification layer that will destructure the data and made them not recognizable. Imagine to create a game (note: a free game) that uses this data, and release that to the market.


Or, at least, we hope so. What’s the trick here? Simply that your precious business information, those you couldn’t let go outside the company, will not be recognizable from within the game.
That’s possible because the only thing you need is to recreate the structure beneath the data., and not to involve the data themselves.

Think about Fold It. Imagine to be a rival company, trying to stole their advancement (note that “Fold It” is from Washington University, but for the sake of example here nothing change).
How can you do that? You should play the game again and again, take note of any protein suggested, test it and then eventually use the data you collected.
Unfortunately for you, the description of the protein isn’t a business critical object. What’s business critical in this case is the single output of the folding… and that’s something that you know only on the test you do yourself.
The true value here is about all the games played together. Something only the game creator him/herself may access.


This is tricky, but could be done. The testing is one of the critical activities into companies that usually are close in embargoes… but as we’ve seen above, the layer of gamification is critically important to hide important information and translate them into a game language that couldn’t be easily reverse-engineered.

Probably, about that, I’m late of several years. Because there is at least one market that used exactly a gamification layer to test their product. Do you know what is? Videogame companies, of course!
A “closed beta” is nothing more than an extended playtest, proposed as an achievement or a social recognition opportunity, when in fact the only thing that the players will receive from the company is the opportunity to test the game for free (eventually, they will achieve a limited prize… like scoring more point because they start the game before other, or to exploit glitches to perform better than others).

But, talking about testing, there are several critical issue you may address. First of all, the UI and UE (User Interface and User Experience) may NOT be tested through gamification. It’s easy to understand why: if your complete experience is not business critical, then you probably may have an open (or closed) beta testing. If your solution is business critical, then instead you shouldn’t allow anyone else outside your company to test your solution to avoid either information’s leak and competitor data-mining.

Market Research

No, I’m not talking about giving a badge to those who answer your pool. The question is more subtle, but far more interesting. Gamification is a way to change background and meaning of the actions you take.. You operate on the context around someone, transforming him/her from a person/employee/anything else to a player.

Anyone who ever works in market research knows how much the way you pose a question heavily influence the result. As many study in communication and sociology tech, this kind of influences couldn’t be removed or scraped off easily. Gamification is not a way to erase them, but to keep them at bay.

Collecting data by a market research may be difficult, but you may achieve good results with a gamification layer. Let’s see an example: here (link is in Italian). Following all the guidelines and ideas about market research, the one you see at the link is a guaranteed failure. It’s too long, too much detailed, with a lot to read about and basically no rewards for those who respond…

But, in any case, that was a success. A total of 800 users anwers that, and considering that boardgame and role-playing game in Italy hasn’t so much of importance, results were statistically relevant. Asking after the poll, I’ve been able to understand why a lot of people complete the survey: social recognition, affinity, sentiment of being relevant. All of those are gamification drivers, no more and no less.

Of course the survey above has some other issues (for example in users clustering), but in the end, it’s a perfect example about how simple could be to change a “classic” survey or market research in something different and more engaging.

Diet Management

Diet and alimentation works very well because they can align on physiologic and biologic structures of the body. For example, a iron-lower diet can be healtier if, time to time, you add some red meat or some iron higher food. So, not only a gamified diet cangive a boost of motivational behavioral (another day and I can eat properly!), but also, if well designed, you can even manage diet drifts, exception and an appropriate life-conditioning to exit diet stronger step.

But, to be clear, use of Gamification in this market isn’t something new. Au contraire, there are actually several dozen of app that use gamification principles in relationship with fitness and diet management.

But, as this article from the “National Center for Biotechnology Information” clearly states: gamification in these Apps isn’t properly connected to behavioural theory, but simply uses gamification as simplicist strategies to achieve visibility.

This is utterly true if we write here one of the most important think in the document: ” the current success of health games is measured in revenue generation, not behavioral metrics“. With other words, we haven’t monitored results of these application yet.

Is that all folks…?

Well’, that’s all for now. Or not? No, it’s not all. I have in the end a Poll for you! What’s the best application for Gamification within the ones I listed? Let me know, I will write an implementation guide (online and offline) about the winning application!



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