How do we use this basic kind of gamification to encourage people to commit to socially beneficial programs though? Well, beer stores already kind of do this. Taking your liquor bottles in to get recycled nets you a small return in cash, which is just pennies back to the consumer on a return worth dollars to the establishment. What if it worked that way with soda cans? Grocery stores could dole out some spare change in return for people bringing back their emptied case of Coke or Pepsi products. Heck, considering how simple it is, I’m sure some places actually do it, but as far as I know, it’s not that widespread.
Then, what happens after that? Well, it can’t just stop at pocket change. That’s not proper gamification. What if we applied it to reward programs at grocery stores? The infrastructure already exists, and it’s not hard to add a new feature. Make it worthwhile to frequent recyclers. Give them a return on their grocery bill for good behaviour, or give out freebies for racking up points. It’s easy to budget for, and it can be beneficial to all parties if the right deals are made. No one ever said that environmentalism and making a profit had to be separate, and ideas like gamification can help marry them.
I’m all for gamification, as long as it’s used for social development, and not to hawk needless, useless product. I’m sure that’s inevitable and will exist for a period of time, but with how much progress we as a species have made in the last century, I’m also certain we can rise above that.