Monday 5 September 2011

Everything Is Already Gamified

Opening statement

You have already gamified your product (or service). You’re probably not pointsifying it in any meaningful way, you may be considering doing so, you may be considering more literally gamifying it. But in a not insignificant way, it was probably a game to start with.

There are rules to the way your product (or service), its marketing and its monetisation work. There are rewards for buying it. All products (or services), all marketing and all monetisation has some kind of ruleset and some kind of rewards. It costs this much, you use this many, this quickly, it makes you feel this way when you don’t have it and this way when you do. 

Panda-ing to my audience

You are already pushing people in one direction or another, making them feel one emotion or another, tell themselves one story or another. Games are, on some basic level, systems that make people feel and behave in particular ways. Gamification, in its populist form of pointsification, uses points and badges to do that poking and prodding around inside your brain, but its actual aims are no different to any of the other techniques used in product (or service) design, marketing, advertising or business strategy. If I make you do this, you’ll feel this way. If I make you feel this way, you’ll do this.

Some examples

The link between games and stories is incredibly close. Games can be seen as machines that tell stories, or more accurately, let their players tell stories. Stories can be seen as the results of games already played by the story’s creator. This makes sense of stories both as  personal anecdotes and as professional content.

Writing a book is, in itself, a playful activity. Writers toy with your emotions and play with your expectations. An author knows what they want you to do, to keep turning pages, to stop reading and consider what you just read, to laugh, to cry, to fear, whatever. They play a game which involves them arranging concepts and words into an order that will produce that behaviour in their reader. If they get it right, they win the game. Well done them.

Businesses themselves are definitely games. Ted Turner’s famous quote on the subject, much beloved of gamification presentations, is ‘Life is a game. Money is how we keep score.’ Business is definitely a game where money is the score. There are high score tables and badges and ranks and levels and level-ups. The stock market itself is a meta-game played on top of the games of businesses. Gaming rules and conventions are present in every aspect of the economy. And hey, that includes your product (or service).

Ted Turner owns the world's largest herd of bison. Should have used them to keep score.

So regardless of your feelings about the very literal and narrow practice of pointsification, recognise that gaming’s purity, its drawing out of the basic concepts of internal narrative, of self-determination, still has an awful lot to teach your business.


See there’s an opportunity here. Your product (or service) may well already be like a game, but it’s unlikely that it will be like a very good game. If you make it a better game, it will be a better product (or service), a better business.

Eric Schmidt recently gave a talk in Edinburgh, where he said that companies should be hiring engineers at all levels The future of everything is software, so you need people who know how to make software in the DNA of your company, advising at every level. He was quite right to say so. Everything is becoming software, or if not, it’s becoming a computer. And you need people who understand software and computers on a meaningful level at all stages of your business, to aid its strategising and decision making.  

Eric Schmidt (l) speaking to Edinburgh (r)

What I would suggest is that, since everything is already, on some level, a game, you need game designers at every level of your company, just the same as you need engineers. You need to have game thinking baked into your entire business strategy, just the same as you need technological savvy. Everything is software, so everything needs engineers. Even more everything is a game, so even more everything needs game designers.

The Future of Television Part Two: Part Two has been cancelled due to whatever.

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