Every morning, I have such good intentions of getting up as soon as my alarm goes off, doing some morning exercise, eating a healthy breakfast and reading the news while drinking a coffee at home before putting on the shirt I ironed the night before and strolling out the door (having turned the all the lights off).
Unfortunately, a typical morning for me usually goes more like this: alarm goes off at 7am, I hit the snooze 5 times before finally getting up, brush my teeth in the shower, throw on a slightly crumpled shirt and dash out the door, grabbing a coffee on my way into work.
So, what would motivate me to turn my good intentions into actions?
A common theme at the recent Social Good Summit was “if people spend hours and hours playing games like Farmville why shouldn’t we be able to achieve the same level of engagement with social causes!?”
So, why is it that people devote so much time to Farmville? Social games like Farmville expertly employ something called ‘Game Mechanics’ to keep people engaged, performing actions and even spending money (on things like virtual turnips)!
Game Mechanics, at the most basic level, employs competition, rewards and social feedback to create an incentive for players to perform certain actions. To get a feel for the way they work, I highly recommend reading SCVNGR’s Game Dynamics Playbook and watching Jesse Schelle’s Talk (embedded below – it’s about 1.5 hours but it’s highly entertaining – why not watch 15 minutes a day while you eat a healthy breakfast for a week? Leave a comment about it below and you’ll earn 10 points!).
Returning to my typical morning – what if:
- each time I hit snooze it cost me a dollar?;
- each time I went out and exercised and ate a healthy breakfast I earned points doubling for each consecutive day I did it?; and
- each day I forgot to turn the lights off all my friends would see that I was wasting power?
These are simple yet powerful motivators for me to change my behavior from intention to action.
A number of organisations have cottoned on to this potential and are using them to promote social good. For example:
- Snooze by LetGive is an iPhone app that you can setup to donate money to charity each time you hit the snooze button;
- HealthMonth is a game that’s designed to help you lose weight, cut your caffeine addiction, start reading more, and otherwise do all sorts of things that will help you lead the life you want.
- SimpleEnergy is designed to change how utilities engage customers by making saving energy social, fun and simple.
If your organization wants to use game mechanics to turn people’s good intentions into actions that support your cause, think about these three things:
- What behaviours do we want to change?
- What actions do we want people to take?
- What motivators can we use to get them to take these actions?
The behaviors and actions can be a simple as you want. For example what motivator could you use to get people to tweet out a link to one of your blog posts each day for a week? Could you create a points system for taking certain actions and reward the highest point scorers with a VIP invite to your annual event? What non-profits and social good organizations do you know of that have used game mechanics to change behavior or increase engagement? Hit us up in the comments.