Video Games! Science! Research! Having Fun (Officially) Makes Things Better

Research Through Gaming is the world’s first and only company completely specializing in the "Gamification of Research."

Every few days, I get emails from e-rewards.net inviting me to participate in consumer surveys. Usually, they take me about 15 or 20 minutes while I diligently fill in radio buttons ranking my agreement with a statement on a scale of 1-5. It's pretty boring, but it occasionally nets me some decent rewards. Because they're so tedious, I typically like to let them pile up and complete a handful of them at a time.

Today, I received an invite to participate in a 'survey about food.' Since I wasn't doing much, I decided to spend some time on it. When I clicked the link, I was pleasantly surprised.

Instead of the typical 'enter your age' screen that usually starts a research questionnaire off, I was presented with a character creation screen. It asked me to choose my gender, name, clothing, even hair style. Certainly it was no Skyrim character creation, but I was quite entertained by the choices offered to me.

My character was then plunked into a virtual house called the Playspondent™ Playhouse, where I was tasked with creating a new product. Without getting too muddled in the details of the actual consumer opinions I was asked to produce, I can say with absolute certainty that I was significantly more invested in this process than I have ever been in market research. I was allowed an opportunity to build a virtual world in which I could envision myself using the product I was asked to design.

THE SCIENCE OF FUN

I think there is a monumentally untapped potential in using video games to deduce the world around us. There has been exceptional research done in how video games help improve the lives of patients, research a cure for AIDs, and reprogram the human brain, so it stands to reason that they can help improve lives in so many new and exciting ways.

While the benefits of using video games to help market research might seem a little insidious (I'd imagine a very small population of people find advertising little more than an annoyance), it seems that roughly half of Research Through Gaming's goal is to generate more accurate research, but also to make research more entertaining.  From their website, Research Through Gaming explains the science behind the "Fun Theory":

In 2009, in the Odenplan Station in Stockholm, someone had the idea of turning a flight of stairs, located next to an ascending escalator, into a giant piano. Sounds crazy right? It was called the “Fun Theory,” coined by the creators of the experiment, Volkswagen. The result was that 66% more people used the stairs than the escalator. Research games give us and our respondents a chance to have some fun in the same way Volkswagen did with the giant piano.


Video: The best weight-loss tool of the past, uh... forever.

Research Through Gaming hopes to combat the declining response rate for things like market research with making it more, well... tolerable. The way I look at it, in a time of decreased attention span and a higher desire for reward, companies like Research Through Gaming are simply bringing slightly antiquated research techniques into the 21st century. Their website is home to several documents outlining where Research Through Gaming is coming from--and where it's heading. 

Games have become a huge part of our lives. We play games on social networking sites, on our phones and even take time out of our day to use a console to play. We even use gaming to simulate medical procedures, flights, conduct training within companies and more.

I could not possibly be more thrilled to find similar game-based research opportunities in my email inbox in the future. Maybe some fancy developers will sign on to the project and I'll actually be able to create a Nord or Redguard in my next research surveys. 

Featured Columnist

HC Billings is an excellent gamer, acceptable writer, and laughable parkourist.

Published Feb. 12th 2013
  • Ste Grainer
    Featured Correspondent
    Nice post! I can definitely see where actually taking some time to make the research "survey" into more of a game would be beneficial to both sides. You clearly enjoyed it more and felt more invested in it; and they were probably able to get more useful results.

    There was a great book published a few years ago called "Reality is Broken" by Jane McGonigal that explores some of this further. It was a fascinating read that I'm hoping to write a review of soon.

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