How to use the Super Mario Effect to tricking your brain into learning more

How to use the Super Mario Effect to tricking your brain into learning more

Hola héroes!

The Super Mario Effect. What is this name invoking in you?

The Super TEDx-Talk!

What it did for me at least, was grabbing my intention. Last year sometime I watched the TEDx-Talk by Mark Rober named The Super Mario Effect. And it does stand as a big signpost in my hero’s journey to Gamification.

Did I throw everything besides and rushed into Gamification after watching this video? Unfortunately not, but this story you can find in my recently published post about my Gamification journey!

Here you go -> My Gamification Journey – The Beginning

But what this video did was show me a possibility and the seed was planted in my brain, that fun is what we need.

You might ask yourself who is Mark Rober. And I tell you exactly what I know about him! Almost nothing 😀

This video is the only video I watched from him, ever. But what I know from this TEDx-Talk and a quick google search is that he is a successful YouTuber with more than 16 million subscribers (01.02.2021).

In my opinion, this shows perfectly how powerful this message and the sharing of it was. He really made the message count, rather than himself.

This post is not about how he came up with it in the first place. For this, the most exciting way is to watch his TEDx-Talk. In the following, I will elaborate on the effect itself.

The Super Mario Effect!

The TedX-Talk by Mark Rober! The Super Mario Effect
The video game character Mario

The Super Mario Effect
Shifting the focus from falling into pits to saving the princess, to stick with a task and learn more.

Mark Rober in The Super Mario Effect – Tricking Your Brain into Learning More | Mark Rober | TEDxPenn

It is not about overcoming your desire to quit through persistence, but rather wanting to keep going and keep learning.

So I know what you all think, “Thorsten, this is nothing new. That is what everyone is saying, learn from your failures”.

And you know what? You’re the hero and of course, you’re right. It’s exactly what this effect is about. Shifting the focus from the failure to the goal, and use the failure as an opportunity to learn and motivate yourself.

More important, as far as I am concerned is not the Super Mario Effect itself, but the following shift of input and output mechanics. The things you do is the same but motivates you on a whole different level.

This is where the real magic happens!

In this case, this seems intuitive and fun, but how can we actually use this in real life?

Follow me, heroes, let me be your guide!

The Super Inputs!

Let us first take a look on the left side of this the inputs.

So first think about, what is your input, which actions should the hero undertake? Here no step is too trivial.

Let’s take a cold call sales process as an example here from the salespersons perspective.

So what are the inputs, what are the desired actions to undertake? (I’m simplifying the process here)

  1. Get phone number(s) from database
  2. Call person
  3. closing the deal, if possible, else directly to 4
  4. Put the call information into the database.
  5. Back to 2) again.

Redefining these would be an extensive act of designing Gamification itself. How to identify what motivates you, the players, salespersons etc. and how to redesign the desired actions accordingly we will look at in other posts, to keep this one short. But you can already look forward to this treasure box of valuable information!

The Super Feedback Mechanics!

After identifying the (simplified) inputs, let us look at the outputs or better feedback dynamics. So how the actions can give create direct feedback showing the progress towards the goal, the win state.

So how could we design this for the salesperson? Ideally, we would know what types of motivators are the most effective for in this case the salesperson to really customize this. But below you’ll find some examples of some feedback mechanics.

First, we would ask, what types of feedback vehicles do we have, can we show something over a website or computer program, a written survey, feedback from peers, social media etc. From which sources can we get feedback for our actions.

In the case of the salesperson, the Nr. 1 Vehicle would be a website or software program. How can we utilize this to generate feedback?

One super simple example to implement an interactive and motivating feedback mechanic would be to give the salesperson points, visible on the screen with each call so that even if no sale is closed, he sees it progress.

A more motivating way would be to not only give points after the call but rather guide the salesperson to the experiment.

So imagine this:

A popular plumber called Mario, some might call him super has changed jobs and is now working in a sales position where his job is to do cold calling.

Mario just arrived at work, sits down at the desk and is not really motivated. No princess to save, no bowser to fight with. So to get his salary and buy the much-needed mushrooms he opens the new sales software of his company.

The interface is showing him through the process, visualizing his progress in the sales process, randomly picks a person and shows him recommendations on what to do. During the calls, each advancement from pushing the call button to finishing the pitch and going to objection phase he is earning points and coins. Reaching a certain amount of points let him level up unlocking power-ups in form of sales training. Through a successful sales call or if he spends coins he can get a booster, boosting the points he gets for the next calls. After one call, he receives a high five from Wario through the software for doing the call.

In the software, he is seeing his colleagues Peach and Yoshi that have a similar range of points and how they are advancing. He sees the made calls of his peers and can even give them shoutouts and hive fives through the software. Mario starts to feel how this experience is really pushing him forward and making every call to an experience regardless of its outcome.

Mario and his colleagues
You’re all in this together!

Mario sees a progress bar of the wholes company sales and thus resulting in the level of the company. Each company level unlocks new features and possibilities for the employees to more freely design their work environment and how they perform the sales call.

In the following weeks, Mario has more and more motivation to engage in the calls, the experience with his peers and in the company. The mushrooms are not much-needed anymore after all. The End.

Ok, let’s us review what kind of feedback mechanics we got here:

  • Points visualizing the labour he put in and enabling him to get training to even further advance his sales technique
  • Coins to buy boosters to give him more points.
  • Through the social capabilities, he is receiving social feedback from his peers through the software and if they are in the same location, this might lead to more personal interaction as well.
  • A leaderboard to see how well he is doing in relation to colleagues in his range of experience.
  • Progress bar showing the progress of the whole company

Obviously, this was an exaggerated version, but just some feedback mechanics like mentioned above can already hugely increase the motivation of the employees. Depending on the types of motivation must effective for the employees these feedback mechanics could focus more on development & accomplishment like the points and levels or more into the social component, enhancing and promoting the support and feedback under each other.

The Super Fun End!

How to use the Super Mario Effect into tricking your brain to learn more. Let’s summarize what we learned.

1. The Super Mario Effect, what is it again?

The Super Mario Effect
Shifting the focus from falling into pits to saving the princess, to stick with a task and learn more.

2. Identify the inputs, the desired actions to undertake, think about what steps are necessary, the more granular the better.

3. Redesign the desired actions to make them more motivating itself.

4. Implement direct feedback mechanics that motivate to do further desired actions!

So there it is the Super Mario Effect and how to use it. This is one example of Gamification and surely not the last one on this blog!

Alright, heroes, wherein your life can you make use of the Super Mario Effect, for your studies, at work, working out, …? Share your thoughts and applications down below!

Until then, I’m out my heroes.

Stay heroic!

Good job!



  1. Wow this post was fun to write!
    I personally used this to rethink my acquisition process and come up with some new and more engaging feedback mechanics. This was not the last iteration cycle of redesign but to start is the first step in the right direction 🙂
    How did you/ do you plan to use the Super Mario Effect?

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