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How to Gamify Your Life - From A to Z

Updated on June 15, 2012

Gamification is more than just a buzzword- it's a movement. Thanks to smartphones and thousands of apps, a rapidly evolving video game industry, and the development of small devices that can track and log pretty much anything, it is possible to turn nearly every aspect of one's life into a game.

Would you like to gamify your life? Now, more than any time before, it is easy to do so! What follows is an outline of the various apps, products, devices, and services that enable you to gamify nearly everything you do- from working out to volunteering. Let the games begin!

Barcode Hero - For Buying and Reviewing Products

Barcode Hero is an iPhone app that enables people to make a game of shopping, discovering new products, choosing the best ones, and reviewing and recommending the products they buy. 

Using Barcode Hero, you can scan products (anything from wines to electronics) while you shop, as well as browse various products and keep track of things you've purchased (or want to buy). Users accrue points for scanning and reviewing products and can become kings or queens of various types of products, such as groceries, baby formula, or CDs.

Chore Wars - For Housecleaning

Typically getting chores done around the house is a battle.  Chore Wars does not take away the battle element, but it does turn what is typically plain ol' drudgery into an enjoyable competition.  

Chore Wars enables players to recruit their housemates, family members, roomies, boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, and husbands and challenge them to a battle of stealth and wits.  The completion of household chores earns players experience points - they simply need to be logged.

Foldit - For Contributing to Scientific Research

Foldit is a computer game that enables people to contribute to important scientific research.  

In this case, the scientific research has to do with protein folding, which is an important factor in HIV / AIDS, cancer, and Alzheimer's research.  Users can contribute to the research by recognizing patterns and solving puzzles that help the folks at Foldit to more efficiently study protein folding - something that is typically processed through supercomputers.

On Foldit, players are challenged to fold proteins.  As gamers fold away, scores accrue based on how well they pack the protein, hide the hydrophobics, and clear the clashes.   

Foodspotting - For Eating Out

Foodspotting- an app that enables people to photograph and share great dishes using their smartphones, turns the act of reviewing and recommending dishes into an aesthetically, socially stimulating game.

On Foodspotting, people can not only share dishes they enjoyed themselves, but have a look at the greatest dishes nearest to them, as well as bookmark foods they want to try, and vote up foods they have tried and loved.  

The gamificaiton aspect comes into play most strongly with regard to the bookmarking (wanting), voting up (nomming), and following of people and guides using the app.  Though Foodspotting is mostly about social sharing and browsing, one still feels a bit of gamelike reinforcement when one gains followers and gets positive reinforcement when others share their appreciation of dishes one has shared.

Foursquare - For Going Places

Because it is pretty well known as a social platform, people might not think of Foursquare as much of a means of gamificaion, however it does a brilliant job of turning the act of going somewhere into a game.

The gaming mechanics are undeniable: users log and track their whereabouts, get badges, and can even vie for mayorship of the spots they visit most frequently.

Because Foursquare has become so popular, it is even more effective as a means of gamificaiton because several forward-thinking cafes and restaurants have begun to award special perks to the current mayor.  Checkins, badges, mayorships, and potential freebies... what's not to love about that?

GreenGoose - For Nearly Everything

GreenGoose enables players to attach wireless sensors to all sorts of things that will then send tracking information to a little base station that uploads everything to the internet. These sensors can be used to track anything from running to bike rides, flossing, taking vitamins, playing, drinking water.... whatever players can imagine and slap a sensor onto!

Players then assign lifestyle points to the various actions with which specific sensors are associated, and accrue them by consistently doing these things.  Parents can challenge their kids to be better about brushing their teeth, couples can challenge each other to see who is best about going for healthy evening jogs, and entire families can challenge and track each other on healthy water intake.  Because players earn lifestyle points not only for completing actions, but also for doing so consistently, GreenGoose sensors encourage people to develop healthy patterns - and live better lives - in an incredibly playful manner.

GreenGoose is only just getting started- before long, its nifty little wireless sensors will be associated with all sorts of fantastic games and challenges.

Health Month - For Healthier Living

Health Month gamifies the act of improving one's diet and fitness, as well as mental, social, and financial health. It applies behavioral and nutrition science to social games to turn what might be trying lifestyle changes into enjoyable social activities.

Users get to establish their own rules regarding how they want to improve their health, and don't get guilt tripped for sliding back a day or two.  Each month, players on Health Month get 10 life points.  Whenever players fail to stick to one of their health-related goals, they lose a life point.  The general objective of the game is to finish the month with at least one remaining life point.  

One aspect that makes it particularly fun is that it is easy to invite friends, colleagues, and family to play with you.  Why invite friends? They have the power to heal you.  Every day you manage to stick to all of your health goals, you are gifted with a fruit - fruits can be used to heal friends who are in need of a little help in the points department.  The particularly smart thing about points and fruit is that it's nice to get help from others, but it's even nicer to be the one that steps in to save the day.  This makes sticking to one's health goals even more enjoyable!

HubPages - For Online Writing

Did you realize that you are interacting with a piece of funware simply by reading this article?  HubPages, the site on which this article is hosted, gamifies the process of writing online articles by not only offering writers the potential to earn money from the articles they write and publish on the site, but by also introducing a points system (HubScore), special programs (such as month-long contests, writing marathon challenges, weekly themed writing challenges, and weekly contests highlighting amazing new articles), and badges (called Accolades) which commemorate milestones (e.g. publishing a certain number of articles or Hubs, getting a certain number of pageviews, or getting a certain number of followers) and behavior (e.g. commenting on others' work, helping out other writers in the forums, writing particularly engaging articles, etc...).

iCoolhunt - For Spotting Trends

Coolhunting used to be a task reserved for super hip experts- only the uber hip, connected, and urban could count themselves amongst the limited ranks of trend spotters in the world.

iCoolhunt gamifies the process of spotting cool design, music, technology, and lifestyle trends through an app, website, and web bookmarking tool. Players can upload origninal photos from their phones and share found photos online, as well as rate the finds of others up or down.

The better one is at spotting truly cool "prey" on iCoolhunt, the higher one levels up- starting out as mere Rookies and evolving into full-out Gurus. iCoolhunters can even browse everyone's finds on the Trenditory- a map that logs cool finds across the world- to see what cool finds are closest to them!

Source - For Managing Your Money gamifies the process of managing your money by allowing users to bring in financail accounts, categorize transactions, set budgets, and achieve savings goals.

One of the particularly game-like things Mint does is to provide excellent gamer feedback- its design is beautiful and it does a splendid job of displaying your finances and goals in an attractive, useful manner.

Mint also has an on-site point system - users can gain points for helping others by answering various financial questions.

People have long treated money management like a game - what makes Mint particularly interesting is that it makes it much easier to see it as such.

The winner of a Nike+ 2008 race in Austin, Texas
The winner of a Nike+ 2008 race in Austin, Texas | Source

Nike+ - For Exercise

People love to complain about getting in shape, but with a bit of gamification, the process can become downright addictive.

Nike+ gamifies the process of working out by enabling people to track their progress and share their routes with friends. While Nike+ originally required a special kit consisting of a sensor and receiver which would be plugged into an iPod, GPS-enabled iPhones enable players to gamify their exercise with no extra hardware at all.

Nike+ runners can save their runs, establish goals, challenge fellow runners, track the pounds they've burned, and compare their performance with others in the community at large.

As of this writing, the Nike+ community has run a total of 14,480 laps around the world and burned 14,175,599 pounds. It's amazing what one can achieve when one turns hard physical work into a game!

Nike+ has even organized impressive races and events, bringing runners of all levels together for runs of epic proportion!  

SCVNGR - For Ambling About

SCVNGR was created with a vision of a world with a game overlay.

It enables players to gamify the act of going somewhere- such as a cafe or restaurant or book store- using their smartphone. Users basically go places, do challenges, and earn points. The challenges are simple, starting with a simple check-in, then a social check-in, then saying something, taking a picture, and even creating a new challenge for that place.  

One of the cool aspects of SCVNGR is that players can also see what their friends have been up to, as well as have a peek at the history of a particular place and who has completed challenges there.  Another cool thing about SCVNGR is that anyone can build on top of it, meaning that players (be they businesses, restaurant owners, hikers, exploring families, or shoppers) can make games and challenges of their own using SCVNGR as a platform.

Situationist - For Urban Ambling

Walking about in a city may be somewhat isolating.  Though one is surrounded by people, nearly all of them are complete strangers, and everyone seems to be doing their darndest to ignore each other.

Situationist gamifies the process of moving about a city by creating interesting sitautions that encourage complete strangers to interact.  This iPhone app enables players to upload a photo of themselves and select a series of situations they would be interested in - for example, having someone high-five them in the streets, take a paparazzi photo of them, or wave at them like a long-lost friend.  

When two people with the app are close to one another, one of them may get pinged with a "Situation" and a photo of the person they are to find, as well as their mission (e.g. "Compliment me on my haircut").  They may then view a GPS-enabled map showing them as well as their 'victim.'  The challenge? To find the person and complete the mission within five minutes.  

Sparked - For Volunteering

Volunteering is inherently rewarding.  Just knowing that one has done something to improve the lives of others, or the well-being of the planet, is deliciously satisfying.  But what if it could be more satisfying?  Or easier?

Sparked does both by gamifying the process of volunteering.  Players simply sign up and create a profile, highlighting their particular strengths, such as social media, research, marketing, and mobile phones, as well as listing causes in which they have a particular interest, such as animals, health, poverty, and science.  Based on players' abilities, Sparked presents them with small volunteering challenges they can complete.  

On their profiles, gaming volunteers can track their tally of challenges, thumbs up, and awards of excellence.  The accolades, plus the fun interface showing challenges and abilities, gamifies the process of volunteering quite brilliantly!

Stack Overflow - For Programming Q&A

Stack Overflow is basically a Q&A site for programmers that allows them to ask and answer questions on anything from html to ajax. The site presents itself as a sort of hybrid of a wiki, forum, blog, and social bookmarking site.

Essentially, the site is populated and maintained by users. The gamification element comes in the form of privileges users gain through reputation, as well as democratic moderator elections that take place on the site.

Reputation on Stack Overflow is accrued by users on the site as their questions and answers are voted up and down by other members of the community and is supposed to reflect how much the community trusts a user, the user's communication skills, and the relevancy and quality of a user's questions and answers.

Superstruct - For Saving the Human Race

Superstruct takes the process of addressing the major problems faced by the human race (or technically, the extinction of the human race) and turns it into a fun, engaging social process.

Superstruct presents players with a report from the Global Extinction Awareness System informing them that the human species should face extinction by the year 2042 - and challenges them to develop societal constructs (be they community efforts, health measures, environmentally healthy innovations, or something else altogether) in an attempt to extend the projected lifespan of the human race.

Though the game has already more or less run its course, players succeeded in significantly lengthening the projected life expectancy of the human species through their collaboration and innovation.  Their work may be reviewed in the Superstruct Game Archive.

World Without Oil - For Prepping for an Impending Energy Crisis

Thinking about how one is going to deal with what is certainly an inevitable end to the oil supply is not exactly pleasant... thank goodness for World Without Oil!

This (now) completed game involved a 32-week collaborative imagining of an oil crisis.  Contemplating what one will do when oil becomes an incredibly scarce resource- and adapting one's life accordingly- makes it much easier to prepare for such emergencies ahead of time.  

It is hard to think about future sacrifices, but gamifying them makes them more like voluntary challenges- and chronicling them turned out to be a great deal of fun!  

This is Only the Beginning

These are only some of the many apps, sites, and devices that enable people to gamify aspects of their lives, and each new month, new means of gamification are rolling out.

Have you discovered a new bit of technology that makes it possible to gamify an aspect of your life that is not outlined above?  Share it in the comments and I'll add it to this guide!


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