You Oughta Know: Gamification

I hate to jinx it…but I think — hope! — that the most miserable 48 hours of my life are now past. I don’t think I can blame the cheese, because I ended up running a fever of 103, nearly passed out twice, and spent all day on Tuesday in bed. It’s only the second sick day I’ve taken since starting my job in 2007, so that should tell you what I think about sick days.

I’m feeling much better today, although I’m still trying to eat bland foods and drink lots of fluids. Glad this all cleared out before the Healthy Living Summit this weekend!

There’s a lot of talk these days about “gamification” — or, using game-like functions (badges, awards, points) to encourage people to do certain things…

In the health and fitness world, that can mean getting points for eating well, or for logging foods, or for exercising, etc.

For example, there’s a new app called Monumental (http://monumental.meyouhealth.com/) from MeYou Health, and it gives you credit for climbing stairs (but makes it into a game, helping you feel like you’re climbing famous monuments).

You can track how your friends are doing, win awards, set new records, etc.

Another app that’s recently come to my attention is the Diet, Fitness, Meditation Guide by Riley Games (http://rileygames.com). In this game, you’re given daily challenges (drink water, meditate, etc.) and you earn rewards for meeting those challenges.

Other apps that integrate gaming into health are Spark People (http://sparkpeople.com/) and Daily Burn (http://dailyburn.com/). In each, you are rewarded for logging your food and activities.

So, what do I think about gamification with health and fitness?

I’m on the fence. I’m definitely interested in anything that can help people who may lack the discipline or motivation to stay on a plan without these incentives. And I’m also pro-community when it comes to healthy living — we’re better together!

But I’ve become very picky about sticking with tools, and if it’s not something where all my friends are or that gives me real benefits (not just virtual prizes), I’m not sure that it’s something I would devote my time and attention to. I also worry that people will spend more time playing with these apps than actually going out and working out!

What do you think? Do prizes and rewards motivate you to be healthy? Or are apps like these just more clutter?

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    I’m not sure how I feel about them either. I’ve gone back and forth every few months from using Livestrong.com to log my calories and fitness, and it gives me little badges for every X number of days I’ve logged in and done my duties. But to be honest, I don’t really wait on the edge of my seat for every new little badge I get. What do they mean, anyway? They’re encouraging me to come to their website every day, and to log my fitness activities daily, even though days of rest are important to any workout regimen.

    I haven’t tried any of the sites you’ve mentioned, but I don’t think they’d motivate me for very long, if at all. I’m an adult and my motivation to maintain my fitness should come from within, not from a game.

  2. 2

    says

    I think the apps are great in theory, but to me they are just clutter. I am supposed to be using a fitness and food logging program for work and it’s too hard to keep up with.

  3. 3

    says

    Honestly, they’re just not for me. I’ve tried a few like Daily Mile and some of them on SparkPeople but in the end I just feel like they take up my time and are pointless b/c I’m going to “take the stairs” anyway-why have to input it or have something that tracks that for me? We got this pedometer program at work last year called WAlking Spree and I think it was great for some of the more sedentary, middle aged people but for the general population (my company is about 75% 20-30 yr olds) it was just pointless and “another thing” to keep track of.

  4. 4

    says

    Honestly, those little trophies and badges do nothing for me. I use Sparkpeople and I 99% of the time ignore them. I don’t really get the point. It isn’t like some REAL person is telling me good job. But to each their own. What motivates me is seeing the REAL results in my own mirror.

    Glad you are feeling better!!

  5. 5

    says

    I think apps like that are probably good for people that struggle to motivate themselves on their own. But to me they seem like clutter. I do use DailyMile to track my workouts (and Garmin Connect) but I don’t workout *because* I want to make entries into those programs…I make entries into those programs *because* I worked out. That said, I do think using apps like that would be a fun way to get started with a fitness routine that you’d otherwise avoid.

  6. 6

    says

    I find that I’m not motivated to participate in things where I have to log activities because I just run out of time or forget. What I really like is something with a plan or program and I can see myself going through the different steps or days in it.

  7. 7

    says

    I know I’ve been lured into downloading an app to my phone because of it’s game-like qualities (most recent being DailyFeats) but if the content and user interface don’t wow me, I won’t use it. Usually, I end up forgetting to log and by the time I remember it, I feel like it isn’t worth it.

  8. 8

    says

    I think for people who aren’t internally motivated to workout and live healthfully, these apps may help them. I don’t use them myself because I like working out for the sake of it, not of getting to the next level.
    I do, however, love entering my mileage/workouts in Daily Mile and MyFitnessPal to see how I’m doing. But that doesn’t count, right?

  9. 9

    says

    Katy, thanks for giving Riley a look. We just released our app this month. As it’s our first version, we’d love to hear any feedback from you and your community. We’re thinking of Riley less as a logging tool and more as a way to support friends and enjoy time together as you pursue activities in life that help you look good and feel good. We have several apps on the App Store, and another coming this month. Looking forward to your input! .. Monica (www.rileygames.com)

  10. 10

    says

    It sounds like you had a rather nasty bug! Glad you’re feeling better…

    As for gamification? It’s not for me…I am not motivated by badges or levels or competitions when it comes to my health. Even back the day, before the internet, the idea of “rewards” for weight loss struck me as rather silly.

    I recently participated in MeYou Health’s #SmallActions Daily Challenge and I like the suggestions, but all the other stuff (“smiling” at other people’s posts, badges and levels and so on) kinda just make me roll my eyes…

  11. 11

    says

    Glad you’re feeling better! To be honest, while I like the idea of gamification, I’m more on the “it’s just more clutter” side of the fence. My motivation for working out is the way I feel afterwards and I don’t know if anything else could really motivate me on a daily basis that would be better than that.

  12. 12

    says

    1. I think Alanis Morisette when I see “You Oughta Know.”
    2. There *is* a site that gives you real-life prizes for working out/logging it: http://earndit.com/. You can integrate foursquare/Garmin/Nike+/etc. and you get points for working out that you can redeem for stuff!

    • 13

      says

      Theodora,

      I love EarnedIt. I haven’t redeemed any of my points yet… but I love getting those little post-gym emails about earning points for being healthy.

      - Alicia
      @AliciaGetsFit

  13. 14

    says

    Hi, Katy!

    Once again, it was terrific to finally meet you in person at the Healthy Living Summit.

    As the social media manager of MeYou Health (who created Monumental, which you highlight here), I wanted to chime in about gamification. It allows us (and others who use these mechanics, like Health Month and Daily Feats) to immediately create a positive experience and sense of progress for users. In this sense, users get real-time, right-away feedback (points, for example) that lets them feel a sense of accomplishment while it charts their progress (streaks, levels).

    You can read more about our approach to gamification here:
    http://www.meyouhealth.com/blog/2011/4/25/a-look-at-gamification-whats-the-use.html

    And we’re always happy to answer any questions you may have about gamification and mobile health apps.

    Have a great day!
    Alicia B.
    @AliciaGetsFit

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