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BLOG: Are games the solution to our savings crisis?

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Gamification is taking the corporate world by storm, but it could also get younger generations interested in saving, writes Joanna Faith.
BLOG: Are games the solution to our savings crisis?

I’m addicted to Words with Friends on my iPhone at the moment. For the uninitiated, it’s basically electronic Scrabble where you either play against people you know or total strangers. It gets very competitive and can leave you socially inadequate for hours at a time.

So maybe that’s why I was so drawn to a press release which landed on my desk this week promoting a book called ‘Play at Work’.

Unfortunately, the book isn’t about how to get away with playing Words with Friends undetected.

It is about how cutting-edge managers are using ‘gamification’ – the use of games in a non-game context – to increase morale and productivity in the workplace.

According to author Adam Penenberg, because games are about players achieving goals while having fun, Google, Microsoft, L’Oreal and countless other companies have embraced them to make workers more satisfied as well as improve products and services.

Here are just two examples: a software developer changed Microsoft’s mind-numbing code review process into a fun, team based game, while Google managed to index its massive image database using volunteers by turning the process into one huge game.

Companies are also using gamification to engage with consumers. Users of the Nike+ fitness app can log their physical activity and the app rewards them with points they call “NikeFuel”. It encourages them to reach their fitness goals and allows them to share their accomplishments with friends. The more NikeFuel they earn, the more awards, trophies and surprise gifts they earn.

But gamification hasn’t just grabbed the attention of the corporate world.

Teachers are trying to make learning more fun by introducing games into the classroom in the hope of keeping children engaged for longer.

This made me think about how many banks, building societies and other financial services providers are using gamification to encourage kids to start saving or educate them about money.

We know there is a savings crisis in the UK – we are not putting enough money away for our futures yet we are living longer. We are also told that adult money habits are set by the age of seven. So educating the young about personal finance is crucial.

However, after a look around the internet and a phone call to the Personal Finance Education Group (Pfeg), I could only find one firm using gamification: Roosterbank. (I’m more than happy to be corrected on this.)

Of course, Roosterbank is aimed at kids so it’s hardly surprising games feature on the site.

But what about the others? It seems they are missing out on a great way to engage with children and parents.

Wouldn’t it be in providers’ best interests to coach kids in a fun and informal way from a young age about money matters? After all, the kids today are tomorrow’s customers.

Joanna Faith is editor of

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