How Can We Gamify Money?

I’ve been stuck inside the house all weekend, awaiting the wrath of Hurricane Isaac that never happened, and I started thinking about new trends in personal finance.

I think there’s a big opportunity for someone to make a lot of money, go beyond the gamification that Mint and other players in the space have provided in the last few years, and really make money management a lot of fun.

If you’re lost, let’s define what it means to gamify something. Gamification.org says it’s:

“applying game design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging.”

Some of my favorite examples in the health space include websites like WeightWatchers (uses a points and badges system, among other tools) and Fitocracy (rewards workouts by points, badges, levels, and social recognition).

In her TED talk, Jane McGonigal believes that playing games (with her health) even helped her get better and overcome her health problems!

What are some of the components of game mechanics? According to Gamification.org, it includes things like:

  • Achievements (badges, recognition, etc.)
  • Bonuses
  • Countdowns
  • Points & Progression
  • Urgent Optimism (“Extreme self motivation. The desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.”)
If you’ve ever played a computer game, Wii, Xbox, or Farmville, you would be able to identify many of the tactics used by game mechanics.

Not Nearly Enough of This…

Game mechanics can instantly motivate you to achieve goals and dreams that might otherwise feel second-rate or hard to get emotionally attached to. I believe the personal finance space needs a lot more innovation when it comes to integrating game mechanics.

A few companies are trying:

  • Mint is among the most widely used online personal finance managers. Their goals module uses visual props, email reminders, and urgency to move you toward your goals.
  • SmartyPig is a savings account that integrates social participation by allowing you to share your goals and invite contributions using social media and traditional methods.
  • PlayMoolah is creating children’s games to teach them about money, but it’s still not a system that you could use for everyday money management.
  • Bobber is a company creating game mechanics solution for banks and others, but it’s not exactly clear what they do or what some of their solutions look like.
  • U.S. news reports about credit apps like Debt Free, which attempt to put some urgency and visual fun in the process of paying off your debt.

Design a System

If you had to design a new game theory-based system for money from scratch, what would you include?

I would love to see things like:

  • Badges and public recognition for achievements.
  • Points for logging in and checking on your money or performing other helpful tasks.
  • Habit-creating games.
  • “Levels” for financial mastery.
  • Bonuses for meeting budgets, saving, learning about money, etc.

How about you?

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One thought on “How Can We Gamify Money?

  1. hey,

    We must eat the same cereal or something, as I’ve recently had a similar view!?

    The issue I’ve found with Gamifying finances, is its unethical on an intrinsic level. By attaching value within the game such as 5+ for paying your credit card early 10+ for buying a Starbucks 30+ for going the gym 200+ for saving, it may lead to a financial decision, for the better or worse, its ethically wrong to force people into a way of thinking, even if it is for their own sake!

    The game would have to seriously have a solid disclaimer, and the users may lose faith of intentions with the app, say for example leading you to move to a sponsored credit card, etc..

    Really exciting idea tho, and one which I will definitely explore further (Ive actually been attempting to build and iphone app which does the above)

    Thanks for sharing

    Steve.

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