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Gamification at WordPress December 18, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification.

As a professor, but also in my practical work, I have been looking quite a lot into the potentials of gamification.

The other day I stumbled on an example for gamification, which did not really convince me: Here at WordPress, after each post one writes, a sidebar opens and displays the number of posts one has written so far:

Firstly, I find it strange to think that the number of posts is a motivation for people writing their blogs.

But then – to use one of the core gamification elements, the progression dynamics, to motivate people to write 5 more blog posts, seems even stranger to me.

So, when I finally reached the 190st post, then I will get motivated to write more by another progress bar helping me to reach my “Next Posting Goal” of 195 posts?

The typography in this sidebar is also quite interesting: in the sentence “You published your 188th post.” it is not “You”, who is highlightes, also not “188” or “post”, but “published” – and who is the publisher? Yes, it is WordPress!

I think that WordPress should rethink their gamification strategy and have a close look at what motivates their users…



Games, Life & Utopia October 25, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in event, gamification.
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I am currently preparing a conference on Gamification, which will take place on November 11th in Potsdam – and I would like to invite you!

Games, Life and Utopia is a half-day event that is all about gamification, serious games, learning and play. It’s a conference for service and interaction designers, for social activists, for artists, for business developers and geeks, and of course for gamers.

Gamification has garnered a lot of attention in recent years – both from academia and industry. At the event Games, Life and Utopia we will explore the potential and the boundaries of this emerging field. We will discuss the latest research results and discuss applications, not only in games, but also as tools for behavioral change.

For further information please check the website:
And of course if you have questions, please feel free to contact me!

See you in Potsdam!

Research Project “EcoViz” at FHP wins price!!! September 19, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in ecoviz, gamification, sustainable interaction design.
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(image source)(left: Frank Heidmann (FHP), center: Timm Kekeritz (Rauhreif)

I am very proud to announce that one of the projects within the larger research project “Eco-Viz“, which I am heading with my colleague Frank Heidmann, won the German “clean tech media award” in the category “communication”:

The winning project is called “Eco Challenge” and has been developed by Rauhreif, an interface design company started by two alumnis from the “Interface Design” department where I am teaching. Eco Challenge consists of carefully designed info-graphics to help to raise the awareness, a included calculator which enables the user to quantify his own behavior and so called »Challenges« which provide the users with a small assignments. These assignments are small steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle. (source)




Two in One: Sustainability and Efficiency in Dutch Supermarkets September 19, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification, service design, sustainable interaction design.
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(image source)

Jumbo, a supermarket chain from the Netherland, came up with a nice solution for two aspects of their business: avoiding to throw away food and reducing the workload of their employees:

Every costumer, who finds a product, which is expiring on the same or on the next day, can take it home – for free.(here the rule in dutch)

Maybe I am wrong with the title “two in one” – because actually I forgot to count the joy of shopping!


(via FAZ Supermarktblog, a nice blog on food and large supermarket chains by one of the leading German newspapers.)

App helping to pay off debt September 15, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification, learning, making the invisible visible, service design.
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(image source)

There are various approaches of how to pay back loans. One is called the ‘Snowball Method‘: “one who owes on more than one account pays off the accounts starting with the smallest balances first while paying the minimum on larger debts. Once the smallest debt is paid off, one proceeds to the next slightly larger small debt above that, so on and so forth, gradually proceeding to the larger ones later” (Wiki).

The idea behind this method is that it is that it is psychologically rewarding to see results, “because of the psychological boost people get when they pay off a loan—it encourages them to keep working at clearing the other debts” (M.Frauenfelder)

There is an app for that – called “Debt Free”. Here a screenshot:

(image source)

I am posting this not only as service design in banking is a upcoming area, but also because this app fits into the discussion we currently are having related to Gamification:Some of the aspects off the ‘Snowball Method’ can for sure be transferred into other domains, as e.g. learning.

Gamification and Learning (2 examples) August 25, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification, learning, play.
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It is obvious and heavily discussed that gamification can help while learning.

Here are two examples for how this could look like:

Salman Khan founded the Khan Academy, which not only offers videos for learning (which is handy as the laerner can choose his own pace and his own content) but also exploits gamification strategies for motivating the learners:

(image source)

One can see badges (they are called archievements), progress bars in various forms (as e.g. “80/99”) or points (653285 – wow!), all classical elements of gamification.

In his inspiring TED-talk, Salman points out that “technology is used to humanize the class room”. This thought is important, especially as I come from Physical Interaction Design: using gamification and other e-learning technologies does NOT mean that traditional classrooms have to be closed down. On the contrary, they play a crutial role in learning as only here one can provide a human experience where peers and/or student and teachers interact with each other.

(video source)(In this video, Salman also explains a little more about the game mechanics they are using)

This link to the real world is even taken one step further in the next example: Quest-to-Learn, a New York based school founded in 2009, is bringing the concept of gamification to traditional schools. Katie Salen, the founder of the school, talks about “game-like learning”. By this she means amongst others “challenge-based contexts”, “high expectations of students’ abilities and skills”, “participation in activities that engage their voluntary commitment”, “opportunities to make contributions and to have these recognized and assessed” and “continuity of support” (source). In this video Katie explains a little more about her concept:

(video source)

I think both projects are quite inspiring for what we are planning to do in my research project “Experience the Energy,” but also for the way we teach academically. Luckily in Design we already have small classes and a strong focus on doing, but I think we can get much better…

Also for interface design we need to understand more about gamification and learning: the tasks which can be supported by technology are getting more and more complex but the willingness to learn is not growing at all!!! (Actually, two years ago, a friend of mine, senior designer at Philips Medical, told me, that they are having huge problems because medical personell (including doctors) are not willing to learn anything – actually most Dictaphones returned are returned by doctors who are claiming that the device is not working, but who just didn know how to use it… I am already scared of my first encounter with a complicated medical device – hopefully the operator read and understood the instructions…)

Energy Visualization in Japan August 3, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in ecoviz, gamification, innovative interfaces, sustainable interaction design.





Because of the horrible disaster in Japan only 17 out of 55 nuclear plants are currently operating. Therefore there is a high need of reducing energy consumption.


One oft the measures taken is a visualization of the current energy consumption. On this website, TEPCO, the company operating the broken plants of Fukushima, is showing real time data about energy consumption, and comparing it with last year’s consumption, the day’s maximum supply and demand from the day before:

(image source, screenshot taken today)

According to this article in the New York Times, so far forecasts and actual use have hovered around 75 percent of maximum capacity, “thanks to unseasonably cool weather brought on by a typhoon”.

I doubt whether this tool will really make people change their behavior. It does not really help to understand one’s personal impact on reduction of energy consumption as the graph is displaying the total Electricity use within TEPCO’s service area. This includes not only a huge population, but also many industrial facilities.

So, I guess it would make more sense to break this information down to individual consumption of households and companies. Furthermore, I suggest that applying simple rules of gamification (goal setting, comparison to similar units, communicating personal behaviors, etc.) would help to support the good will of the motivated population. Especially in Japan, where the society is very transparent (just think of paper doors and walls), I assume that making one’s energy consumption more transparent would motivate people – and not make them feel like living in Orwell’s 1984 – at least when the form of displaying this information is designed correctly.

The Hero’s Journey in Presentation July 12, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification, presentation, service design.
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Yesterday a student of the design department where I am teaching, Felix Barthel, presented his diploma thesis, which was a theoretical approach to presentation. He really did a nice job introducing various techniques and finally presenting a concept, which I haven’t heard of yet (but is heavily discussed in the internet, as I had to find out…):

Nancy Duarte  made an interesting observation related to presentations: it is not about the speaker, who needs to convey his audience that he is an hero, but about the audience, which the speaker has to take on a Hero’s Journey.

The Hero’s Journey is a well-known concept for story telling first described by Joseph John Campbell. It is used in many films and explains the phases the hero usually has to go through:

(image source, page 33)

In presentations – according to Duarte – it is all about being the mentor and taking your audience by the hand to take on the “call of adventure”.

Duarte also developed her own visualization of such a dramaturgy:

(image source, page 36-37)

In her TEDx talk Duarte explain how Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs use these technique to convince their audience.

I reall like her concept and think it might not only be interesting for presentations, but also for interfaces or services: the jump between what is and what could be must be designed in a convincing and interesting way – so that people “cross the threshold”! In game design the hero’s journey is being discussed, but in normal interface design I am not aware of any discussion – but at the end also an interface tries to convince people to take the call of adventure – and need to communicate it. Facebook is for example having a well-crafted experience if you are not a facebook user to show you what could be there…
Maybe I have to think a little more on that concept 🙂

Behavior Grid June 20, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification, service design, social computing, theory.
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B.J. Fogg, the Director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, published the “behavior grid“, which categorized 15 forms of behavior change:

(image source)

Now we can talk more clearly about behavior changes (e.g. “BlueDot Behavior” vs. “BlackPath Behavior”). I think this is really helpful.

Fogg is also offering strategies for each use case. However, the free online version does not really offer mind-blowing “guides”. For example in the GrayPathBehavior they suggest:

“A. Remove the trigger that leads to the undesirable behavior
B. Reduce ability to perform the behavior (make it harder to do)
C. Replace motivation for doing the behavior with de-motivators:  pain, fear, or social rejection”

Similar to this, in the BlackPathBehavior they also suggest “Remove the triggerReduce the Motivation and Reduce the Ability”…

Even though I appreciate the model of trigger, ability and motivation, I think it is hard to define really differentiating strategies for all use cases.

One of my MA-students, David Ikuye, pointed this work out to me. Thanks!

mint.com – Gamification in Personal Finance May 25, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification, service design.

Those of you, who read this blog, know that I am currently interested in gamification and in banking (amongst a lot of other things… 🙂 )

In his Google Tech Talk, the researcher and designer Sebastian Deterding mentions mint.com, basically an online banking software, which “pulls all your financial accounts into one place” – for free, which is kind of scary…

Mint’s “core beliefs has always been that money management shouldn’t feel like a chore” (source: mintblog) and therefore Mint trying various approaches to bring gamification into their service:

One approach is to help their customers to become finacially “fit”: they made a list of tasks to achieve this fitness and are showing the progress:

(image source)

(image source)

Mint also helps their customers to achieve personal saving goals by using similar game mechanics:

(image source)

(image source)

Mint is also using a simple computer game to teach highschool kids about how to deal with money in a responsible way:

(images source) (you need to play the game)
Well, this game is really too simple for my taste. I guess it would be much more interesting to use a sim-city kind of approach to let young people know how dealing with money in a wrong way might affect their future…

But altogether I think it is a good idea to use gamification for managing personal finances. I guess mint could even go some steps further as e.g. with the integration into personal social networks, but who knows: maybe there are planning this right now…