Gamification: How Can We Work It?

BadgesDuring Eric Hackathorn’s recent webinar on ‘Game On! How Gamification Can Work in Government’, it was stated that “recent studies show that 70% of Americans play video or computer games. The numbers are expected to rise with mobile apps and other emerging technology. ” This statement was followed by the question, “ how can government tap into this surge?

Here at, this has been a question we have been throwing around for the past three years when we saw the heavy presence on the topic of gamification at SXSW Exit Disclaimer, the conference where many start-ups debut.

Stepping back a bit, the internet started out as a very basic communication platform, allowing dispersed people to communicate and provide information textually, almost instantly.  From its humble beginnings, a massive medium for digesting information emerged throughout the modern world.  Regular denizens, whose knowledge was once limited to what they could read in the local newspaper or check out at their library, had access to the sum of the world’s knowledge base.  The question for content providers was: how do you get them to read your stuff? The internet has iterated several times in its rather short life span and we have been talking a lot about how to engage users and provide them with content they really want to see in an interactive manner.

Insert the concept of gamification.

Every single one of us has indulged in games at some point in our life (and still do regularly!). Whether it is through simple board games like checkers or Life, to more immersive experiences like World of Warcraft or the Diablo franchise, games have engaged us for the entirety of our existence.

So how can we leverage games to educate and engage our audience in HIV/AIDS related subject matters?

By allowing the users of your site to interact not only with the content on the pages, but with other people reading the same topic, you can create an environment where collaboration and competition take hold.  Services and websites like Foursquare Exit Disclaimer engage users by awarding badges for accomplishing specific activities which increases the engagement of your audience.  Instead of checking into your local bar or any new destination point, you are now competing with your friends (and strangers) to be the person with the most check-ins or badges.

Similarly you can leverage the concept of leaderboards and leveling to give users a source of pride in the time they have spent on your site, accomplishing different types of activities while showcasing their accomplishments. Allowing users to see where they rank against the people around the world gives a sense of urgency to improve their knowledge/accomplishments relating to specific subject areas.

The digital world as we know it is predicated on social activities, and adding elements of this to your website can allow users to form communities to interact with each other about your content.  At the end of the day humans want to be rewarded for the things that they do, and even simple gamification techniques can accomplish that. Our challenge for the future will be, do we and how do we smartly incorporate gamification into’s digital strategy?

The great Charles Lamb, English essayist, once said: “Man is a gaming animal. He must always be trying to get the better in something or other.”


  1. Great post…

    2 weeks ago, my company (The Game Agency) launched, a gamified e-learning platform developed to help healthcare professionals link HIV+ individuals to and retain patients in care. combines traditional e-learning techniques with motivational game mechanics to create a learning environment that empowers healthcare professionals and improves their performance on the job. is the result of collaboration between experts in the fields of public policy, education and game development and was underwritten by pharmaceutical company Merck & Co.

    Using the latest technology for seamless interactivity across multiple web-browsers, guides users through five learning modules with a combination of didactic training, video simulations and game mechanics that both engage and evaluate understanding of the material. Within this self-paced, modular program, users receive points for everything they do and can unlock badges for good performance, frequent use and completion activities.

  2. Great post Cathy! There are so many ways gamification can be used to encourage positive behavior and awareness of issues. I’m excited to present a panel on Gamification for Good at the Badgeville Summit this week ( where the panelists — including case studies from sustainability, cancer awareness, health & wellness, and charitable giving will discuss ways gamification can be used to change the world for the better. If you happen to be near SF I’d be happy to extend you and the community an invite to this event.

  3. Lenora Tooher says:

    We need to lean on the gaming ‘addiction’ by presenting ads from the NIAID HIV successes and allow the gamers to enjoy their game but at certain ‘game winning moments’, whether that is during the game (ie. you do a double-jump in checkers; you catch a faster ball; you made it to the next level, etc.), before or after the ‘loss’ or ‘win’ of the game at hand, you should put a very small snippet of health data that is just too simple to forget AND too important NOT to know. Sex sells and we all know it. The company needs/should agree to comply with insertion of this ‘factoid’ in order to help the world learn. The ‘dumming down of America’ needs to cease. Weave the ‘factoid’ into a data snippet which is presented to the gamer ie. a picture of the new condom or ‘goop’ or ‘news of the day’ such as ’54 lives were saved in San Francisco today (put their locale here so it is relevant!)’ followed by the new medicine available. A SLOW fade of the ad will make it not so abrupt and annoying to the viewer. It is impact and hopefully knowledge which will be gained regardless of the cognitive state of the game player. Keep it simple! We can do it. For example, I may not care to remember the inane movie I was forced to watch years ago but there was something about those ‘3 guys dressed in black, flowing capes who just slowly APPEARED and then strut out of the tall corn field’ that made me PAY ATTENTION. Trust me, I knew those 3 men meant business as should be our efforts to educate in a small way which is still effective. Steal from Hollywood- IF it is legal, of course.
    Happy to help.

    Professionally yours,

    Lenora Tooher, MS, BS, BS Biology, Currently Unemployed and want to work!
    Ex-AIDS Researcher with Dr. Kenneth Rand, MD Dir. of Virology Shands Teaching Hospital, Gainesville, FL

Speak Your Mind


* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *