Aug 122014

The tl;dr version is “go here for the talk.”

This past week I was in London, attending Wikimania 2014. Many thanks to Ed Saperia and the organizers for inviting me to speak, it was a highly illuminating experience.

I gave a talk about seeing the Wikipedia experience itself as a series of games: the game of being a reader, the game of editing (or attempting to edit) the content within, and the game of active participation in the community, in terms of working with its policies, its infrastructure, and so on.

Along the way, my intent was to basically toss a few hand grenades in the general vicinity of the foundations of Wikipedia, and in fact of the larger Wikimedia project. This is one of the most idealistic projects in all of human history, and a group of highly intelligent and altruistic people who are fortunately very open to self-examination. So I felt that maybe questioning some of the fundamental assumptions about how they saw themselves and their project was something healthy, and maybe something that would be extra-helpful if done by an outsider.

To make it extra fun, I tried to make the slides look like they were from an old print book.

You can find the slides as a slideshow or as a PDF, and even video of the talk, all here on this new page I have created. I also participated in a panel with a bunch of wonderful folks, on the broader topic of virtual communities. That video is also posted there.

I left the conference thinking a lot about complex systems thanks to lengthy chats with Yaneer Bar-Yam, and toying with the idea of reframing my various definitions of play and games as just “dealing with complexity.” About which more later, I am sure, as it continues to percolate.

Wikimania 2014 in London

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Aug 042014

wikimanialogoI am speaking this week at Wikimania 2014 in London. I’m speaking in the “social machines” track, which is about systems wherein the code and the people are inseparable — as in Wikipedia itself, social network systems of all sorts — and of course, multiplayer games. I’ll be doing both a lecture session and participating on a panel.

In the talk, I am going to be very literal, and talk about Wikipedia as a game. It seems to me that Wikipedia as a system is unquestionably what I call a “ludic system,” a construct that lends itself to game-playing. It was not constructed as such, however (my term for intentionally constructed systems like that is “ludic artifact.”) The fact that it was not intentionally designed as such means that we can look at it with a jaundiced designer’s eye, and see ways in which is functions poorly as a game.

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Jun 142011

Sebastian Deterding has posted another spectacular presentation on gamification, but really on much more: the reasons why to make games, a great deconstruction of how they function from a social point of view, a lot of insights on game design in general… all in all, really wonderful.

The world, virtual

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Jan 072011

Lately it has been hard for me not to see recent trends ranging from gamification to the increasing prevalence of robots in the household as a sign of the way the real world is starting to imitate a virtual world.

  • We’re adding friends lists via well, everything
  • And bots via robots
  • and reputations via LinkedIn
  • and auction houses via eBay
  • and secure trade via Craigslist
  • and profiles via Facebook
  • and virtual currency with Facebook Credits
  • and quests via serious games
  • and points for meaningless grinding via gamification
  • and strategy guides via Quora
  • and guild chat via status updates
  • And stats to ourselves via ‘quantified self’ approaches
  • And classes and skills via the march of specialization in job roles

Now, you may say that all of these are things that existed before. Yes, and we then built adapted versions of them for the virtual world that accommodated the fact that they were being simulated in a virtual space. And now those adaptations are being ported back to meatspace. We could call these three stages of development:

  1. real world, inhabited by people
  2. virtual world, inhabited by users
  3. wold virtual inhabited by userplayers

Take a look at Leigh Alexander’s hilarious and spot-on critique of Foursquare:

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Feedback does not equal game design

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Jan 042011

Not familiar with game mechanics or game theory? Ralph Koster, author of Theory of Fun for Game Design, says game mechanics are “rule-based systems / simulations that facilitate and encourage a user to explore and learn the properties of their possibility space through the use of feedback mechanisms.”

In conventional terms, think earning rewards for swiping your credit or debit card or staying at a particular hotel or flying a certain airline. Unconventionally – and this is where my prediction comes into play – think affording your customers and prospects accumulating rewards in exchange for engaging via your website (i.e., points, badges, leaderboards, awards, etc.).

via Daily Dose – Game Theory And Gaming Mechanics For Your Website.

I feel bad picking on this article given that it surely is selling copies of my book. Except that  the above example does not include “exploring and learning the properties of a possibility space.” So it’s wrong. To be more blunt, the second paragraph misses the point of the first.

Just giving feedback is not game design, and it will be lousy “gamification.”

When we train game designers, when we critique projects, and when we discuss what makes games compelling, we certainly do discuss feedback. But what we dwell on is the game systems, the core loop.

If you really want to gamify something, you need to make the core loop be something to explore and master. Buying an airplane ticket or staying at a hotel isn’t something you “master.” Piling up points is not good gamification.

The feedback exists to give cues to the user that they are learning something. It isn’t food pellets for rats to reward them for pushing a lever. Good gamification will be less Skinnerian and more like getting an A in class as a recognition of how well you mastered the subject.

Oh, and hi everybody, I’m back blogging, I hope. 🙂