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Games Can Make the World a Better Place

February 10th, 2011 · 2 Comments · Ideas

Big Ideas:

  • Game dynamics are invading real life and they have big influences on how we buy and behave.
  • A key psychological catch is essential to making these new business models work.
  • In games, we behave as the best versions of ourselves. We need to make real life more like a game.
  • Games are helping to solve real world problems like oil shortages and environmental degradation.

Games can make the world a better place.

Games are Invading Real Life

Carnegie Mellon University Professor, Jesse Schell, offers an interesting take on how games are invading real life and what the future my hold once games start playing a bigger role in how we buy and are marketed to.

Here are some examples Schell gives in the video.

  • Nintendo Wii –  adds in physical movement to video games.
  • MafiaWars – a text based game where you compete against your real life friends.
  • Webkins – real stuffed animals that can be registered online to create online characters.
  • Club Penguin – can play for free but must become a paid member to be able to buy things with the points you earn.
  • Guitar Hero – play a physical guitar in a video game.
  • DARPA Network Challenge – a competition to find 10 red balloons tethered around the US.
  • Weightwatchers – earn points for losing weight.
  • Ford Hybrid Car- incorporates a virtual pet to encourage you to save gas.
  • Lee Sheldon, University of Indiana professor gives experience points instead of grades. Students “level up” through the class. Attendance, participation and quality of homework all increase.

We already have a wide variety of rewards systems like loyalty cards and airmiles so it is not so much of a stretch to see that these will evolve to more developed games. FourSquare is proving that where we shop can be greatly influenced by game dynamics and companies like Gamify are providing the tools to bring gaming to your business.

A Psychological Catch is the Key Business Model Innovation

The most important part of most of these games is a psychological catch to get you to buy. In Mafia Wars, you are competing against your friends so you are willing to pay to access extra features and benefits. In ClubPenguin, children can play for free, but can’t access key features without becoming a paid member. Even in sites like Facebook and Twitter, the number of followers, fans or likes is prominently displayed so that we end up competing to build our reputation.

Marketing has always played to our emotions, but now it is more important than ever to think of a clever catch with our offerings.

Gaming Can Make a Better World

This next video with game designer, Jane McGonigal feels that gaming can make a better world.

Here are some highlights from the TED.com video,

In a game world, most us behave like the best version of our self. We feel that we are not as good in reality as we are in games. And I don’t mean just good as in successful, although that’s part of it. We do achieve more in game worlds. But I also but I also mean good as in motivated to do something that matters, inspired to collaborate and to cooperate. And when we’re in game worlds I believe that many of us become the best version of ourselves, the most likely to help at a moment’s notice, the most likely to stick with a problem as long at it takes, to get up after failure and try again. And in real life, when we face failure,when we confront obstacles, we often don’t feel that way. We feel overcome. We feel overwhelmed. We feel anxious, maybe depressed, frustrated or cynical. We never have those feelings when we’re playing games, they just don’t exist in games.

Gamers can achieve more in online worlds than they can in real life. They can have stronger social relationships in games than they can have in real life. They get better feedback and feel more rewarded in games than they do in real life. … it makes perfect sense for gamers to spend more time in virtual worlds than the real world. Now, I also agree that that is rational, for now. But it is not, by any means, an optimal situation. We have to start making the real world more like a game.

Here are a couple of games that McGonigal has helped develop:

World Without Oil is an online game in which you try to survive an oil shortage… Nobody wants to change how they live just because it’s good for the world, or because we are supposed to. But if you immerse them in an epic adventure and tell them, “We’ve run out of oil.” This is an amazing story and adventure for you to go on. Challenge yourself to see how you would survive. Most of our players have kept up the habits that they learned in this game.

Superstruct at The Institute For The Future. And the premise was, a supercomputer has calculated that humans have only 23 years left on the planet. It’s your job to invent the future of energy, the future of food, the future of health, the future of security and the future of the social safety net. We had 8,000 people play that game for eight weeks. They came up with 500 insanely creative solutions.

John’s Note:

Learning through well designed games is very powerful, because if you complete the game, you will have learned all that you needed to learn. There is no failure, only not enough effort. The focus can shift away from creating effective tests to creating more enjoyable learning experiences in the games.

Action Items:

  • What can you do to bring game dynamics to your business?
  • Do you have a psychological catch that makes your company irresistible to customers?
  • Can you make your work environment more like a game by giving your employees “experience points” and opportunities to “level up?”

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