...sensed something three years ago that most of the rest of us did not: that a generation raised on video games would want to keep playing a game in real life. "I found out that basically the real world was essentially the same game as Civilization [an old computer game], just with slightly better graphics, maybe, and slightly slower."
Priebatsch, the son of a biotech entrepreneur and Morgan Stanley VP, was forbidden from watching TV, but could play on the computer. Spending hours with the game, he quickly became addicted not to conquering the world but conquering the game. "The fact that the game was designed by someone always made me think that someone had built it with their own biases," he says, "I would essentially mine the game into a series of algorithms and know exactly what to do at any given time."
Priebatsch, like an undergrad reading Marx for the first time, started to look at everything through this new worldview. "I have a much broader definition of game than most other people," he says, explaining that games are just systems of challenges, rewards, and biases.
That is a fairly useful summary of the background of the"Gamifier" generation. The flagship of this "game layer" (a concept Priebatsch layed out in a SxSW keynote ) is SCVNGR. Fortune says that SCVNGR is "slightly more useful than Foursquare, which is to say it's still not especially useful. Unless, that is, you're one of the millions of people who want to tell your friends where you are all the time". However, there are some interesting points made in the article that point to how Gamification will evolve:
Firstly, the trend will be to build in more gamification by adding in more games for people to play:
- There are no badges and mayorships in SCVNGR. There are points, and you get these points by not just checking-in, but also by doing various crowd-generated "challenges" while you're at the place you're at. - These usually involve tasks like playing with your food, the kind of things that those who are bored with traditional social norms really enjoy. - He started a pilot program in Boston and Philadelphia that gives users better and better deals as people continue to come back to a restaurant. "Pure checking-in isn't going mainstream," he says, and is working on a Groupon-Gamification called level-Up
Secondly, as the article shows, the underlying fundamentals of Gamification areSkinner/Pavlovstyle behavioural reinforcement, in 3 stages:
1.) The Contingency, "the problem that the player must overcome." 2.) The Response, "the expected action from the player." 3.) The Reinforcer, "the reward given if the expected action is carried out."
Even getting funding is a game that can be played:
"You look at the VC world, there are some great cheats you can do there. VCs for whatever reason don't value your company on anything intrinsic. They value it on how much they want to own, and divide by that and that's your valuation. And it's stupid and insane. But that's sort of a failed algorithm that someone built into the game that I and a lot of other companies can take advantage of to increase the gold in our account."
This has allowed him to collect c $20m of funding already, so soon after passing Go - so clearly he has learned to play it well.
There is no doubt that the "white hat" attraction of Gamification is to get people more hooked on your online businesses rather than the competitor's, and also (said more sotto voce at SXSW) the "black hat" attraction of getting your hands on more of people's personal data, the New New Gold.
The question of course (as with personal data mining) is where will it end? At what point does Gamification become the sort of manipulation that still gives people shivers when Skinner or Pavlov are mentioned? I think we are about to find out.....(see Sebastian Deterding herefor a start)
Update -WSJ articlesaying "some analysts claim 50% of businesses will be gamified by 2015". A counter-quote is that Gamification is better called "Exploitationware. But hype breeds eternal.....