Gamification and Weight Watchers (aka Double Dub)

I’m fascinated with finding ways to add game mechanics to real-world situations to drive changes and create new experiences for people. Marital Bliss is a good example of our first attempt to execute on that vision, and I hope we make many more games in the future that continue to refine and improve on that concept.

Broadly this concept is often called “gamification” but that term so widely applied by overzealous marketers — to things as generic as grocery store rewards points — that it’s not super effective. Regardless, it’s the best term we’ve got right now, and I appreciate the ingenuity of some of the better applications. Today I wanted to talk one of the more interesting examples I’ve come upon.

For the last year or so, we’ve subscribed to Weight Watchers, which has done a commendable job of turning their points system, which many people are somewhat familiar with (and some may shudder to think about) into a more flexible application that now has some game-like elements.

First, a few housekeeping items about Weight Watchers:

  • To my surprise, Weight Watchers is now completely self-contained within an app on your phone. Gone are the days of weekly weigh-ins where you were publicly shamed for not losing enough weight. Full disclosure —  I have no idea if that ever actually happened, but I’ll just assume it did.
  • In our house, it’s called “Double-Dub.” Five years ago, in a batshit crazy rebranding scheme the company went on the Today Show and announced “We’re called ‘WW’ now. Stop calling us Weight Watchers.”  It’s true. And, of course, because nobody is going to tell their friends “I lost weight with Double-you Double-you,” the company has since (mostly) reverted back to Weight Watchers. But, I’m sticking with Double-Dub.

The way Double-Dub works is that you’re assigned an allotment of points based on things like your height, current weight, and weight loss goals. Everything you eat has a certain number of points assigned to it (some foods are zero points). So, as long as I don’t shove too many points into my pie-hole, I’ll lose weight.

The app has a host of challenges, achievements, and badges to unlock, which technically fall into “gamification” realm, but haven’t been particularly motivating or interesting. By comparison, I think the exercise awards and challenges on the Apple Watch are better implemented.

For me, the core gamification of Double-Dub really comes into play with exercise. With a bit of sweat I can earn points that I can then bank for a big meal later in the week. So, for example, if I know I’m going to smoke a brisket on the weekend, I can plan for that by generating more points earlier in the week. It’s satisfying to be able to reward myself with an unhealthy meal at the end of a week, and quantifying my exercise into a points number has absolutely changed my habits and motivated me to do activities that I might not otherwise have done. So that’s a pretty impressive win.

Paradoxically, the latest update to the Double-Dub app moved the exercise points from the home page down into a sub area under “activities.” I’d love to know the justification behind the move, as it deprioritized one of my favorite metrics.

So, did Double-Dub work? Yep. I lost around 10% of my body weight, and the Double-Dub app was a big component of that. Gamification for the win!

If you have any examples of good gamification in the real world, let me know below so I can check them out!