Seth Priebatsch, the CEO and Chief Ninja of the mobile geolocation game company SCVNGR, (pronounced scavenger), wants to build a game layer on top of the world. Listening to him speak at the recent TEDxBoston conference makes you realize that the game layer is actually already under construction and you have played it, at least to some extent already. Just not the way you think.
“While the last decade was the decade of social … where the framework in which we connect with other people was built… This next decade will be the decade where the game framework is built. Where the motivations that we use to influence behavior … is decided upon.”
The current game schema isn’t that much fun according to Priebatsch. It is cluttered with credit card schemes and loyalty cards that use game dynamics. They aren’t fun and are poorly designed.
“The social layer is all about connections; the game layer is all about influence. It’s not about adding a social fabric to the web [like Facebook] … it’s about using dynamics, using forces, to influence behavior of where you are and what you do there and how you do it.” It will affect our lives more deeply and perhaps more invisibly than the social layer. Priebatsch feels it’s incredibly critical that we consciously think about this the new layer and build it in a way that is open, that is available and can be leveraged for good.
Priebatsch reviewed four important and interesting game dynamics that be leveraged to influence behavior.
This is where players have to do something at a predefined time generally at a predefined place. “The most famous appointment dynamic in the world is called ‘Happy Hour’… come here at a certain time, get your drinks half-off and win. Just show up at the right place and the right time.” This dynamic has had a major influence on our public and corporate culture.
Farmville users on Facebook will recognize this dynamic. “You have to return at a certain time to water your (fake) crops or they wilt.” Games by Farmville creator Zynga have over 350-million users. Some 70-million people change their habits when the game changes the time dynamics. For example, having your crops wilt in 2 fewer hours. “If they wanted productivity to stop, they could make it a 30-minute cycle and no one could do anything else… and that’s a little scary.”
Appointment dynamics can also be used for good. For example, a pill case manufacturer could make an online game with points and reminders to take medication, something the world as a whole is not good at. Lose points for missing the time, allow for e-mail reminders and suddenly, it’s like Mary Poppins’ spoon full of sugar helping the medicine go down.
Influence and Status
You know this game dynamic and “it’s in your wallets right now.” Most people want the black American Express card over the green over the Visa or Mastercard. Gaming has badges and titles, the higher the better and cooler: “Status is a really good motivator.” It’s also used in more conventional settings such as report cards. “School is a game. Just not a terribly well designed game. There are levels, there is ‘C’, there is ‘B’, there is ‘A’ … what is valedictorian but a status. What if we called it White Night Paladin Level 20, I think people would probably work a lot harder.”
Progression dynamics is where you gradually move through different levels. For example, LinkedIn showing the percentage of how much of your profile is completed. We have this need to move that bar until it’s completed, a dynamic used in their SCVNGR game. Players use their mobile phone to check into an establishment and then do a number of challenges. The progression dynamic used here is the more challenges you do at businesses, the more points you get, the further the green bar fills in and the more rewards you unlock. “This is powerful enough that we can see it hooks people into these dynamics, pulls them back to the same local businesses, create huge loyalty and engagement and is able to drive meaningful revenue and fun.”
This is where an entire community has to work together to achieve something. “It leverages the network that is society to solve problems. For example, the web site Digg uses a communal dynamic to try and source the best news stories. At one time, they gave points for the most viewed stories.
Although a bit unnerving, this all does makes sense. The game layers, like the social layers, have been around perhaps as long as society. It’s just time to bring it to web speed, so buckle up.