This article originally appeared on EngagedFamilyGaming.com, a website dedicated to providing families with the information they need to make informed gaming decisions. We’re happy to announce that we’ll be regularly crossposting articles from Engaged Family Gaming. This post from Kelly Allard explains how gamification can work in the home to motivate family members.

Recently there was a post that went viral informing children that they were grounded, and of the conditions of their release from punishment.  In order to be allowed out of the house, the children were told that they needed to complete tasks on the list worth a total of 500 points. Tasks ranging from watering plants for 10 points to completing a load of laundry from start to fold for 100 points.

So many parents loved this idea that it carried through the internet aether and found its way to desktops and tablets everywhere.  What most of them probably didn’t realize was that this concept of points is one of the basic three components of games. PBL or “Points-Badges-Leaderboards” is a key component of a concept known as gamification. (If you’d like to know more about PBLs, here’s a quick primer).

I’m sure that many of us have used games in the past to make things more interesting and fun for our kids.  How many parents used a reward system for potty-training or stars for good behavior? What makes these things work is that there is an added incentive that motivates the child to do the task.  Whether it’s a star for getting homework done that tracks progress toward a special treat, or a sticker worn as a badge of honor for a successful trip to the bathroom, game rewards are great motivators.

A while ago, I posted looking for ideas on how to gamify my household chores and got some tips from some of our Facebook fans about using a star system or a reward system, which we’ve managed to implement somewhat successfully.

Stars and stickers are a great way to start.They act as both badges and points in a way, and can even be a leader board if you have multiple kids vying for them on the same poster.  The marble method, where you move marbles from one bowl to another, as a reward for good behavior or as a consequence of misbehaving, can provide an opportunity to foster teamwork in gaining these physical point representations.  But what happens when your kids inevitably bore of those simple games and need their next challenge?

Allowance and reward systems can also be introduced as kids get older and act like a badge system for real rewards.  Using points to be allotted for certain jobs (much like the early example) can net a bonus for the week’s winner that could be anything from a monetary bonus to a free pass to get out of having to clean the toilets the following week.

This concept could also work with a more complete badge system, making cutouts that kids attain at certain levels to display in their room, like “Top Cleaner!” or “500 Points!” that unlock at determined levels of point gain or task completion.  Make your bed every day for a week and get a “Now, you sleep in it” badge, finish all your homework without reminders and get the “scholar” badge. The easier the task, the more it takes to get the badge. As things progress, you can increase the points needed or add on new badge levels. Cleaning your room gets you a “I can see the floor!” badge, but keeping your room clean for a week gains you the “No dust bunnies here” badge or something like that.

Of course, there are simple ways to keep track of this progress—whiteboards listing scores, maybe even a family shared google spreadsheet to track and calculate points… but my favorite by far, is Chore Wars.  Chore Wars acts as a party-based fantasy game where each household member completes “adventures.” Trying quests such as “washing and folding the party’s armor” (laundry),  or “loading the enchanted cabinet of crockery washing” (Loading the dishwasher) gain the completing adventurers gold and experience (XP). They even have chances to meet up with terrifying monsters like Dust Bunnies and  fearsome Tentacles that leave behind magical items, such as the epic Rod of Plunging.

Tasks are fully customizable, right down to the monsters and rewards.  Character creation consists of picking an avatar and selecting the tasks that you most often do.  A chore selection heavy in vacuuming and taking out garbage will likely make you a barbarian, while paying bills and planning parties might earn you a place among the bards.

For $10 you can keep a log dating back to account creation of all adventures completed for your party (a free account is one week of data), and you get the ability to upload a custom avatar. Characters can also spend their hard-earned gold for external rewards, set by the party.  So, you could say characters can pay 200 gold to get their players some extra time with the Xbox, or 30 gold to get dessert one night.

Of course, there are a lot of ways to gamify your house and to get your kids motivated to gain some enjoyment out of doing their chores.  So what are your methods?  We’d love to hear about your gamified reward systems—how do you get your kids (and even your spouses) motivated to do what has to be done?

Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin's Gaming With the Moms podcast. With Pixelkin she produces video content and devotes herself to Skylanders with terrifying abandon.