The world is a game and we’re playing whether we want to or not. Our education system, customer acquisition and even loyalty rewards all use gaming elements according to SxSW day two keynote speaker Seth Priebatsch, the “Chief Ninja” for Boston-based mobile gaming startup SCVNGR.
Perhaps conventional businesses are too quick to discount what this 22 year old Princeton dropout has to say, despite acquiring more than $1 million in funding for his location based service (LBS) startup.
“The social layer has been decided, and it is Facebook,” according to Priebatsch. The method to connect to others across the Facebook social graph (which records significant information about us) is set up. The next frontier is to motivate individual behavior in the physical world to generate influence and do it in a way that is acceptable to our sense of privacy and needs. This is the gaming layer.
“Our educational system is a game, but a poorly designed game” because we focus on tests rather than the mastery of the content. The more students engage with the topic material the better the results. Engagement with content is something that every game designer spends a lot of their time thinking about. Education is not focused on engagement.
Priebatsch suggests replacing grades as a “progressive dynamic” instead of a single test on a subject: Win all or lose. Don’t have a grade as a weighted average, but start at 0 “experience points” (XP). The student goal would be to increase their experience points, which shifts the focus to the real goal: The mastery of the subject matter.
The goal is what is important. The goal of business is to make money, in part by growing and retaining customers is the popular method.
Loyalty cards, popular with many stores, are a pain for the consumer.
Companies like Groupon use game dynamics to effectively share their daily deals for local companies as a method for acquiring customers. First, it’s simple: Register, a certain number of deals must be sold to “unlock” the deal for all (and there is a spike as the countdown reaches the unlock point) and the customer doesn’t have to do anything else. Simple.
American Express has different level cards, which are status levels. The company does make sure that they show their appreciation for each loyal user AND make sure they know where the next level is and how to get there.
SCVNGR is a location-based company, the feeling here at SxSW is this is the “show me the money” year for these type of services. Facebook places is already generating revenue, but what about SCVNGR, Foursquare, Gowalla, Where, Loopt and the others? It’s not for lack of funding, ideas, or corporate tie-ins. Priebatsch suggests it could be time to change the rules of the game.
Places are very important in our lives, but how we interact with those places may be more than just the time while we are there. Shifting that dynamic can create a longer period of interaction with a company and its advocates. Taking care and clearly communicating with customers within a game dynamic also increases engagement – and that translates to longer lifetime value which, even if you’re not into gaming, you can take to the bank.