Gamifying games

You know about gamification? Yes, I know, it’s a buzz-word of a surprisingly wide-range of repute. And some of that aforementioned repute is of admirable width, in deed.

Anyhow, I was thinking how you could look at what I’ve been doing all these years (see, for example, my collection of pointless games) as a kind of, well, gamification of games. And, when you think about it, of all the things we do, what more gamificatable than games? Even when you don’t think about it. They’re just games, you know. And if we can make them even moreso, especially if we can make them even more fun for more people, well, hey, I say, what the actual hey.

Let’s take, for example, volleyball. (Yes, I’ve already taken that very game for example in my tongue-in-somewhere article on the evolution of volleyball.) And let’s think like gamifiers about, in particular, scoring, because that’s usually the first thing that gamifiers think about. And suppose you wanted to gamify it just enough so people might focus just a tad more on creating a more accessible Well-Played-like volleyball experience.

So, OK, so how about this, which I will now call Well-Played-Volleyball-Variation-One, or, WPVV1, so to speak.


Every time the ball crosses the net, it is worth one more point to the team that wins the volley.

You see the conceptual cunningness here, of course. So, on the one hand, you want to keep volleying, increasing the potential value of the score, while, on the other hand, you’re just waiting to make the kill-shot. And when you do make that kill-shot, instead of killing, it gets returned with equally murderous intent, increasing by yet one more conceptual point the latent lusciousness of victory whilst simultaneously drawing ever nearer to the point of well-playedhood.

And then there are these:

Your etceteras welcome.

Not just volleyball, of course. Any sport or game could be further gamified for a variety of purposes – mine was to focus on making the deep fun of the game more accessible to a wider range of players. Let us crowdsource further possibilities. You can be the crowd.


  1. Lily on August 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I LOVE WPVV1! I could see that stretching a game out quite a bit, and it would make it more watchable as well. Of course, I happen to already like watching volleyball, but for those that don’t.

    Not sure about WPVV2, just for the judgement aspect of it. Because we are talking about a sport instead of a game, (there isn’t much difference, except perhaps the pseudo-importance of winning), it’s brought up childhood memories of being chosen last and being one of 3 people cut from the team, etc… I’m pretty clutzy, so having the judgement of how well-played would make for one more reason people wouldn’t want me on the team. However, it would be more interesting than the current version of scorekeeping volleyball, so my role as a scorekeeper would feel more fun and involved.

    I wonder if we can gamify towards sportsmanship. What if, in soccer for example, a player scored a point if they helped another team’s player up while they were down?

    Or what if, in basketball, your baskets counted double if you were under 6 feet tall, and triple if you were under 5 feet?

    There really are all kinds of possibilities aren’t there?

    Love and laughter,

    • Bernie DeKoven on August 10, 2012 at 2:27 pm

      Yes, exactly, that’s the whole point!That’s the whole idea – change the rules to make the game more fun for more players!

  2. Matt Fleming on August 12, 2012 at 12:11 am

    Hey, Bernie,

    Thanks for all you do, and for the invitation for your readers to do some crowdvising.

    (side note: Olympics women’s gold medal match just began on TV, at this very moment, EST).

    The Volleyball net itself is hard to find, or if you want to set your own up, it’s expensive, cumbersome, and hard to set up. The net is also human-height discriminating.

    So why not simply GET RID OF THE NET?

    (note: Gold medal match just concluded at this moment)

    Inspired by Speedminton (
    and an idea that I helped with,

    Instead of a net separating two rectangular sides, how about 15ft of space between two triangular sides (imagine a moat between both teams). Now, even short folks can be more than setters, and get to experience a hard spike that bounces off the opponents’ ground.


  3. Kerri on August 13, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Now we’ve got some good brainstorming going on! I like Matt’s idea of eliminating the net. We played a version like this last week, but since we have players of all ages and abilities we have a no spiking rule – the ball has to come over the midline with an upward or level trajectory. (We invented this rule when we started playing four square volleyball and it has worked well for us.)

    I was also thinking about a variation on WPVV1 (I guess we’re up to V3 at this point?): Instead of one point for every time the ball crosses the net, how about one point for every touch to encourage teamwork? The potential for scoring is much higher if I pass the ball to my peeps a couple of times rather than just whacking it right over to the other side. And one more thought: what if we start counting with zero (with the first hit being the serve – sorry, that’s the math nerd in me). The result, I think, is that the server has an incentive to give the receiving team a PLAYABLE serve, because if the receiving team can’t hit the serve, there are no points to be scored.

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