The Playpump: How a think outside the box to solve worldly problems

New to Gamification? Check out Yu-kai Chou’s post on What is Gamification & his Gamification Framework: Octalysis

Gamification visits the Third World

Most of the time, we think of Gamification as a technique to get consumers to like our products more, to be more productive in life, and improve our workplace, but Gamification can sometimes be used to save an entire nation.

While we enjoy our Twitter, iPhones, Starbucks, and Reality Shows, many third world country nations are literally thirsty for clean water. Some families need to travel for 2 hours one way just to get a bucket of clean water for their families.

I’ve spent 6 years of my childhood in South Africa, and even though most of the nation has fine standards of living, there are some places that show how fragile the human life really is.

We’re not talking about failing a test, losing your job or being dumped – stuff that could make us depressed for weeks – we’re talking about watching your family members die or dying yourself in a constant basis.

In some places, the lack of clean water often causes many deaths from diseases like Diarrhea, which in effect pollutes the environment and causes more diseases.

In fact, in 1998, there were 2 million deaths in Africa alone that is caused by Diarrhea, and the death of children alone from it exceeds the total deaths of people who died in war since World War 2!

But there actually is clean water from wells underground that can prevent all f this. It’s just too difficult to get it out.

A strong will with an idea

An innovative organization saw the opportunity: getting water from the wells was critical but laborious and difficult. If they could simply make it fun and easy, then they can literally save lives and change the world.

Making such a task easy perhaps wasn’t possible, but making it fun surely was! The organization invented the Playpump, which “harnesses the power of children playing” to provide villages with clean water.

Kids would play on this “merry-go-round” (because their parents grounded them from playing Diablo III), and with that voluntary power, gallons and gallons of clean, drinkable water are pumped out of the ground.

Now, kids can have fun and use up some of their excessive energies, while their parents can save on babysitter costs. As a spillover, thousands of people gets clean drinking water and people stop dying too.

This concept of turning something tedious, boring but productive into something fun and engaging is Gamification at its finest.

Logistical and Growth Problems

Even though the PlayPump ultimately failed due to overgrowth and lack of careful management and iterations, it is still a great idea of thinking outside the box and using fun to solve real world problems. I think they had a good opportunity to make something better that fit local markets even better but failed to execute properly.

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