Soccer gamification

How Gamification Can Leverage Your Employees’ Fascination with the FIFA 2014 World Cup

Once in a while grand sporting events mesmerize everyone with the narrative beauty of Greek mythology and great performance of professional sports. At these intersections of sports, global competition and unforeseen results, work seems, well, less interesting.

Ever since the FIFA 2014 world cup began I am trying to figure out what glues millions of people across the globe (including myself) to the TV. What’s more interesting is that the people following the world cup are a diverse set: their passion for soccer (or football, depends on your nationality) crosses countries, social status, gender and age.

The reason the world cup is so engaging is because it has many elements that appeal to the basics of human nature, and to our deep affinity for games, competitions and narratives. Here’s what’s compelling in the FIFA world cup:

  1. Competition: the world’s best 32 national soccer teams all compete for one coveted world cup.
  2. A Game: this isn’t just a competition, this is a game with rules and clear metrics – goals
  3. Narratives: the world cup lasts for a whole month. Each national soccer team builds its own narrative during the world cup – the underdogs, the failed champions, new and old fashioned game tactics, the heroic efforts and the shameful losses. It all melds into one experience that is memorable, emotional and compelling.
  4. Team based: the competition isn’t personal. The Spanish team even proved that a team of stars isn’t enough and that it’s all in teamwork…
  5. A continuous effect with a sense of advancement – the FIFA world cup lasts a long period of time, resulting in an experience of intensity and continuity.
  6. Belonging – people root for the teams they care about and the ups and downs of the teams move them emotionally.
  7. Surprises – if the best team “on paper” would always win the world cup wouldn’t be that interesting. Part of the interest comes from the surprises and even the effects of luck and coincidence on a personal or team level.
  8. Fun – last but not least, following the world cup is a lot of fun

All this can be used to motivate employees. You can choose a gamification platform to do this: we offer gamification themes that combine fantasy sports and therefore many of the reasons that make the world cup compelling in the first place. These let employees compete against their colleagues, company benchmark or their own target. The combination of a weekly event, the game and the league is engaging.

But back to the world cup. Are you forced to wait patiently till it’s over? Do you need to live with the fact that employees are compelled by the world cup and less by work? I have some good news for you.

You can use the World Cup to create a mini-world-cup themed gamification contest that’s fun and great for business.

Fantasy sports are a great way of getting employees super involved, and of communicating company targets and goals, together with the importance of team plays. Mixing fantasy sports with the 2014 FIFA world cup is a great way to mix the pleasure of the games with the business of work.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Have each team/employee prioritize their favorite national teams at the world cup.
  2. Decide on a metric for the week. The team or individual with the best score gets their first choice and so on, down the priority list. Getting a team you don’t like can be a great motivator…
  3. Track the games each week. “Winners” get a small group prize: food, an outing together, time off. Send out fun emails tracking every team’s progress; organize joint viewing if possible. You can also distribute tiny flags – attach them to emails etc.
  4. At the end of the second week, re-allocate teams based on performance. To get the favorite team at the end of the world cup, you gotta work hard…
  5. Choose the metric for the next week – and have each team/person get a new team to “sponsor” according to that metric
  6. Eventually, one of the teams/individuals will win the world cup. Celebrate.