Changing Habits with Gamification


The H in my A to Z of Gamification is for Habits.

Good habits or bad habits, in the last decade psychological studies have shown us time and time again that we’re all creatures of habits. Instead of us being the rationale tempered individuals led by concious choice, we’ve come to realise most of us, most of the time run on auto-pilot. Charles Duhigg, explains the ins and outs in this in a Ted Talk, below, based on his book ‘The Power of Habit‘.

The cue, routine and reward, habit loop described in this video, is one gamers are extremely familiar with. For Massive Multipler Online (MMO) players, it can often be affectionately or negatively referred to ‘grinding’.

Grinding is a term used in video gaming to describe the the process of engaging in repetitive tasks during video game.

…Grinding is a controversial subject among players. Many do not enjoy it, and disparage it as a symptom of poor or uninspired game design. Others embrace it, claiming that all games feature grinding to some extent, or claim to enjoy the practice of regular grinding.


Sound strange? Well going back to the Duke University research. “Experience-sampling diary studies using both student and community samples, [showed] approximately 45% of everyday behaviors tended to be repeated in the same location almost every day”.

That’s almost half our lives spent doing the same repetitive things.

Gamification of Habits

Games have this habit loop of triggers and rewards through well designed feedback systems.

It’s no surprise then that gamifcation solutions have focused in on the gamification of habits as an area of obvious overlap between existing gaming methods and real life. With areas such as personal welless and healthcare being one of the most popular.

The habit loop or game action loop, however can go by other names too like the compulsion loop and even something as health as walking more can have unintended consequences, as this next Ted talk video reveals one woman’s story of the hidden pathology of a gamified pedometer.

For more about habits, here’s the surprising truth about how long it takes to form new habits. Spoiler: It’s not 21 days

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *