We are living in a world where so many people thrive on the instant satisfaction of being rewarded for their efforts and expect the same thing every time they return. Nowhere is this more apparent than in gaming.

Think about it, there are literally thousands of social games being played every day. They’ve evolved from primitive styles to the sophisticated and complex. Social gaming is still young, but growing rapidly. This rapid growth can be quite useful for developing awareness, crowdsource funding or even solving problems. However, the essential entity that draws people back is still the same – they are fun.

Just about everyone knows or heard of social gaming, many of you probably have played such games. There are, however, those who view social gaming as highly overrated and not worth the time or effort. I would have to disagree and would suspect that such people must not be playing games.

I’d like to talk about why these games are so effective at motivating people. In a TED talk, Dan Pink makes a case of favouring intrinsic motivation over extrinsic motivation at work. Interestingly, major social games such as Angry Birds contain elements of autonomy, mastery and purpose – key elements for triggering motivation.

In many studies from top economists, groups with extrinsic motivations performed poorly when compared to intrinsic motivators. Unfortunately, it appeared that some social games were creating addiction because they were so good at rewarding people for completing challenges while playing at them. This has created some negative attitudes towards the social gaming sector.

But some people see beyond those effects. In another TED talk, Young Global Leader Jane McGonigal talks about her view of changing the world through gaming. Gamers spend about 3 billion hours a week playing games. That’s enough time to finish public education in America from 5th grade to high school graduation. The idea is to find a way to tap into this powerful human resource to solve world problems.

I shared the same vision during a video interview made by Cisco about ikifu.org, a donation platform using social networks and game thinking, where you can help people from around the world while having fun at the same time. Contributions reward you with points, which are used to compete with other users on a ranking.

So, what does this have to do with overrated social games? People enjoy them, not only because of those rewards, but because they get the feeling of being a part of something bigger than themselves. We transform into the best version of ourselves that wants to be this super-hero, a person with no faults that can solve all problems and impact the world.

This idea is relatively untapped and is highly underrated, so start investing in it and start playing now.

Author: Nhat Vuong, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, i-kifu, Japan

Image: Visitors play a video game during the Gamescom 2012 fair in Cologne REUTERS/Ina Fassbender