Mario Run: A Lesson in Motivation

Not long after the sweep of Pokemon Go, Mario Run has entered the scene and the next saga of mobile gaming has begun.

People have been relentlessly sucked in and I vowed I wouldn’t succumb to the addiction that is Mario Run. A playable demo of the game was even offered in Apple store locations to engage customers and promote its launch. Fast forward 2 weeks and I’m neck-deep in Toadstool rallies, coin-collecting and unable to stop. At night, while I’m falling asleep, I think about my kingdom and whether I played my daily bonus game.

If you’re unfamiliar with Mario Run, let’s talk about it for a moment.

The music is upbeat, the characters make cute little noises and the scenery is bright and colorful. If you finish a level, collect special coins or take part in Toadstool rallies you open new worlds, upgrade to more challenging levels and get Toadstools to live in your kingdom. You earn rally tickets as you go and can purchase items to decorate your kingdom.

None of these things interested me before I actually started playing. It’s made me wonder if the addictive elements of Mario Run could be applied in a workplace setting to keep employees engaged.


Without challenge, our basic drive to achieve, outdo one another and outdo ourselves, disappears. Start basic. Every time an achievement is made, add another level of difficulty. Keep the challenges coming and never let the process end. 


Make progress impossible to ignore. Show employee progress and the progress of their peers in an obnoxiously visible place while they’re at work.

In Mario Run, the number of Toadstools living in your kingdom, coins you’ve collected and rally tickets available are pretty much fixtures on the screen. Constantly seeing your results, and those of your peers, makes you want to keep playing so you can level up.


Recent studies show being happy at work really does make you more productive and it’s hard to refute. People want to succeed at Mario Run because it is so darn fun.

You might not be able to employ cute Toadstools and use rally events to make the workplace fun but you can be imaginative and use elements of fun that will be uniquely appreciated by your staff.

Second Chances

I think this is a really big one. In Mario Run, you can make mistakes and a little bubble will sweep you back a few paces but then you pop the bubble and keep on going.

Feeling safe to make mistakes increases the risks you’ll take and also increases the potential rewards. If employees are tightly wound and unable to take risks, they’ll be frozen, scared statues at work and we all know those employees never make it very far.

Thanks for playing along. If you have ideas of your own or use techniques like this with success, please share in the comments section!

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