Written by Emma Vetriano • Published 16th August 2011

Before working in digital PR I lived with a video game fanatic. He fitted the bill – social awkwardness, an extensive collection of slogan t-shirts. I didn’t really get it. I just thought games weren’t really for me.

But recently, I’ve been forced to reassess. I got home from my weekly jog last week feeling particularly out of breath and exhausted. The reason? I’ve been forcing myself to run that little bit further and faster on a weekly basis because my RunKeeper app automatically compares my results to my last session and tells me if I’m improving. I’m my own greatest competitor.

When you think about it, there are gameplay aspects to a lot of the brands and apps that are doing well at the moment. Angry Birds and FarmVille are obvious examples, and FourSquare continues its unprecedented success rates. Their new partner, Groupon, engage people’s competitive instincts to nab a daily deal before the countdown clock expires. Product feedback company Crowdtap also caused a buzz at the beginning of the year when they attracted 100,000 followers in just three months by offering virtual rewards that accumulate with every completed survey.

It’s worth noting one similarity between all of these success stories – they’re all accessible, most are useful, and none of them require high levels of time or cost commitment to get started.

I’ll never be a true ‘gamer’, I can’t imagine switching on an Xbox any time soon, but I have found a competitive drive that I didn’t previously know existed. The idea that games must be played sitting on your sofa is out of date. Thanks to the digital revolution, the whole world is now our playground.

Aspects of gaming are creeping into almost every aspect of our lives, and smart brands and businesses are cashing in on a little bit of competitive strategy.

It can be as easy as offering your Twitter followers an incentive for the fastest retweet, or organising a virtual treasure hunt on Facebook, but as a species we have an inbuilt competitive drive, and when games begin to fit into and around our daily lives, few of us can resist.

So let the games begin…