3 Reasons Why Games Matter

Jane McGonigal wants your kids to experience an EPIC FAIL! If you haven’t heard of this wunderkind game designer and researcher, you should check her out. From her best-selling book, Reality is Broken, and the famous TED Talk about it to the SuperBetter site she designed to help her recover from the lingering effects of a concussion, Jane is on a mission to show the world that games matter. Here are three reasons why they do.

1. Learn by failing. – The importance of failure in achieving success has been well documented, and games are uniquely designed for players to fail upward. Players must be resilient to achieve success, and that resiliency is an essential skill to overcoming failures on the way to the top.

2. Games CAN influence behavior. – Last year, I took the Coursera course on gamification by Kevin Werbach of U Penn’s Wharton School. In it I learned many examples in which gamification (using game elements in the real world to influence behavior) invoked change. For example, Swedish officials at the request of Volkswagen tried a new approach to reduce speeding. They showed drivers the speed at which they were driving and entered them into a lottery each time they passed the display under the speed limit. The more times they passed within the limit, the more opportunity they had to win. This simple gamification resulted in a 20% decrease in overall speed. You can also read about the success of Ms. McGonigal’s SuperBetter site, where games are used to influence behavioral change, here.

3. They make boring better. – “Hey, kids, let’s talk about how to save your money! Who wants in?” I haven’t subjected that approach to rigorous testing, but I’m pretty positive that you’d have close to a 0% success rate with it. How about exposing those same kids to fun games and engaging characters associated with the right financial literacy themes (for example, something other than just spending, like sharing and saving) and important concepts (like delayed gratification and the differences between needs and wants, which are featured in our new app)? Now you’re talking! Teachers, coaches and parents are always looking for ways to spice up learning, and money games for kids are just one way this can be done.

“Teachers, coaches and parents are always looking for ways to spice up learning, and money games for kids are just one way this can be done.”

Want to know more? We created a special white paper for credit union and bank marketers (It’s also relevant to parents.) that talks about Ms. McGonigal and gamification in more detail.

Want to really dive deep? Sign up for Kevin Werbach’s terrific Coursera course on gamification. He does an amazing job surveying the landscape and examining the pros and cons of using games to change real-world behavior while paying particular attention to the importance of intrinsic motivation. Great stuff!