A concept to gamify regular applications

Nyan Cat - Internet meme

In this article we will express a simple and funny way to gamify applications or websites that aren't initially games (such as social media). We will then explore potential marketing implications, and try to bring positives applications for the mental health of users.


Gamify: Is the action to turn (an activity or task) into a game or something resembling a game.

Idle games: Idle games also known as, incremental, clicker, or clicking games, are video games whose gameplay consists of the player performing simple actions such as clicking on the screen repeatedly to earn currency. We will borrow some elements to this type of game for our concept (see an illustration in the example section).

Problematic of smartphone use: Studies have shown that the impact of smartphone overuse on mental health is quite serious. For exemple the amount of time spent on screens appears to have a correlation with happiness levels (intensive use is correlated with unhappiness). Consistent phone use can also cause a chain reaction, usually starting with social disorders, which can lead to depression and stress and ultimately affect lifestyle habits such as sleeping right and eating right (see more here). Generally speaking, the psychological symptoms that people who are addicted to smartphones might possess are depression, social isolation, low self-esteem and anxiety.

With this concept, we'll try to act on the eventual depression and social isolation of users.

Idea shot:

The main idea is to add visual, dynamic and interactives elements in an application to make it seems more friendly and alive. As in idle games, these visual elements could pop up for a particular events, such as Christmas and users' birthday, or randomly, to reward the user — all through a gamification process (see an illustration in the example section).

We'll give a concrete example using Reddit, by imagining theses scenarios:

  • For Christmas: The little alien could pop up on the screen with a Christmas hat, starting to walk from a side of the screen to the other. If the user click on it, this could give him some Reddit's credits.

  • For birthday: The little alien could fall from the top of the screen to the center with a cake, staring to jump everywhere. If the user click on it, this could redirect her or him to a special birthday page.

  • Randomly: The little alien could appears on the screen and sit in a corner. If the user click on it, this could redirect her or him to a random sub, to make her or him discover new things.

It could be possible to decline this to others events such as Halloween, the application's birthday, holidays, national events, etc...

In term of pure marketing this could act as a buzz factor, generate more traffic inside the application, and lengthen the session durations — thus generating more profit.

But the point I'd like to insist on is specifically on the user's mental health. As shown in the elements section, smartphone addiction tends to push depression and isolation forward. With such alive elements — personification of the application through dynamic and interactive visuals like in idle games — it could be possible to show support, or at least a presence during tough times, such as in these examples:

  • Valentine's Day: If the user is on the application this particular day, the little alien could pop up on screen several times with a heart is his hand. If the user catch it, it could redirect him to a funny sub.

  • New Year's Eve: If the user is on your application on the New Year's Eve, you should make this moment special for her or him. For example, the little alien could come and create a firework on the screen, if the user catch it, he could be redirected to a firework live.

  • Extended session: If the user is overusing the application, a sleepy alien could appears and zigzags on the screen. If the user click it, this could redirect her or him to a sub about insomnia.

The goal is really to take care.


In this idle game example — from the 23rd to the 27th second — we can see the eagle popping up on the screen and starting to move rapidly. When the player click on it, he got a reward.

Open to thoughts:

The examples given to illustrate this concept are still to be explored, developed and transposed to other applications. But, in my own view, it is firms and developers responsibilities to not overuse this as another vector of addiction for their applications. The initial will is to act positively on the mental health of users.

"Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community" ~ Anthony J. D'Angelo

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