the game research group. I originally
studied CS at Aalto University, but by
the time I had completed a B.Sc. worth
of courses, I decided to take a chance
on something completely different. I
dropped out of Aalto and applied to
Salpaus, a top circus school in Finland.
I had previously practiced many forms
of movement, in particular Capoeira
and acrobatics. I eventually graduated
from Salpaus with a specialization in
pole acrobatics and fire art. For a while,
I made my living as a performing artist
and a circus teacher.
The second big change in my career
happened when I got a call from Pert-tu Hämäläinen, who was starting out
as a professor at Aalto University. He
was establishing the game research
group. We had previously met in local Capoeira and acrobatics circles.
He encouraged me to come back to
Aalto and finish my CS studies while
working as a research assistant. Together with Hämäläinen and some
others, we developed and evaluated
novel trampoline games, and eventually the “Augmented Climbing
Wall,” which is probably the group’s
most well-known project. Our paper
got an honorary mention at ACM
CHI 2016. Following the viral success of many of our videos, the project
was spun off as a startup, where I currently work full time designing and
developing novel exergames while
finishing my Master’s thesis.
At the time of writing this, Augmented Climbing Wall installations
can be found globally in more than
25 countries. More recently, Raine Ka-jastila, the CEO of the company and a
former post-doc in the Game Research
Group, won the Finnish researcher-en-trepreneur of the year award.
Leo Holsti is the co-founder and chief operating officer
of Valo Motion Oy, the company behind the Augmented
Climbing Wall. He has been working in the intersection of
exercise, art, and technology for more than 10 years.
This has involved research work at Aalto University’s Game
Research Group and projects as a professional circus artist.
Gamifying its site-building tools increased the number
of DevHub users who actually completed the process of
creating a personal website by ninefold.
Today, many large companies are exploiting gamification (game-like
attributes) to attract and engage new or existing customers. While
gamification might be perceived as a relatively recent trend, earlier
occurrences can be found.
Take the credit benefits awarded by shops to loyal customers; this
early form of gamification was an approach to make the experience
of customer loyalty more convenient, as opposed to explicitly
encouraging the expansion of the customer base. Later, the rise of
multinational companies in the post-industrial era, followed by the
advent of the Web toward the end of the 20th century, re-adjusted
the main focus of gamification in the business world to one of
“engagement.” In this new context, gamification is about starting
new ongoing business-client relationships by promising to reward
loyalty with one-time exclusive offers and reduced-rate items.
Regardless of the ultimate goal, employing gamification is
beneficial to businesses, as it leads to increases in customer
feedback, improved survey participation, more website visits, profile
completeness in social media when applied externally, and boosted
employee motivation when applied internally.
To demonstrate these benefits, let’s look at the frequent
flier programs. The first such program was American Airlines’
AAdvtantage in 1981, followed by Delta Airlines SkyMiles and United
Airlines MileagePlus in the same year. According to Wikipedia, as
of 2011, AAdvantage is the largest frequent flyer program in the
U.S. with more than 67 million members. In 2010, frequent flier
programs contributed to the revenues of United, Delta, and American
in the order of $3, $1.6, and $1.37 (estimated) billions, respectively. 1
More importantly, the revenue per member was at least 50 percent
higher compared to that of remaining passengers, which further
consolidates the idea that building a group of loyal customers leads
to higher profits. According to Euromonitor analyst Nadejda Popova,
Delta profited $675 million from American Express for its Skymiles
bet ween 2011 and 2013.2
Given the recent economic shift toward social media, gamification
motivates a rewarding and more honest relation between companies
and customers, and we can expect its presence to be felt even more in
1 Jay Sorensen, edited by Eric Lucas. “Loyalty by the Billions: Idea Works analyzes how
frequent flier programs pour cash into airline coffers.” Loyalty Marketing Report Series