Changing the World, One Gamified App at a Time

At this point, you’ve probably heard of gamification. You’re most likely aware of this growing trend in which game mechanics are infused into business structures and processes. Chances are, this has been from either a marketing or an employee engagement standpoint. However, gamification can also be applied to various unique facets of life in order to make a real difference in society. The gamification examples that follow illustrate how elements of fun and other game mechanics can bring about social consciousness and positive change.

Research Breakthroughs through Collaboration

By creating a game-like program in which players collaborate to work towards solving a problem, it is possible to draw conclusions and find answers much more efficiently and quickly than a small group of researchers could do alone. For example, the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science and Biochemistry department created an online puzzle game about protein folding called FoldIt. Over 240,000 people competed to figure out protein structures according to researcher criteria, and in just 10 days were able to find a solution that created a major breakthrough in AIDS research. Scientists had been trying to decipher the structure for 15 years.


“Crowdraising,” especially as a means of corporate giving, can be an effective way to raise more money for a cause. Corporate competitive crowdfunding is a gamified take on philanthropy that adds elements of friendly competition and fun in order to raise a larger sum of money. Causecast, for example, engages employees in fundraising efforts via social media, real-time reporting, instant donation processing, peer recognition, and incentives-based competition. By engaging participants and harnessing the resulting energy, gamified initiatives like this can raise more money to support a great cause.

Saving the Environment

Apps have started to gamify various aspects of being environmentally conscious. People are more likely to make positive changes in their behavior if there are game mechanics involved. One example is OPower, which aims to make people consume energy more responsibly.  It provides data on how much energy a household is using, compares them with neighbors, and sets milestones for improvement. This translates to lower pollution, lower utility bills, and a more energy-conscious attitude. Another example is RecycleBank, which rewards points that can be redeemed for actual goods for saving energy, recycling, and answering quizzes and pledges about sustainability.

Feeding the Hungry

Gamified processes can encourage and provide a simple means for people to take positive action. The use of recognition and non-monetary rewards can effectively motivate people to contribute, as does friendly competition. One exemplary program is FreeRice, an online site that donates 10 grains of rice for every correct quiz answer. Not only does this help feed people, but users also might learn something.

 Promote Health and Wellbeing

Gamification can stimulate activity and healthy habits, contributing to a society that is better off as a whole. Many are exercise-focused. Zamzee, for example, is targeted towards children and includes missions, challenges, points, and badges that have proven effective in getting kids to be more active, which can also translate to better habits later in life. Others focus on treating and coping with illness. Pain Squad is one such application. It is a mobile game to help kids fight cancer that provides researchers with data as well as giving patients purpose and excitement.

Helping Communities

Adding such game mechanics as rewards, acknowledgement, and friendly competition can really motivate people to make contributions to the betterment of their communities. FavorTree was designed accordingly. With this app, when you do a favor for a neighbor, your virtual tree grows and gains fruit, with the end goal of more people helping out their local communities. Gamification can also be highly effective in helping impoverished communities. m.Paani is a loyalty program that gives users points towards water-related infrastructure or sanitization projects for purchasing mobile credits from sponsoring companies, as many of these communities have no clean water but many mobile phones.

 These apps aren’t promising world peace or the end of poverty (yet), but they do illustrate that a little bit of fun can go a long way. Adding game mechanics can really make a difference, and society will be better off for it.

 A word of thanks go to Technology Advice from Nashville for contributing this nice post.

About the author Leah Carlisle:

Leah is a writer for based in Nashville, Tenn. With an interest in the fast-paced world and everything in it that impacts business, writing for Technology Advice is not only a means for her to share knowledge, but it is also a learning opportunity.