Pokémon Go creates gamification boom

By Scot Devine

16th May 2017

Did you spend last summer trying to catch them all? At its peak, 650 million people downloaded Pokémon Go, but now that’s down to a ’mere’ 65 million monthly active users. While that number is still massive, many believe that Pokémon Go made an even bigger impact – it showed that gamification actually works.

A student at Duke University School of Nursing reported to the American Heart Association that players were twice as likely to reach 10,000 daily steps as they were before taking up the game. The journal of the Society for Conservation Biology found that, by encouraging players to “go outside and consider various aspects of virtual species’ biology, the game could increase awareness and engagement with real-world nature.” And the University of Utah proposed that playing the game had myriad brain benefits, too. These reports make one abundantly clear: playing Pokémon Go changes behaviour.

Now the FT reports that, the game has inspired a revival in the “gamification” trend. Previously dismissed by many as “a buzzword that had lost its buzz”, its tactics “live on in health, education, human resources and advertising”. Like Pokémon Go, however, some companies use the tactic to drive behavioural change.

Technology company Philips, for instance, “uses gaming-style incentives in its children’s toothbrushes, encouraging users to interact with an app-based avatar-coach to improve their dental hygiene”.

Transport innovator, Uber, is also working on an “extraordinary experiment in behavioural science to subtly entice an independent work force to maximize its growth.” Hundreds of social scientists and data scientists are helping Uber experiment with video game techniques, graphics and noncash rewards of little value that nudge drivers into working longer and harder, perhaps for less pay.

Who knew that Pokémon Go could influence the lives of Uber drivers and children’s dental hygiene alike? And its influence is likely to be felt beyond the confines of that particular game as gamification begins to go mainstream.