When I was a kid, I had a list of chores and rules to follow much like every other kid in my neighborhood. If I did the dishes, kept my room clean, picked up my toys, and came home before curfew, I earned myself a little bit of allowance at the end of the week. Of course, it wasn’t much money — I definitely wasn’t going to become a VC at 10 years old. However, the reward for doing what I should do every day as a contributing part of my family and society was enough incentive to actually, well, do just that. My parents kept a calendar on the fridge to keep track of what I did — or didn’t do — and then handed over my allowance based on those accomplishments (or lack thereof). This was, of course, over 15 years ago and there was definitely no technology to keep track of these tasks and network with other parents to see what other chores were being assigned to kids — or what other kind of rewards were offered.
Now parents and kids have a much more fun and easy way to keep track of chores and related rewards. HighScore House, which is part of the newest batch of 500 Startups, is designed to make it easy for parents to set a list of tasks and desirable for kids to complete their chores. Unlike other to-do lists, HighScore House incorporates the gamification so many social media users have come to love so much. Apps like Foursquare already reward users for checking into a place with potential discounts and bonuses. Following similar theory, HighScore House allows parents to determine what tasks must be done, and offer rewards accordingly.
To use HighScore House, parents sign up for one account to manage the chores and rewards for all of their children. HighScore House will then walk parents through the theory behind the app, suggestions for tasks, and ways to motivate their kids to use it as well. This process takes about 10 minutes. If the parents think its a good idea for their family, the site will then suggest they talk to their kids about the idea. Though parents could potentially throw their kids into the app, the kids won’t likely be inclined to use it unless they are able to decide — with their parents — what kind of rewards they want and for which chores. And we’re not talking allowance money here — the idea is to offer rewards that make the kids feel good for doing their chores (and money can’t often buy that level of happiness, especially at nine years old). Things like extra time reading in the evening and sleepovers with friends are popular among current users. For young siblings, the concept of gamification can really come into play here (ha ha — get it it?) as children can compete for certain rewards — such as that favorite seat in the family minivan.
HighScore House was developed by Kyle Seaman and a friend — who are notably both NOT parents — after growing up with Disney and Pixar films and seeing the impact those films had on families. Seaman said he wanted to “create a framework that delights parents and kids and [makes] family interaction more positive.” After talking with hundreds of families — many of which include mommy bloggers — HighScore House was developed. Currently 2500 families with 3500 children are using HighScore House, which is targeted to families with kids aged six to 10 years old. Since the project began, the developers are seeing some interesting trends in how these families use the app — such as kids negotiating for different possible rewards and actually competing with siblings to get the most chores done. What parent wouldn’t love that?
HighScore House is free to start with, and the developers are working to add some premium features that allow kids to customize the “rooms” in their house on HighScore House as well as offer premium features for parents, too. There is also an iPad app in development that will make it easy for parents and their kids to share and talk about their chores while anywhere, such as when parents tuck their kids into bed at night.
Seaman says that the development and popularity of HighScore House is part of the rising power of game design. Sure, money is rewarding, but in the context beyond business in brick-and-mortar buildings, opportunities and the sheer gratification of being “the best” can drive people to success. Earlier this year, we looked at a new social network, Fitocracy, designed to challenge its users to live more healthily, whether that was by exercising, losing weight, or eating better. Fitocracy is now an incredibly popular social network based on game mechanics that is actually helping its users find results. Empire Avenue, another popular social network, also uses game mechanics to motivate users to not only use the website, but to increase their use of social media. As game mechanics are proving to be critical for the the next generation of social networks, HighScore House might just be on to something with leveraging the same theory to get kids to actually clean their rooms.
If you’re a parent or are taking care of children, be sure to check out HighScore House at highscorehouse.com. Not only will it help you and the kids manage their chores, but it might actually make your kids think that cleaning their room is fun.