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The Gamification of Community Wellness

Seth Priebatsch of the gaming company SCVNGR periodically shares his thoughts about the future of the game layer to wellness participation.  We’ve experience “social” for about a decade.  Future innovations in the cloud will be in the game layer, where companies leverage game mechanics to build their customer/user base.  We write and develop extensively around this concept and welcome your questions and comments. The following insights are from Priebatsch:

1)      Appointment-based:  Time and location restrictions are incredibly powerful motivators of behavior.  In FarmVille, if you buy seeds that harvest quickly—say strawberries—you have to return within 4 hours or the crop will wilt and you’ll lose profits.   Limited appointment windows introduce scarcity and urgency, whereas if you leave action entirely up to the user, the action becomes optional.  This is no less true in fitness.

How can we make the habit of setting aside particular times – appointments- for physical activity into a game?

2)      Social Influence and Status: Foursquare is an example of a community that thrives on individual desire for social status and influence.  People vie to become mayor of a restaurant, district, bus route, and other quirky venues—these status rewards are currently location-based.  In the world of fitness, rewards could be exercise-based.

How can we create badges, status and levels for those who not only participate in regular physical activity but also encourage and motivate their social network to join in?

3)      Progression: Everyone loves seeing their progress towards a goal improve when they take action.     In FarmVille, you start out as a “Farm Hand” on Level 1 and can progress to “World Champ” at Level 70.  Realizing that levels make FarmVille extremely addictive, Zynga introduced 20 more levels in June 2010.

Everyone loves progression and, correspondingly, recognition for progression.  In the realm of fitness, if meet a goal, shouldn’t you be able to advance to Level 2?  More than that – physical activity participation feeds and thrives on social connections.

Just as in the online or mobile phone social network games couldn’t we reward those who add “friends’ and collect workout buddies?

4)      Communal Discovery: Collaboration around a designated goal is possibly the most powerful motivator of individual behavior.  In the world of Kickstarter.com flexible and informal groups can decide on a “giving or projects for good” that are local or global. A goal is set and people can join in on reaching that goal – by donating money.  Unless the entire goal total is met, as a minimum, no one has to pay.

Often, health club members do not feel like a part of a community.  How cool would it be if a group of friends or even a group of people who don’t know each other collectively offered to donate their “workout minutes or miles” toward a community cause. A “wellness sponsor” could fund the cause only if the group’s goal is met by the set date.  If they don’t meet the goal, the sponsor doesn’t pay.  There’s a game, there’s participation and there is a “greater good” tying people and a wellness habit together.

Are you in the “game” business? Do you want to add your ideas and expertise to this trend within HCD’s organization and Wellness Resource Network?  Contact us and let’s talk.


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