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Monday, December 24, 2012

Daily Report: Making Everything in Life a Game

Many businesses are using games to try to get people hooked on their products and services - and it is working, thanks to smartphones and the Internet, reports Nick Wingfield on Monday in The New York Times.

Buying a cup of coffee? Foursquare, the social networking app that helped popularize the gamification idea, gives people virtual badges for checking in at a local cafe or restaurant.

Conserving energy? More than 75 utilities have begun using a service from a company called Opower that awards badges to customers when they reduce their energy consumption. Customers can compare their progress with their neighbors' and friends and broadcast their achievements on Facebook. The endgame of Opower - its equivalent of defeating Donkey Kong - is to unlock the Cold Fusion badge by shifting entirely to solar power or another form of renewable energy.

People and businesses have long added game elements to parts of regular life. Parents reward their children for h ousehold work with gold-star stickers. Business travelers pump their fists when they hit elite traveler status on an airline.

But digital technologies like smartphones and cheap sensors have taken the phenomenon to a new level, especially among adults. Now, game concepts like points, badges and leader boards are so mainstream that they have become powerful motivators in many settings, even some incongruous ones. At a time when games are becoming ever more realistic, reality is becoming more gamelike.

The adoption of games has found particular resonance in the workplace, where games are no longer just a way to goof off.

Employers like Reed Elsevier, the publishing company, are using a Web-based game service from a company called Keas that encourages workers to stay healthy by grouping themselves into teams of six and collecting points for achieving mental and physical fitness goals. Among the challenges Keas assigns: laughing randomly for 30 seconds. The mem bers of winning teams at Reed each get $200 gift cards.