Tidbits from “The game layer on top of the world”, presentation by Seth Priebatsch at Ted.

Seth Priebatsch, Proud Princeton dropout and Chief Ninja/CEO at SCVNGR, gave a great talk at TED titled “The game layer on top of the world”.

The style is funny, amazingly refreshening and awesomely young, as you can see in the video of the presentation.
Below you can find the embedded video and some tidbits from his presentation extracted by me.

Main message:
Last decade was the decade of social. This next decade is the decade of games. We use game dynamics to build on it. We build with mindshare. We can influence behavior. It is very powerful. It is very exciting. Let’s all build it together, let’s do it well and have fun playing.

The game layer on top of the world is already under construction. But it’s filled with lots of different things that, in short, aren’t that fun.
There are credit card schemes and airline mile programs and coupon cards and all these loyalty schemes that actually do use game dynamics and actually are building the game layer, they just suck.

So the presentation is about four really important game dynamics, really interesting things, that, if you use consciously, you can use to influence behavior, both for good, for bad, for in-between. Hopefully for good.

For each dynamic, Seth gives 3 examples
a) one that shows how this is already being used in the real world,
b) one that shows it in what we consider a conventional game — I think everything is a game, this is sort of more of a what you would think is a game played on a board or on a computer screen,
c) one how this can be used for good, so we can see that these forces can really be very powerful.

1) Appointment dynamic: in which to succeed, players have to do something at a predefined time, generally at a predefined place.
1.a) Happy hour: come here at a certain time, beer is half price. To win, all you have to do is show up at the right place at the right time.
1.b) Farmville (a game inside facebook): has more active users than Twitter. You have to return at a certain time to water your crops — fake crops — or they wilt. And this is so powerful that, when they tweak their stats, when they say your crops wilt after eight hours, or after six hours, or after 24 hours, it changes the life-cycle of 70 million-some people during the day. They will return like clockwork at different times. So if they wanted the world to end, if they wanted productivity to stop, they could make this a 30-minute cycle, and no one could do anything else. (Laughter) That’s a little scary.
1.c) GlowCaps: but this could also be used for good. This is a local company called Vitality, and they’ve created a product to help people take their medicine on time. That’s an appointment. It’s something that people don’t do very well. And they have these GlowCaps which, you know, flash and email you and do all sorts of cool things to remind you to take your medicine. This is one that isn’t a game yet, but really should be. You should get points for doing this on time. You should lose points for not doing this on time. They should consciously recognize that they’ve built an appointment dynamic and leverage the games. And then you can really achieve good in some interesting ways.

2) Influence and status: the ability of one player to modify the behaviour of another’s action through social pressure.
2.a) Credit card: everybody wants the black American Express Card!
2.b) Levels in games: people work very hard to level up. For example, in World of Warcraft, the average most dedicated player spends 6 and a half hours per day! It’s like a full time job! Status is really good motivator.
2.c) School: is a game, it’s just not a terribly well-designed game. There are levels. There are C. There are B. There is A. There are statuses. Why can’t you level up in school as you do in World of Warcraft?

3) Progression dynamic: success is granularity displayed and measured through the process of completing itemized tasks
3.1) Linkedin: in many sites, for example on Linkedin, there is a bar showing how many activities (such as filling a certain profile field) you have to do before reaching 100%. If not completed, I am an un-whole individual. I am only 85 percent complete on LinkedIn, and that bothers me. And this is so deep-seated in our psyche that, when we’re presented with a progress bar and presented with easy, granular steps to take to try and complete that progress bar, we will do it. We will find a way to move that blue line. all the way to the right edge of the screen.
3.b) Online games: they use it as well, for example World of Warcraft.
3.c) SCVNGR: they use games to drive traffic and drive business to local businesses. They go places, they do challenges, they earn points. And we’ve introduced a progression dynamic into it, where, by going to the same place over and over, by doing doing challenges, by engaging with the business, you move a green bar from the left edge of the screen to the right edge of the screen, and you eventually unlock rewards. And this is powerful enough that we can see that it hooks people into these dynamics, pulls them back to the same local businesses, creates huge loyalty, creates engagement, and is able to drive meaningful revenue and fun and engagement to businesses. These progression dynamics are powerful and can be used in the real world.
I just installed SCVNGR on my iPhone and starting to use it.

4) Communal discovery: a dynamic wherein an entire community is rallied to work together to achieve something, to solve a challenge. It leverages the network that is society to solve problems.
4.1) Digg: is a communal dynamic to try to find and source the most interesting stories. Seth talks about it was a game, and the leaderboard which became a sort of cabal and was eventually shut down.
4.2) The game Monopoly
4.3) Final example is the DARPA ballon challenge: how do you mobilize people to collectively find 8 balloons flying over the entire USA territory? Well, MIT guys did it, in just 12 hours (!) leveraging on a simple wen site, simple social dynamics and incentives for social netwokr propagation!

The main message (again):
Last decade was the decade of social. This next decade is the decade of games. We use game dynamics to build on it. We build with mindshare. We can influence behavior. It is very powerful. It is very exciting. Let’s all build it together, let’s do it well and have fun playing.

(just as a note, Seth Priebatsch’s company (SCVNGR) is followed on twitter by the verified account of BarackObama. This is quite amazing and I don’t think the policy of twitteresque Obama is to reciprocate every “follow” since he has 717,027 following and 5,016,427 followers. Anyway beside this small point, I suggest you to check out the video and to think about “which incentives do you put in your site/platform for people? Could you exploit motivations at the base of games?”)

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