‘Counterstrike’ Road Safety Challenge with Gamification

Keyoor Purani [1]

The New Motor Vehicle Act 2019, supposed to be implemented from September 01, still faces resistance from several states, who find the steep hike in penalties and fines for traffic offences unacceptable. While the argument that, for better road safety, stricter implementation of the rules is required is fully convincing, heavy fines seem to have practical concerns in a country like India. With mere awareness campaigns not yielding any significant results and implementation of law remaining a challenge, changing behavior of people on road demands an innovative approach. Technology becoming more accessible and all-pervasive, gamification could be an interesting method to address such a dilemma.

The popularity of video games like Counter-Strike, PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds aka PUBG or Pokemon GO reflect the ability of games to engage individuals. A game is a voluntary attempt to achieve goals using only those means that are permitted by its rules. The interesting part of a game is that people play games with lusory attitude, i.e. they are accepting of the game’s rules even if these appear sub-efficient for the task at hand. The resulting experience of prize points or levels is rewarding to humans psychologically and, increasingly, socially. If people can accept rules in a game to achieve certain goals, why can they not accept real rules in real life for real rewards? Gamification uses game elements and game design techniques in non-game, real-life contexts for making people achieve behavioral modification by voluntarily following a set of rules. Business organizations have used gaming techniques to change behavior for quite some time[2] but technology has enabled gamification to address a wider range of behavior-modification applications. Gamification, hence, has already become a strategic tool for businesses to engage their customers and employees to successfully modify their behavior.

One of the big behavior change problems impacted by gamification in recent time is fitness. Nike, with their FuelBand, triggered a revolution. Fitness tech wristband which tracked day-to-day activities and measured this through a new medium called NikeFuel made several users modify their exercise behavior. The more active they became, the more NikeFuel they were rewarded per day. Today, several mobile apps and wearable technologies enable gamification with the behavior modification goal of fitness. What is interesting is that many individuals who had the awareness, even the right attitude but had some inertia preventing them to achieve their fitness goals, have now found an engaging way to modify their behavior. Technology permit tracking of activities, real-time feedback and sharing of information, which combined with gaming elements such as points, badges, levels, milestone unlocks, leader board, progress bar, avatars permit gamification.

Companies like Volkswagen and Samsung have also gamified road safety in certain parts of the world. For example, Samsung S-drive mobile app became very successful in making younger smart-phone users follow safe driving in Australia.

Not only did it use GPS technology to track various types of traffic information but drivers could earn points for every kilometer of safe travel and create Drive Teams with two friends via Facebook. Rewards, achievement, competition, self-expression resulting from game elements provide promised reinforcement for following the rules of the game enabling behavior change. The points earned for following traffic rules may be exchanged for real rewards – which may be sponsored by relevant brands – or can be donated for supporting the road safety cause with the support of government or NGOs.

Governments in countries such as India face several challenges that demand mass behavior change. As being experienced in the implementation of the new motor vehicle act, real penalty or rewards for following the rules are impractical when it comes to masses in developing countries. A simulated approach through gamification can help address road safety effectively as the penetration of smartphones and other wearable technologies are on the rise among the younger generation. With the promise of a significantly high impact compared to the traditional public awareness campaigns, gamification can contribute to behavior change issues like cleanliness, health and hygiene and be a great tool for societal change.

[1] Keyoor Purani is a professor in the marketing area at IIM Kozhikode.

[2] For example, traditional reward and recognition programs for customers and employees including ‘Service champ of the month’ on notice boards or simulation for training


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