Links, Likes & The Future Of Gamification

Billions of years ago, when the earth was cooling and a few tiny amoebae started their sexy little single-cell dance in a pool of water, Carnegie Mellon University Professor Jesse Schell talked about the future beyond Facebook games. Well, at least two years in Web time seems that long on the evolutionary timeline. Professor Schell is the creative mastermind behind Schell Games, and the guy is an absolute monster when he shares his thoughts on the future of gaming. Please take a few minutes to watch the insanity this man slips into when talking about the potential of gamification on our lives:


So what's the magic "killshot" for gamification?

There are a number of things at play here. Foremost - a lovely bit of insanity, but I digress (yeah, yeah … I know … takes one to know one).

The greater issue in this presentation is human behavior. And at its core is time-investment. We spoke of the rules of gamification in our last post, and we outlined the “Learn as You Go” approach to increasing complexity and value in the game’s construct. The other measurements of ultimate success, and I assure you they are primary metrics for PopCap and Zynga, are dwell-time and repeat visitation.

All games, blogs, social networks and applications have to surpass (survive) the point of no return. It’s the point where a user no longer wants to look for something else because they understand, enjoy and have placed a great amount of time and (often personal/loyalist) investment into the intellectual property.

That is the pot of gold.

We all use Facebook. And let's face it, Google+ has not (at least at the point of this post) given me a solid reason to jump ship. Much of that is due to my current time investment and the following I've accrued on Facebook.

When you add the "trust" factor that exists when my friends, fans and followers also support the same social platform – I move from fan to loyalist. That’s right; we all become literal, unknowing, sales-tool zombie drones for the company. Awesome!

I say awesome as I'm an interactive, social media, storytelling professional. If I can get you to this unknowing nirvana, then we all win. You get a great experiential product or content, my client gets ROI, my agency wins awards, and I might even get to keep my job.

Next to valuing the time investment is the most primal emotion of all – fear.

But these are just games, Justice!

Right, they are just games. But fundamentally, why do we play them? To win. Inject the cancer of competition and you have the winning combination from hell: “I can't leave this game because I'm afraid if I do I will lose to someone. WORSE! It could be someone I know!”

By now you probably wonder how I can argue that collecting badges on Foursquare is competitive. True, it's not Madden Football where you have some smack-talking bitch of a friend giving you shit for the high score he took from the Zaxxon machine in the local arcade two-and-half decades ago.

No...I'm not bitter.

But there's always a level of betterment that is obtained when you know your trusted F3s (friends, fans & followers) are involved. What feels like fun is actually sitting on the rock-solid concrete slab of fear.

The magic 8-ball says?

As you all may know, every year I prognosticate on what I think will happen the following year. Other than an extraterrestrial race of robot bears enslaving the human race, I will say this about next year: Make it fun.

One thing I learned while working on the Little Debbie account is that in a down economy, no one wants to hear, see or worry more than necessary. And a snack cake can make even the darkest times just a little better.

Social gaming and gamification are at the perfect tipping point to be considered expectations rather than exceptions. Not in all things, of course. But think about what tasks, processes or mundane daily events (going to the grocery store?) could be fun with the right technology. Foursquare tapped into it with geo-location and piggybacking on the GPS. Nike did the same with Nike+.

Whenever you can turn the ordinary into extraordinary, you will have exponential success.

To further your understand past my little posts, I highly recommend the following links to websites and content specializing in gamification.

Gamification/Funware service providers:

Education and Content Resources: 

Brands Using Gamification:

Articles & presentations:

I hope this helps. I'd loved to hear your thoughts on the games you play ;) And let me assure this is my last gamification post (at least for a while) so you're safe to come back and play! Looking forward to hearing from you!

Posted on October 19, 2011 and filed under Advertising, Business, Content, Gamification, Gaming.