How Gamification is Transforming my Engagement with Change


Today I “planted” 14 trees before 7am, that is a monstrous feat is it not!? I can assure you that I did not dig a single spade of earth. 

Let me explain: As I was booking my train ticket this morning, I fell down a “gamification” rabbit hole set up by TrainPal, the app through which I buy my train tickets. The app lets you grow digital trees, watering them each journey, once your tree reaches becomes level three , a physical tree s planted in Madagascar. The digital trees and the watering are all paid for with loyalty points. I have no idea how long this feature has been available, but I have amassed the points earned from travelling 6197.87km over 54 trips, making up 92 hours and 49 minutes of travel time, since my records began.  

Each day, through taking the train to work, I am (according to the app) offsetting 11.8kg of carbon from getting the train into the office.  

Is this gamification feature necessary? Would the warm fuzzy feeling just knowing that TrainPal is offsetting 11.8kgs of carbon for each of my journeys by planting a tree on the other side of the world be enough? 

Well, I must say I did feel rather mighty having actually “done something” rather than it just happening. That said, I did have to sit and laboriously tap on my watering can over and over again to enable the planting. However, now it is done, I think I will be watering my tree every day and feel a lot more chipper whilst on my commute, knowing that I am in my own small way helping.  

Gamification features, coupled with the strategic collaboration of environmental and structural entities, is ultimately an unparalleled growth story. The task of manually planting a tree is no mean feat, and something many of us would not have time for. By turning mundane daily tasks into a positive environmental solution, we can expect to see people feeling and seeing the physical, or at least digital impact, of their daily choices

Why is gamification a useful tool?

Many people like to win, to see achievement reflected through badges and leaderboards, and growth motivates the user, encouraging them to come back and continue. Although not for everyone, having an additional incentive such as growing a tree will begin to encourage a diverse group of individuals to participate and engage. For more information on gamification you can take a look at this blog I wrote back in November 2022. At its crux, gamification promotes desired behaviours, encouraging people to adopt and engage with new courses of action, such as promoting health objectives through fitness and diet, environmental improvements or education, . 

As we look at the idea of gamification through a sustainable, perhaps ESG driven lens, we can see almost endless industry wide opportunities. Encouraging engagement and participation can lead to real changes in behaviour which can support firms and their employees green agenda transformation. Examples of this include encouraging recycling by collecting points which accumulate to give some reward (such as a planted tree?!), rather than by being told it is what you should do.  

The Future of Gamification

Looking ahead, the potential for gamification to drive change and engagement is significant. As technology continues to evolve, so too will the sophistication of gamification techniques. Virtual reality, augmented reality, and other immersive technologies could further enhance the user experience, increasing engagement and hence impact of change-related activities . 

Can we expect to see more gamification? I suspect so… By making change fun and rewarding, gamification can motivate individuals to make the desired choices in their daily lives as firms look to encourage the behaviours that match their goals, be they sustainability, marketing, or product improvement – “you’re not just playing a game, you’re making a difference.” 

By Ella Bertrand on 09/04/2024