ChoreMonster: Providing Autonomy for Kids
For the latest innovations in gamification you need look no further than just about anything to do with kids. Parenting is at the front lines of the battle to get people (their kids) to do something they don’t want to do. A host of gaming tactics has emerged to encourage them to keep advancing, power through the hard stuff, and have fun doing it. 

Perhaps the earliest form of gamification is the basic household chore: do something, get something for it. The gamification part comes into play when children learn that they can accumulate points beyond just doing the chore, saving towards a goal. Enter ChoreMonster, turning Monsters, Inc.- like digital characters into collectible rewards in exchange for completed chores.

More Than One Game

ChoreMonster actually has multiple forms of gamification built into the app. The parent sets up the chores and their frequency and then kids are asked if they completed the chore when they log in. The parent has final approval when a chore is completed (my five-year-old is fond of rapidly swiping her way through every chore without looking) and, if kid and parent are in agreement, the kid gets points. This form of gamification has lot in common with rewards programs aimed at adults:

ChoreMonster thus offers parents a modern approach to bringing up their children. The app is designed to mimic traditionally verbal parent-child interaction, via the mobile service. It is intended to give youngsters a sense of responsibility and the option of taking their own initiatives. It motivates kids to do their chores without any moral rationale, focusing instead on self-interest, which essentially means approaching bringing up their children in the same way a company might offer its customers a loyalty program. ChoreMonster’s objective is basically to ‘gamify’ chores for kids and help parents by giving them an alternative to having to repeat the same demands over and over again.

There’s another game-within-a-game that’s not often mentioned, and it’s modeled after a different form of gamification entirely: the lottery. Every time a kid completes a chore, they get a ticket. These tickets can be used at the Monster Carnival:

Whenever your child completes a chore and you approve it, they get a ticket to spin the wheel in the Monster Carnival. If a "CLOSED" sign appears, it's either because your child has no approved chores and no tickets or you're not a member of ChoreMonster. When your child spins the wheel they have a chance to win a Monster or a consolation prize. If they win a monster, that monster will be kept in the "Monster" section of the web or mobile app.

So there are actually two layers of gamification, one determined by the parents and one determined by ChoreMonster. Kids exchange one ticket for a spin on the wheel, and there’s a chance that the kid gets a monster. In return, the child has a chance of getting a monster. Quality of a chore is determined by the parent, with some chores worth more points than others; quantity is determined by ChoreMonster, encouraging kids to do more chores.

But Does it Work?

Recently, ChoreMonster added Monster Market, which allows kids to spend their tickets as currency – in the same way they can spend their points – to buy movies. These movies have a specific ticket cost and are tremendously popular with my five-year-old girl. She will play them over and over on a device until the battery runs out, then quote the movie at dinner.

My eight-year-old boy enjoyed the concept of ChoreMonster initially, and we try to stick to it. As of late he’s become disenchanted with it, and I’ve discovered a one-to-one ratio of chore-to-reward works better. He can’t play any video games in the morning until he does his morning chores, and that seems to work (most of the time). 

Part of the issue is that both kids enter points into ChoreMonster and I think the fact that his younger sister also gets points has taken the shine off the program. Relatedness in this case seems to be unregulated (kids can't interact with each other on Choremonster) but it's still a factor in our household. It’s not quite as exciting when your kid sister likes something you do.

Self-Determination Theory: Autonomy

Of all the needs of self-determination theory, ChoreMonster pushes the autonomy button most. Young children value autonomy, but as my older boy demonstrated, this became less relevant over time and relatedness mattered more -- his collection of monsters doesn't mean nearly as much if she has a similar collection.

ChoreMonster demonstrates how gamification works and how it doesn’t. When I set the goals too at too high a point level, the kids were discouraged. Set them too low and they took them for granted. Completing chores and getting points (the gamer equivalent of experience points) is something of a grind, but the kids enjoy the Monster Carnival. Similarly, gamification isn’t just about slapping a structure on a boring task and hoping for the best. Gamification works best with a combination of games that introduce an element of chance; this keeps things fresh and the gamer coming back for more.

All of that said, ChoreMonster provides a very easy way to keep track of chores. It’s a multi-platform app that works across multiple devices and bets of all, it’s free.

Join me at the Enterprise Gamification Forum on Wednesday, October 7 to explore this topic further at my session, “From Kids to Kidults: Gamification as We Grow Up (or Don’t)”.

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