What happened in San Francisco.. should not stay in San Francisco

For those of you who did not make it to GSummit 2013 in San Francisco last month, the only world conference on Gamification, here are some insights from myself as a speaker, delegate and gamification practitioner:


Alcatraz… one of the definite hot spots in San Francisco to visit …


… but since GSummit was too much fun, I did not see it …


…and therefore I can only provide you with an “artist impression” 😉


The road ahead… is full of games.

Life is full of games… without you noticing it. These are some of the games I played during my 20 hour journey to San Francisco.

* I just left my house and I already won a “smiley face”. Not from the family, but from an eletronic road sign. That’s a just small price for keeping my speed below 50km/h, but a great incentive . If I would pass that limit, the system would have motivated me to change my behavior (through the feedback “driving too fast” in big red letters and accompanied by a disappointed face)

* Entering Brussels airport, first thing I noticed was a stand from Electrabel, Belgium’s largest energy provider. At the stand travelers can have WI-FI or charge the batteries of their laptop for free (Free WI-FI at an airport : how convenient!). There’s only 1 condition: you have to make the energy yourself. By riding the bike, an indicator shows how much energy you are producing. Let me tell you, if you make that last sprint to get the needle to maximum and defeat the other travelers, you are not just charging the batteries of your laptop, but also your own batteries! Le nouveau Eddy Merckx est arrivĂ©, that is how I felt.


Gamification @ Brussels Airport : a free ride for free WI-FI… and the winner is Electrabel

* Next stop: Frankfurt Airport, checking the German toilets. Exiting the toilet, a touchscreen asks me how satisfied I am with the cleanliness of the toilets. For sure this data is used to determine the frequency of toilet maintenance. But hopefully they also use it for motivating the different cleaning teams by creating a leaderboard and incentivize them to do an even better job.

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The Toilet Game


Gamification is all around us, even in the smallest places!


* Final destination: GSummit venue San Francisco: Walking from my hotel to the conference venue, I have to cross 7th street. As a pedestrian I wait for the “start crossing” sign, which turns into a counter, counting down from 11 to zero, an indicator for the time remaining to cross the street safely. This safety measure turns into a game. People approaching a cross road, estimate if they need to make a sprint or not. Gamers adjust their pace to get to zero when they reach the opposite side, because they want to beat the system.

You have been gamified! You most probably know these systems, yet never saw this as a game. But they are. They contain elements of a game.

Gamification is all around us!

Gamification is making use of game thinking and game mechanics in a business context

Is it a fad ? or just “fat”? It’s just like that!

Gartner places gamification on the verge of peaking on the Hype Cycle. If you’re a hype cycle believer, soon gamification will be on its way to disillusion before it totally will disappear or get to the level of enlightenment and finally reach the level of productivity.

That’s how the hype cycle works, but if you look at other facts, no doubt in my mind that gamification is here to stay, for one reason think of just some of the demographic changes facing us now:

  • We are all becoming gamers: soon the gamer-generation will be ruling our offices
  • More and more women are gamers. Well, actually they have always been. Think of couponing. When JC Penny stopped couponing and just provided “the best price right away”, sales dropped immensely. Researchers found that the positive mindset it created when cutting out the coupons, handing it over to the cashier, created much more satisfaction, than just getting the same price right away.

Now, on the conference.

Some of the things I learned at GSummit(*):

  • When designing a (business) game: focus on story (“Storyfication”) and keep the rules simple. Your players should be able to explore the game in order to learn.
  • IT consultancy companies are starting their gamification practices: Accenture, CapGemini, NTT Data already did. From what I heard most of them with an internal focus to increase employee engagement, strengthen collaboration between consultants.
  • Gamification is one of the mechanisms applied in education to help reducing the gigantic dropout rate in US colleges (80% drop out).
  • Television is never going to be the same
 US television stations are using gamification and social media to improve the overall experience (cross medium story telling). Viewers determine how TV series evolve by the games they play.
  • Many speakers emphasize the importance of employee and customer loyalty, surely in today’s rapidly changing business environments, and how gamification can help with that (Loyaltization to replace the term Gamification?).
  • Gamification is all about psychology. It’s amazing what we can learn from behavioral psychologists and the benefits their  soft science can bring in a tough business environment. One thing that came back in many presentations and case studies: when designing the game, don’t assume but carefully investigate what truly motivates your customers and/or employees. The right motivational drivers make or break the game.
  • Investors are still believing in gamification, to them gamification is the creativity element in software that IT developers lack…..Baaam
in my own IT face. Hard but true if you see some of the design failures in todays software.
  • But this statement made me realize why companies like SAP focus more on gamification nowadays. SAP first focused on efficiency (1 process fits all), when users start complaining about the user interface, SAP then focused on improving the user interface (to make transactions less cumbersome)… and now on elements of gamification to motivate people for doing (repetitive) transactions
 This evolution was confirmed during the talk of Mario Herger, the gamification guru from SAP.
  • The inability to think out of the box is something that I often see in many work related areas, but the most beautiful term for that is something I learned from Stella Grizont: Imagination Constipation.

(*) the lessons learned are not always literally what the speaker was stating, sometimes it’s a small personal adaption we both agree upon on a more general level based on my own believes and experience, sometimes it’s even quite the opposite.

Oh and before I forget…

Thank you Gabe Zichermann for inviting me over and providing me with the opportunity to speak  about the freakonomics of fun and how to convince customers on gamification!

And apologies to all the delegates that listened to my talk and who are now still traumatized by my “Gamification Song”.

The fun was all mine 🙂

See you next year at GSummit 2014 !

Video of my talk: http://www.gamification.co/gsummit-2013-sf-videos/ (password required)

Slides of my talk:  http://www.slideshare.net/BartBriers/freakonomics-of-fun-how-to-convince-clients-to-gamify