Practically Green is a program that encourages sustainable living.  It’s a fantastic example of using gamification to engage people in a cause.  Their website says: “We make healthy green living simple, personal and relevant, trackable, and shareable. We also make it fun!”  It also mentions that Practically Green uses interactive technology, game mechanics, and social media, which as we saw with Fitocracy, are core to creating an engaging user experience.

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A critical aspect of Practically Green’s approach in our view is the broad range of ‘actions’ that participants can take to accomplish their sustainability objectives.  From not idling your car to volunteering at an environmental nonprofit organization, Practically Green provides many different ways for people to add more “green” in their lives.  This touches on two other fundamental aspects of gamification and, for that matter, games themselves, voluntariness and meaningful choices.

For something to be fun, it has to be voluntary.  This is an interesting notion vis-a-vis environmental sustainability, which many view as a societal responsibility.  Moreover, it’s not easy “being green” – the shear scale of environmental issues can feel overwhelming and intimidating for the uninitiated.  But by giving participants a wide variety of specific actions to select from, Practically Green has done a great job of making sustainable living feel voluntary, easy to engage in, and achievable.

Similarly, the notion of having meaningful choices is central to game-play because, by definition, games have uncertain outcomes.  If players don’t “choose wisely”, it can have consequences and worsen their chances of winning the game.  Practically Green scores well here.  The variety of actions provides participants with many different potential choices to make, thereby enriching the ‘game-play’.  And, like Fitocracy, Practically Green has assigned a points value to each action, helping participants understand the impact of their actions and – of course – keeping score of their progress!

Switching gears, our last example is not a fully gamified system or application, it’s the profile completeness progress bar on LinkedIn, the well-known professional network.  We include this example for two reasons – it demonstrates the power of feedback in motivating action and it’s a great example of specific-purpose, short-term gamification.

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Originally, LinkedIn didn’t have a progress bar to inform users how much of their profile they’d completed.  And many users weren’t taking the time to complete their profiles – it’s easy to see why: it’s not exactly a fun task.  By adding the progress bar, LinkedIn reportedly improved profile completion rates by 20%.  All this from a simple progress bar?  You bet: games use progress bars and other feedback devices to motivate action all the time.  And people respond to feedback.  In the case of LinkedIn, the percentage informs users how far away they are from their ‘completion objective’, while the nice little message under the progress bar provides a suggestive prompt for what to do next.  And, of course, seeing your profile completeness at 100% provides a satisfying sense of task achievement.

We also highlight the specific-purpose nature of the use of gamification in this example because not all applications require or should have a richly gamified solution.  Sometimes a feature here, or a technique there is all that is required to achieve the desired improvement.

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