Maybe your mother was wrong—video games are good for you. On September 24, Wharton Ambassadors and Philadelphia area alumni returned to the classroom and enjoyed “Gamification,” a Knowledge for Action Lifelong Learning Tour event presented by Kevin Werbach, a Wharton associate professor of ethics and legal studies.

Gamification is the use of gaming theory and techniques to motivate employees and customers to engage in a variety of beneficial behavioral changes. Fortune 500 companies are using gamification as a tool to motivate employees in areas such as health and wellness, sustainability and even project management. As a player engages in desired behaviors and reaches milestones, the game provides motivational tools and rewards such as progress bars, points, levels and badges to engage players and to encourage ongoing participation.

Gamification is a different approach to a similar objective. Instead of striving to beat your sales goal, you try to beat your high score. Which is more fun? With the pervasiveness of gaming in our society, this technique is a new way to drive desired behaviors with a gaming generation.

During the event, the audience participated in a simple version of a game: Who has the oldest coin? The exercise demonstrated the need for continued engagement of a game to keep the players interested. While we all had fun trying to see small print on coins in a dimly lit room, once a winner was announced, the game ended. The structure of the game didn’t meet a key criterion for successful gamification: continuous play.

Kevin Werbach is an engaging speaker and the session provided a new business tool applicable in my world of sustainability. I have already begun to think of ways gaming can be used to reduce energy, water and resource usage while improving employee productivity and engagement.

Let the games begin!

—Kristina Kohl

Kristina Kohl, WG’88, is executive director of sustainable strategy at HRcomputes. She was kind enough to write this report for the Wharton Blog Network on behalf of the Wharton Club of Philadelphia.

Editor’s note: The Knowledge for Action Lifelong Learning Tour is bringing Wharton knowledge to cities around the globe. Visit for upcoming events.