Wednesday, May 4. 2011
As the first "Gamification" workshop in London was held today, I thought it might be interesting to look at this rather fascinating Fortune article about Seth Priebatsch who:
...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."
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:
Secondly, as the article shows, the underlying fundamentals of Gamification are Skinner / Pavlov style behavioural reinforcement, in 3 stages:
Even getting funding is a game that can be played:
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 here for a start)
Update - WSJ article saying "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.....
Monday, March 21. 2011
I didn't go to SXSW this year - I was busy (so have no view as to whether it is so over, etc) but was rather interested in the view that apprently this year Gamification was "In". (Gamification is the setting of game type mechanisms on other types of interactions to modify - typically attract, addict - people to that service). Keeping to today's trope of Old Wine, New Bottles I can say that "Gamification" was being talked about in the small-room sessions at SXSW 2009 (which I did attend) although the term "Gamification" wasn't used at the time. My experience of SXSW 2009 was that the New Things were not in the large panels, the plenaries, the corridor conversations - it was in those small room sessions.
Anyway, Gamification was one of those, ansd the debates were twofold:
(i) How to do it?
I won't dwell on the "How To Do It" piece, a number of people went through that at the time and the first main adoption was in the 2nd generation Location services (Foursquare, GoWalla etc) and now everyone is at it. All you need to know is the reasoning is that a game environment creates higher user addiction and also tends to make them hand over more money/information for datascraping than they would otherwise if they were of "sober" mentality.
The real question is "Will it Work" - the view at the time was that it would be like privacy (again, sessions in SXSW 2009 eerily predict the Privacy Wars of 2011) ie you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time - and there may well be a backlash when those fooled feel foolish. I was thus rather interested that an early part of the backlash would be part of the gaming community - Adam Loving:
There is good gamification and bad gamification. Bad gamification is slapping extrinsic rewards (or a contrived story) on top of an interaction. Good gamification amplifies the intrinsic rewards of a particular behavior – to increase the feeling of fun, flow, or accomplishment of the player. Players know bad gamification when they see it, because it doesn’t take their interests into consideration. Good gamification aligns the needs of both designer and player.
As Adam notes (and the SXSW panel by and large also found) you cannot increase the intrinsic value of something by adding game mechanics, all you can do (at best) is make the value more visible, change the context of your site somewhat and increase the engagement - but it has limits:
As Adam points out, the turning point is when the metagame - that the gamified application's aim is to increase user suck-in and then "monetise" - becomes clear to said suck-ees:
It doesn’t take long before you run into a wall where your fun ends and doing things that benefit Zynga become a requirement (you must pay or invite to continue). The sinking feeling you feel at that moment, is the line between good and bad gamification. It isn’t bad to expect players to pay (or send uncomfortable invitations), but at this point the rewards all swing in Zynga’s favor. You realize you aren’t playing a game, but participating in the gamification of inviting and buying – and it ceases to be fun.
And my view is that the backlash will probably be stronger, because people have been asked to input far more of themselves (one of the SXSW 09 participants said gamification can be seen as a "mental drug" - possibly overstated, but you can see how this will play out.....). Look at some of the backlash we are now seeing on social network privacy, and imagine that as a magnified, ex-Gamified phenomenon. Thus it becomes obvious why the Gaming community is probably an early concerned observer, as the backlash will probably hit them too, and that is their entire livelihood.
(Update - I forgot to write - I think its temporary phenomenon, a user experience blind alley, as it will be pretty tedious if everything is a game, rather than just delivering the service required. )
Saturday, November 21. 2009
Looks like Second Life is on its way to join the choir invisibule. Once upon a time (in 2006) it was ubercool to put you business on Second Life. Now its not - BBC quoting Wired's Ben Hammersley being Wise in Hindsight (Wired et al hyped it to the nines at the time - restraint was not their watchword, I recall ):
"The first to go online would make the front page of the Guardian," Mr Hammersley says. "But when you're the 15th country who goes on Second Life, no magazine, no newspaper touches it."
In other words the Marketing/PR/Meedja industry is no longer interested, so it must - therefore - be dying.
What can we say - we thought - and still think - that its a great environment for Real Geeks to self express themselves, and it will carry on as such but as a model for mass market marketing we believed - correctly, clearly - that it would suck. It requires skill and dedication to use, and grockles don't have that.
A prediction - this is the "Second Life is Now At The Bottom Of the Slogh Of Despond" article, signaling the slide down the Hype Curve is complete. in about, oh, 2012 when broadband is better, the standard laptop is more powerful and navigation software is better people will "Rediscover" virtual worlds as the New New Thing. And by then it will be up for mass market commercialisation.
Tuesday, October 28. 2008
El Cid statue in Bilbao
Last night, one of the kids finally conquered and united Spain, with Byzantine help and despite French and Milanese interference- in Medieval Total War, that is. This led to a discussion about how it really happened, and of course about every boy's hero, Roderigo Diaz y Vivar - or El Cid.. The other was still putting down a revolt in Scotland while Harrying the North.
For those who would decry computer games as dumbing down a generation, I would say look again - watching mine, I can see the benefits compared to my era:
My own observation is that understanding something in a game leads to curiosity, and researching / reading about it elsewhere - I have been marched to Foyle's by a 10 year old to buy books on Parthians and Sassanids (Persian dynasties, if you must know). Even the shoot-em-ups have some value (reaction times, long discussions on alien technologies and Sci Fi ideas) but we do find we have to limit these, it makes them too aggressive after awhile and they have to let of steam with real world exercise.
I don't know what impact this will have going forward, but I think any kid who is comfortable with the entire panoply of history, can conquer and run a country, and has a scarily perceptive grasp of human frailty by 15 is on a better track than My Generation at that age.
Doubtless there are some things that may be lost. Overprotective parenting means they don't run around the 'burb so much, and are maybe less streetwise therefore - but it is still the role of parents to ensure they face the sort of tests that build self confidence and self reliance in the Real World, despite the abuses of Health & Safety regulations. Some kids lose the opportunity to do more exercise (I think that is also partly a school's role though - kids need to run around, team sports are good for physical and psychological development, and if they are at school all week thats where it needs to happen ). And yes they chat to their friends over social media as well as face to face - but they are chatting more than ever before.
But overall I think they are probably getting a better deal this way.
Friday, August 22. 2008
Article in my Economist today on the real limits to Virtual Worlds, specifically the Google world, Lively - here is the online version:
Lively is a simple environment, amounting to little more than a series of 3-D chat rooms. To enter, you must first download and install a plug-in for your web-browser. You can then choose from a list of rooms, the most popular of which are (inevitably) themed around sex and dating. And although some popular rooms—“Love Sweet Love” and “Sexy Babes Club”—have had thousands of visitors, the number quickly drops into the double digits further down the list. Hardly anyone is using Lively.
Not very surprised - we did a small comparison piece about 18 months ago on various worlds - Second Life, The Sims, Runescape, WoW, Cyworld and Habbo Hotel being the main ones studied. It was fairly quick 'n dirty - the main work was on the economics of virtual worlds - but the chart below sums up the views we came to. Below the curve = FAIL
Real World Limits
The more complex worlds like Second Life also have a minimum time you have to invest to get much benefit - we reckoned it took about (very broadly) 14 hours play to get to a level of basic "unconscious competence" in 2nd Life, and thus felt it was way out of the realm of the mainstream user unless it was simplified. That is represented by the vertical line.
Similarly, my teenage son - the tester of Habbo, got bored with it after about an hour - to quote "Dad, these guys look like Lego men but don't do anything" Granted, an early teenage boy isn't really into "pure" social networks - he is captivated by World of Warcraft (Runescape is seem as a "tweens" game in his mileu as it happens), and it acts as game and social network (and voice telephony system).
But the point is made - it took about 1/2 hour to master Habbo, 1/2 hour to check it out, and then - well the point of decorating your room and talking was lost on them. Buying virtual knick knacks is a staple of virtual world economics, but there is - in our view - a limit to the utlity of just being a social network - which is the horizontal line on the graph.
(I put the "limit to social networking" line a bit into 2nd Life, because my observation was that 80% of the people there hung about in bars or tried on new clothes - and I don't know how many of those stay long term but I suspect thats where the higher dropout rates come from).
By the way, The Sims is the most interesting dynamic - watching teenage boys "game" the system to maximise it is an exercise in human cynicism - god alone knows what they will do with the insights it gives them into people's underlying motives. The girls I watched (older teenage girls) don't play it this way, acting more in the constraint of the game* (and before you go off on your high horse, I must note that is just a game - but not an inaccurate one)
* I think real life experience impacts how you play a game - I learned to play various dogfighting flight sims first by learning to fly, then to shoot etc - the kids learned it by throwing the 'planes around the sky, guns blazing all the time, crashing repeatedly until they got it....
By the way, check out this amazing 2 - world journey from Laurel Papworth's blog. Respect....
Saturday, August 16. 2008
I was interested in this article about MMORPGS having the wrong business model, from Wagner James Au on GigaOm, talking about Scott Jennings' views:
I see the argument about lowering cost of production, but it seems to me there is an inherent contradiction here - if its an arms race to bigger budgets and blockbuster productions, how come Runescape etc are profitable? There are similar arms races in other entertainment industries, but there are also limits to the economics of the arms race. Also, its not yet clear that UGC etc is the answer, or a different industry in itself. Most (all?) entertainment industry is a power law game (ie Long Tailed), so there will always be an arms race no matter what.
Also, what does one replace it with - more Free services chasing the same Ad revenues? That doesn't seem like a step forward.....but we will have to find out when we read the eventual history of MMORPGS to know for sure, I guess.
Sunday, July 20. 2008
Our regular readers may have noticed a hiatus in posts, this was due to the annual holiday - which was spent sailing a yacht along the Turkish coast. What was interesting compared to the last time I sailed a real sea-going yacht (about 8 years ago) was the amount of extra electronics that it now comes with - GPS / SatNav / Autosteer / Radar / Wind direction etc.
To be sure, these thing existed 8 years ago but (i) quite a few were analog, (ii) the digital stuff was very expensive whereas now they are standard for even a relatively small boat, (iii) the electronics were quite rudimentary then - instruments, whereas they are now clearly computers, and (iv) everything is far more integrated.
What was also interesting was the speed with which the kids picked up on the electronics on the dashboard - it was almost like a computer game to them, using all the input to then navigate and sail the yacht (see picture below)
Computer Game with attached Yacht
The impact of this has been to massively reduce the skill level required to sail a yacht - a good thing in that it allows people to access sailing after far fewer hours logged, but also a potentially bad thing for two reasons:
(Incidentally, I wonder if the yacht/powerboat thing is an allegory for green technology overall - it is just harder to use it well?)
However, looking at all the data coming in from my own yacht, plus all the potential network data that was also available, it clearly will not be long before even small cruising yachts will be running with pretty sophisticated sailing algorithms (I'm sure big ones do already).
The other thing that interested me was internet access - I was connectable at nearly all times to the 'net, but nearly always via mobile (usually 2G). The issue, though, was cost of data download (hence restricted myself to email only). I can think of a huge number of functions and mashups (incl indirect services such as social nets etc) that could exist if yachts could be networked online on broadband at a low cost, and these too will no doubt come.
Monday, June 9. 2008
Its interesting - while the whole "web 2.0" movement seems to be hooked on FreeConomics to pay for (ostensibly) useful stuff for real people, the Virtual World crowd are getting consumers to pay real money for nonexistant tat. Second Life, World of Warcraft, Habbo Hotel etc all have business models where you pay to play. Latest up is Barbie the cyberbabe - sez GigaOm:
Starting now, Mattel (MAT) is offering a premium subscription option to its phenomenally popular Barbie Girls web-based virtual world. Since Beta launch April 2007, it’s amassed a record-breaking 13 million registered users, with over 2.3 million of those monthly active users.
So go figure - why is no one prepared to pay for supposedly seriously useful services like Facebook and its poke plethora yet lash out the lolly for something not a lot different if its clear its a game? Maybe Slide should re-orient their superpokes into Barbie... ooops - another double entendre for the record
Sunday, December 9. 2007
Two great posts on Read/Write web for the game theorists among you - this post on gaming digg, and then this post pointing to an e-book on social nets as games, by C. Weng.
As readers of this blog will know, we are great fans of using game theory to understand the emergence of new markets, and have used game theory (as well as system dynamics etc) in quite a few of our consulting assignments, and posts reflect this (here, here and here for eg).
That these social networks are games, and are actively being gamed, should come as no surprise to the observer - after all Google is a constant war between its in house geeks and an army of SEO gamers outside, and digg-gaming is well covered..
What is more interesting is that books like these are appearing about Social Net games, much like hack books for the more usual games like Halo etc. The implication is that SocNets are, like Google and digg, going to have to enter the arms race themselves to keep their systems vaguely representative of reality - and therein lies the rub - a gamed digg is one thing, there are always other options - but if you have put all your links in the Facebook basket, say, and then find yourself in a sharply played gaming world - with all that data out there....
Interesting times indeed...another big thing for 2008
Update - saw this post by Dawn Foster as well, and noted the this re reputation systems:
I recently blogged about using reputation systems in communities with a discussion about people can game community reputation systems. The important thing to recognize is whether people are gaming the system in a productive manner that helps the community or in a destructive way that serves only to clutter the community with worthless chatter that annoys other members.
This is a fascinating area of online game theory - for example eBay reputations, where if you black someone they can black you back. This means people tend not to black each other, and instead "damn with faint praise" by saying nothing or being neutral. It is a good system in that only a transactee can (in theory) comment, so reduces the astroturfing Amazon is prone to - though no doubt eBay is gamed too.
Clearly one person who collects a lot of blacks is a bad risk, but they are few and far between - and in fact most of those re-join under new nom de plumes (yet another part of the game structure on eBay)
For most eBayers though, you look at the length of time, variety of transacters, and individual ratings, looking for the faint praise.
Wednesday, October 24. 2007
Attended the Women in Games talk last night (part of the London Games Festival), its an area of interest to us in that it is such a clear area of arbitrage - these days lots of women have games devices, yet few in the mainstream games industry really write games for them. Hoped to get some insight into the whys and wherefores.
Emma Westecott, Senior Games Researcher at The University of Wales, Newport (and previously Producer on such titles as Starship Titanic) chaired a panel comprising of:
- Nicola Bhalerao, a senior software engineer at Rare and chair of WiG2008 with a focus on encouraging girls and women to engage with games programming as a creative and fulfilling career path.
- Matthew Jeffery - Head of European Recruitment, EA talking of the need to broaden the talent base of development talent and to attract a more diverse workforce.
- Helen Kennedy - originating member of Women in Games, active in driving the academic context of the event forward. Helen’s PhD is in Feminism and Play and she brings substantial expertise in feminist and gender studies to the event.
My take on it all was threefold.
Firstly, it became clear that the games industry was largely populated c 10 years ago by the sort of men who people like Helen love to hate (being un-PC in every conceivable way it would seem), and has remained so - and they haven't really had to change much because by and large their market was growing with them. Now however it is maturing and structurally an all male geek gamer industry is unable to make the stuff it needs to do to attract new audiences, so carries on making ever more expensive versions of what it already does.
Matthew mentioned most in-industry companies totally did not "get" the Wii (or Nintendo DS), and are now scrambling to catch up. Nicola made some good points about the difficulty of attracting women into games development, but I must note that the argument is not only for gaming - its the same issue with attracting women into anything related to the "hard" sciences.
(Postscript - interestingly, Nintendo - makers of Wii and DS has just recruited a senior Yahoo woman in the US)
Secondly there are a lot of Wii's and DS's now in women's hands, and these are the tools of choice - so for anyone who is going to break through, these (or similar devices) are the platforms to use. Point 1 above implies that the current industry is unable to structurally imagine itself out of its current box very easily, so now is the time for (women?) entrepreneurs to strike.
Thirdly, Women in Gaming seems like it has had what I would call "utopian hopes" thrown at it, I frankly felt uncomfortable with some of the feminist Agendas being bandied about last night. Its probably very un-PC to say this, but my take is that Gaming is just a business like any other, and will stand or fall on serving real (women) customers with what they want, rather than cleaving Gaming to any particular set of ideologies / sociologies.
In my view, given the opportunity, the best way to cure gaming of its (apparent) misogyny is to start up companies with different cultures writing games that women want to buy. That would rapidly start the established players changing their ways.
The billion dollar question, of course, is what do women gamers want. Research so far has shown a few general principles about what women like in games:
(i) creativity - do it yourself, or at least some say in defining environments
Now these are "high" probabilities, ie they do not cover the whole gamut of what women like by a long shot. To be honest, I suspect the best way to write games that women want is for women entrepreneurs to write the sort of games they would like to play.
A useful event though, and very necessary. Thanks also to Thayer Driver who co-organised.
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