Gamification in the Most Unlikely Places

9 10 2010

Successful game-based designs are everywhere – we just have to know where to look.  And they often appear in the most unlikely places. In this ongoing series, we’ll look at interesting implementations of game mechanics in places you wouldn’t suspect.  Today’s subject, for example, is found in the bathroom.

A popular “trade secret” of parents with toddlers is the wondrous multipurpose utility in Cheerios.  Parents are known to creatively present learning opportunities as games to their children.  In potty training, Cheerios become the perfect targets.  Simply throw a few Cheerios in the toilet and the children, especially boys, start target practice.  And it works.   Some parents even build upon the game, awarding stars for successful hits, leveling up targets with colored Fruit Loops, shaving cream or colored ice cubes.

One innovative company has even designed color-changing targets.

Are you finding your toddler isn’t interested or motivated by the target practice game mechanic?  Not to worry, there are many game mechanics available that align with different motivations and personality types.  Another option could address nurturing personalities.  For example, one parent shares this game variant that worked for their child:

“Every house has a toilet or two. Our toilet’s name is Mr Toilet, and his job is to eat up all the poo, so that people don’t get sore tummies. That’s what all toilets do. Mr Toilet is very hungry and very sad because you won’t feed him by going to sit on him to do No.2’s. Do you think you could help him to not feel sad anymore?”

“Imagine my surprise and elation”, said the parent, “when she looked at me for only a second before giving me a nod and a big smile, and then running off to “feed” Mr Toilet!”

Although this is not a common topic in most design-oriented Gamification blogs (Seth Godin’s Purple Cow?), I wanted to share an extension of this game mechanic used today by adults.

In Amsterdam’s airport, the men’s room porcelain urinals have an image of a single fly etched close to the urinal drains, as an experiment in human behavior.

The New York Times reported that “spillage” on the men’s-room floor fell by a remarkable 80 percent with the introduction of the etchings.  Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago, a pioneer in the increasingly influential field of behavioral economics, called this a “Nudge” or the subtle introduction of an engineered mechanic that manages to attract people’s attention and alter their behavior in a positive way. Best of all, a nudge does not actually require anyone to do anything to enforce it; it’s a part of human behavior.  Thaler suggests the flies are fun as “Men evidently like to aim at targets.”

Cheerios apparently works at any age!




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: