Gamification Assignment (2) – Motivation


You are approached by Ryan Morrison, the mayor of a medium-sized city in the Midwest of the United States. He has heard that you know a lot about gamification and believes that gamification techniques can transform city government.

He would like to start with the health of city employees. The city has 50,000 employees and they happen to have exactly the same rates of obesity as the U.S. average: 34.4% overweight (but not obese) and 33.9% of them are obese. 53.1% of the city’s employees do not meet the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity and 76% of them fail to meet the Guidelines for muscle-strengthening activity. The city pays for health benefits for its employees and this cost is a huge part of the city budget. Economists in Mayor Morrison’s office have estimated that a 3% improvement in the average physical fitness of city employees would amount to a US$94 million reduction in annual city health costs; a 5% improvement would save US$188 million.

Describe in general terms a gamified system that could effectively motivate behavior change to address the challenge presented above. Specifically, explain how the system would effectively incorporate intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, or both. Your answer should address the fact that this is an internal gamification project, targeted at the institutional goals of the city government. The system can use any technology (or no technology!), so long as the resources required seem justified by the scope of the opportunity.


A solution to the issue is organizing frequent social activities or programs that reward participants for their participation, such as weekly fitness weekend in the community centers or parks. Points are awarded to participants based on certain activities they take, for example: 30-mins aerobics class or 30-hour muscle-strengthening exercise. The points are accumulated and redeemable for tangible rewards at the end of the fitness day such as shopping vouchers or access to exclusive (fitness) trainings.

People might not have or already have a motivation to exercise, depending on individual. It’s an intrinsic motivation if they exercise for themselves. Attending programs and getting rewards isn’t necessarily crowding out their initial motivation. It tells them how important fitness is and what benefits one can get from exercising, which reinforces the intrinsic motivation. The program will also tell people how much the city committee cares for one’s wellness.

If ones has not exercised, rewarding points and other tangible prizes is an extrinsic motivation to get them join. Rewards can be expected and engagement-contingent (e.g: earn 10 points when you do 30-min aerobics); expected and completion-contingent (e.g: earn 10 points when you refer a friend and your friend does 30-min aerobics) or unexpected (e.g: win a lucky draw of an iPad). When people are required to perform tasks to earn rewards, they are actually putting themselves in real fitness activities. With frequent training, one is beneficial from what exercises bring about to them. Visible effects (weight loss, tone-up body) are pleasurable to everyone. It’s now no longer the rewards that matter but the real change one can feel in their body. At the same time, one has also built the momentum to exercise, they will keep doing it for themselves to maintain the status quo, otherwise maintain the fitness. This is where people go through Identification phase in the Motivational Spectrum and their extrinsic motivation is becoming intrinsic motivation.

Another aspect of these programs is the social interaction. Participants get to know more people who either have a common motivation (exercise) or a common desire (e.g: lose weight). This creates a community where peer-competition or peer-sharing happens. For those who are already exercising, they can train together, share tips or compete against each other. For those who haven’t, this community gives them confidence and urges them to start on fitness training. Once they have exercised regularly, the sense of belonging to a community will keep them going on.

In terms of technology, activities tracking and points rewarding/redemption can be recorded and monitored by a website or an iPhone app.

In short, having programs that rewards people to join fitness activities is a solution to the issue mentioned. Rewards are simply to draw people’s attention and motivate them to participate (extrinsic motivation). The rewards should be based on engagement and task-oriented activities to get people actually try on exercising. Once they have exercised regularly and learn how beneficial they are, it’s likely that they will carry on exercising for their own sake (intrinsic motivation).




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