Game on at #TFTLondon: level 2: the ubiquitous gaming culture

Last week, I wrote a post about The Fantastic Tavern event on Gamification. That post was a bit light on details, so I’m now rewarding you with a move to level 2.

James Wallman from The Future Laboratory spoke about what they refer to as the ubiquitous gaming culture, starting out with a quote from Seth Priebatsch, CEO at SCVNGR and, as I hunted around for the source of the quote it seems he’s spoken about it at both SXSW and TEDx:

“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.”

Remember 6 years ago when the first Facebook [or LinkedIn] invitations went out? The ones we ignored for a while until we saw that all our friends [and business contacts] were there… well, that social framework is in place now and, in an age with many messages, the way that brands will connect and change consumer behaviour is
game mechanics.

James broke his talk out into trend drivers, trend impacts, trend consequences, and trend futures so, looking first at the trend drivers – what is making this desire to gamify things happen?

To start with, gaming changes people’s behaviour. In trials with burns victims, it was found that gaming isolated the patient from real world (and hence provided pain relief) more than any other medium. Then, consider the blurring of work and play (“bleisure”) – we often check our email on a smartphone when we’re not at work? [go on, admit it]. The social game market has massive potentially monetary value (Inside Network says it’s a billion-dollar business) and John Riccitello, CEO at Electronic Arts is right on the money when he says that:

“Every new device ends up being a game device”

(in a market that’s grown from 200 million gamers, to over a billion.)

Moving on to the trend impacts – i.e. the implications of gamification – brands are incorporating game play elements into applications, products and campaigns.  Remember all those social networks that didn’t make it to the big time (Friendster?) – James suggests that today’s gamification is like those early social networks: an exciting, novel, concept.

From simple examples like the Braun/Oral B SmartGuide – a monitor with a display that changes according to how long you brush your teeth to the City of Melbourne’s interactive treasure hunt (to get people off the beaches and into the CBD) governments and commercial organisations alike are looking to gaming to control, nudge and monitor our behaviour.  Take, for example, Toyota’s A Glass of Water app – designed to improve our driving and reduce fuel consumption… or London commuters can play the game of Chromaroma through a link with their Oyster Card (the London RFID travel card), earning points for getting off a stop early, or using one of the many “Boris Bikes”.

Looking at trend consequences, gamification will change our social and economic structures – James cited examples like Macon Money from Macon (pronounced Makin’) in Georgia, USA – an innovative approach to community building that uses a local currency to build personal connections and support local businesses.  There’s even the possibility that people will pay to work (play + labour = “playbour”): Internet Eyes is one such example – a website where people pay a fee to watch live CCTV footage and are rewarded for spotting and reporting crimes!

So what trend futures does gamification offer? Research shows that a person’s behaviour in real life mimics their behaviour in the real world. This leads to the concept of “playfiling” – profiling through play.

James gave another example of gamification: New York’s Quest to Learn school. The school describes itself as school for digital kids – applying games techniques to digital learning. At work, when we don’t know something, we ask questions of our colleagues…. so why not at school? Quest to Learn works in 10-week problem spaces, with pupils co-operating as a team and playing games to learn. In terms of engagement, it’s now within the top 3% of schools in the United States.

James’ final example also came from New York – a clever foursquare hack called World of Fourcraft, that turns the city into a giant game of Risk – hopefully we’ll see something like this in British cities soon [are there some programmers out there that want to create a real-life game of Monopoly by mashing up Foursquare and Chromorama? I guess without the property purchases and the going to jail…].

In conclusion, James Wallman described a ubiquitous gaming culture toolkit for digital marketers:

  • Put game mechanics at the heart of the brand.
  • Consider engagement over time – get people to come back.
  • Combine online and offline activities.
  • Engage through the “4Ms” of mystery (easy learning), mastery (hard learning), membership (making it social) and meaning (a story with a beginning, middle and end).

My next post (“game on at #TFTLondon: level 3”) will take a look at the 4Ms of gamification – and if you’re interested in future TFT events, find out more at The Fantastic Tavern site (or @TFTLondon).

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