TagGames as work

What’s The Difference Between Game Mechanics in the Enterprise and Good Management?

A follow-up to my last article on the gamification of work:

And to some extent, “pointsification” is just quantification – something enterprises should be doing anyway. In fact, most the principals of a good game should apply in the workplace.:

  • Quantification: Tracking sales, average customer support response time, server uptime and other metrics that identify success.
    Recognition and Reward: Raises, bonuses, promotions.
    Autonomy: Robertson notes that for a game to be truly engaging players must be able to make decisions that “meaningfully impact on the world of the game.” Autonomy has been identified by Daniel Pink and others as a requirement for motivation and job satisfaction.
    Challenge: I think this should be self-explanatory.
  • Looked at this way, is there any difference between “gamification” and “good management”?

    The Gamification of Work


    I wrote a follow-up of sorts to my post here The Problem with Gamification:

    With all this in mind, is it possible to effectively apply game mechanics to work-related applications? The jury’s still out on Rypple and Moxie’s implementation of badges, but I’m hopeful about both. Meanwhile, Pietro Polsinelli has written an essay on game mechanics and how he applied game design to his social bookmarking/task management web app Licorize. Polsinelli considered how certain common game activities correlate to activities in the application and added points and scoring to those activities. The essay is well worth reading for anyone interested in game mechanics in work related applications.

    ReadWriteWeb: Buzzword Watch: The Gamification of Work

    The Problem with Gamification


    Margaret Robertson gets to the core of the problem I’ve had with my thinking on how to apply game mechanics effectively to non-game situations:

    That problem being that gamification isn’t gamification at all. What we’re currently terming gamification is in fact the process of taking the thing that is least essential to games and representing it as the core of the experience. Points and badges have no closer a relationship to games than they do to websites and fitness apps and loyalty cards. They’re great tools for communicating progress and acknowledging effort, but neither points nor badges in any way constitute a game. Games just use them – as primary school teachers, military hierarchies and coffee shops have for centuries – to help people visualise things they might otherwise lose track of. They are the least important bit of a game, the bit that has the least to do with all of the rich cognitive, emotional and social drivers which gamifiers are intending to connect with.

    She’s not completely pessimistic about it, and neither am I:

    Gamification is the wrong word for the right idea. The word for what’s happening at the moment is pointsification. There are things that should be pointsified. There are things that should be gamified. There are things that should be both. There are many, many things that should be neither.

    It’s important that we make the distinction between the two undertakings because, amidst all this confusion, we’re losing sight of the question of what would happen if we really did apply the deeper powers of game design to more everyday things – if we really did gamify them – and that question is a fascinating, exciting and troubling one. I really hope we get a chance to explore it properly.

    Hide & Seek: Can’t play, won’t play

    Grinding Interviews Cyborg Anthropologist Amber Case

    Amber Case

    Grinding interviews cyborg anthropologist, and one of the most influential women in tech, Amber Case:

    Reality is boring. Waiting in line at the DMV suck. Real life takes time. Digital life is more instantaneous. In real life, the time and space between goals and accomplishments is often large. For some, it is physically impossible to achieve certain things, like purchasing a Ferrari or rising above middle management in their career path. Online gaming, especially sites like Farmville step in to take care of that void. Whereas one doesn’t have the money, time or room for a real garden, Farmville provides one without the back aching labor. All reality is replaced by small icons, and time is compressed so that goals and accomplishments are right next to one another. Everything has a point value and a reward. When real life takes so long to reward someone, online gaming is often a better and more enjoyable alternative.

    In the future, hybrid reality, or life which is both a game and real, might blot out the mild dystopia that we all live in. Or it will make us more intolerable of the space between reality. And for those who spend a lot of time in reality, Foursquare is a good add-on for making the mundane exciting. To be crass, one might say that Foursquare is kind of like dogs pissing on fire hydrants and having other dogs come along and sniff them to see who’s been there. The dog with the most potent urine is mayor of the fire hydrant.

    Grinding: Talking with Amber Case

    See also:

    Here’s my interview with Amber

    Here’s our conversation on hypersigils

    John Robb’s response to Jane McGonigal’s TED talk

    New Hearing Aid Uses Your Tooth To Transmit Sound

    Why games will take over our lives

    Jesse Schell

    An interview with Gamepocalypse blogger, game designer, and Carnegie Mellon University professor Jesse Schell:

    In short, we already see games creeping into our everyday lives in all kinds of funny ways. You go to Starbucks, and you get points if you have a Starbucks card. And, in fact, they have a whole leveling system. The more times you visit, the more you move from level green up to gold level, with special privileges and free soy milk.

    Already, we have this whole system of economies floating around out there. And at the same time, we have all these technologies showing up that are allowing us to track new things, things that we couldn’t do before. […]

    I think camera-based technology and tracking is going to be one of the things, in the next 10 years, we’re going to see a lot of evolution in.

    The idea of cheap little cameras and disposable cameras are going to become fairly normal. And when you combine that with the fact that we’re getting used to touch-based interfaces and gesture-based interfaces, I think we’re going to see these cameras in a lot of places for interacting with a lot of things.

    You’ve got Google Goggles, where you take a picture of like anything, and it will tell you what it is. We haven’t really started to make games with that yet, but I think we will start to.

    And if you look at the new Nintendo DSi, which is their newest handheld, it has two cameras on it, which at first seemed kind of crazy to people, but the idea is you have one camera that faces out into the world and one that faces you the user, so it can look at your face and study your face.

    No one’s quite figured out exactly what that’s for yet.

    CNN: Why games will take over our lives

    Employers: Look to gaming to motivate staff

    Lee Sheldon

    A couple weeks I linked to to an article about a professor who replaced grades in his class with “experience points.” I didn’t realize it, but that was a blog write-up of another article which is more focused on applying his ideas to the work place:

    Clearly defined goals and fair, incremental rewards are two game design techniques that could motivate the ‘gamer generation’ in the workforce, according to a US academic.

    Lee Sheldon of the Indiana University believes managers may have to rethink how they engage the next generation entering the mainstream workforce.

    “As the gamer generation moves into the mainstream workforce, they are willing and eager to apply the culture and learning techniques they bring with them from games,” said Sheldon, a gamer, game designer and assistant professor at the university’s department of telecommunications.

    “It will be up to management, often of pre-gamer generations, to figure out how to educate themselves to the gamer culture, and how to speak to it most effectively,” he told iTnews.

    iTnews: Employers: Look to gaming to motivate staff

    I’ve been thinking about how to apply game design principles to the IT help desk at work to involve non-IT staff in solving problems.

    Professor Abandons Grades for Experience Points


    A professor at Indiana University has instituted a system of gaining experience points through classwork instead of receiving traditional grades.

    Lee Sheldon is an accomplished screenwriter and game writer, having worked on TV shows like ST:TNG and Charlie’s Angels as well as the Agatha Christie series of games from The Adventure Company. He now teaches game design courses for Indiana University’s Department of Telecommunications. Instead of assigning his students a grade at the end of the course, he instead starts every student at 0 xp and they earn points through completing quests like solo projects and quizzes in addition to grouping up for guild projects and pick up groups. How many points they have at the end of the course determines their actual “grade.”

    Sheldon put the system in place so that his students were motivated by the game theory with which they were familiar. “The elements of the class are couched in terms they understand, terms that are associated with fun rather than education,” Sheldon said.

    Escapist Magazine: Professor Abandons Grades for Experience Points

    I could see this being a little more granular as well – awarding points in specific areas. At the end of the course, students could really assess where their strengths are. Over the course of a larger program of study (2-6 years or whatever), “experience points” in certain areas would really start to stack up. Having a bigger assessment of strengths would be more useful than a GPA or a list of pass/fails.

    My alma mater Evergreen State College works something like this. You take only one class at a time. Each class is worth 16 credits, and the credits are usually spread across a few different areas. For example, I took a class called “Science of Mind” which awarded credits in cognitive psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and statistics. If you don’t meet the objectives for one area of study, say statistics, you might lose credit for that subject, ending up with only 14 credits that quarter. There are no grades, so your GPA doesn’t suffer, but you won’t have as many statistics credits.

    However, having a more defined set of areas that one could accumulate points over time through different classes and projects (“written communications,” “leadership,” “technical problem solving,” “mechanical aptitude,” etc. etc.) seems like it would be very useful for both the students themselves and for potential employers or graduate program committees or whoever else might need to evaluate a students strengths.

    How to make an addictive video game

    human sized hamster wheel

    Cracked has a surprisingly interesting article on the psychology of rewards and how it’s applied to game design:

    Do you like your job?

    Considering half of you are reading this at work, I’m going to guess no. And that brings us to the one thing that makes gaming addiction–and addiction in general–so incredibly hard to beat.

    As shocking as this sounds, a whole lot of the “guy who failed all of his classes because he was playing WoW all the time” horror stories are really just about a dude who simply didn’t like his classes very much. This was never some dystopian mind control scheme by Blizzard. The games just filled a void.

    Why do so many of us have that void? Because according to everything expert Malcolm Gladwell, to be satisfied with your job you need three things, and I bet most of you don’t even have two of them:

    Autonomy (that is, you have some say in what you do day to day);

    Complexity (so it’s not mind-numbing repetition);

    Connection Between Effort and Reward (i.e. you actually see the awesome results of your hard work).

    Most people, particularly in the young gamer demographics, don’t have this in their jobs or in any aspect of their everyday lives. But the most addictive video games are specifically geared to give us all three… or at least the illusion of all three.

    Cracked: 5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted

    (via Social Physicist)

    The Philosophy of Punk Rock Mathematics – Technoccult interviews Tom Henderson

    Tom Henderson - Mathpunk

    Tom Henderson, aka Mathpunk on Twitter, is a mathematics lecturer at Portland State University and an improve comedian with the group The Light Finger Five. He edits mathpunk.net and is co-host of the podcast Math for Primates (with scientist and professional weightlifter graduate student and competitive weight lifter Nick Horton). He received the Pandora Award (Bronze) from Chris DiBona, Open Source Program Manager for Google, for his participation in the game Superstruct.

    Klint Finley: What does it mean to be a (or, rather THE) “mathpunk”?

    Tom Henderson: Ha! Okay. When I was maybe 20 years old, my high school girlfriend was telling me about a punk band called “Green Dave.” I told her that I found punk to be totally unimpressive, because it was a musical genre that, near as I could tell, was founded upon not knowing how to play your instrument.

    She set me straight. The point of punk, she said, was that ANYone could get the experience of being in a band, of performing in front of peers, of expressing yourself, without there being a prerequisite to participate.

    This blew my mind, and it was that conversation that turned me from a nascent douchebag into a self-aware poser.

    Later, a girlfriend who had honest-to-god Southern California punk credibility — this was the time that The Offspring was getting radio play so, what, she was probably most deep in the hardcore scene? — got me interested in the music, and explained to me that punks could be astronomers or Shakespeare devotees with no clash. (Pardon the pun.)

    So, these things are tucked into my brain. Later, I move to Portland. I move to Portland with the extensive plan of “take math classes until head blows up, or degree achieved.”

    This is the first serious long-term plan I’ve ever had. I figure, Shit, I’m a guy with long term plans now? I need to re-roll my character sheet. I start with appearance (self-aware poser), and ramp up the mathematical angle, to cobble together a philosophy of punk rock mathematics.

    It is this:

    1) People use the average Joe’s poor mathematics as a way to control, exploit, and numerically fuck him over.

    2) Mathematics is the subject in which, regardless of what the authorities tell you is true, you can verify every last iota of truth, with a minimum of equipment.

    Therefore, if you are concerned with the empowerment of everyday people, and you believe that it’s probably a good idea to be skeptical of authority you could do worse than to develop your skills at being able to talk math in such a way that anyone can ask questions, can express curiosity, can imagine applying it in the most weird-ass off-the-wall ways possible.

    This does not entirely mesh well with the actual practice of learning mathematics, because that is mostly time spent alone or in small groups being very very confused almost all the time, but it’s still the bullseye I keep in mind.

    You know, it dovetails with the improv comedy thing… In improv, I’m guided entirely by audience reaction. It’s possible to improvise toward interest in a mathematical discussion in roughly the same way.

    In a nutshell, what is the problem with math education in the US?

    I have no idea. Let me instead describe the attitude that students have that is problematic, and you can reconstruct what must be wrong with it from that angle.

    “Show me the steps.”

    Many students want teachers to “show me the steps.”

    They want a sequence of steps that they can perform that will give them an answer. This is not unreasonable; they know that their performance on exams, and therefore their performance on the All-Seeing Grade Point Average, is largely determined by being able to Do The Steps.

    But “The Steps” are cargo cult mathematics.

    The Steps are seeing the sorts of symbols that count as “right”, and trying to replicate that dance of steps. It turns out that the easiest thing in the world is to look at a student’s work, and tell the difference between “Knows what’s going on, made mistakes and dozed off” vs. “Can memorize steps, has no idea what’s going on.”

    Now, the way that I explain mathematics, it sort of looks like I’m torturing the poor bastards. I handwave. I refer to certain groupings of symbols as “Alphabet soup” and write it down as a wild scribble with one or two symbols around it.

    Because I’m trying to avoid showing The Steps and instead show them enough of The Idea that they can reconstruct what the steps MUST be.

    Many students want to know the formulas, so that they can float them on top of their short-term memory, ace the exam, and then skim them off. Why do they want to know that?

    Probably because, for their entire mathematical careers, math has been a sequence of Steps, and if they get them wrong, they get red pen, bad grades, No No No Look What You Did. Plus, bonus, there is no apparent relevance of these algorithms other than To Get The Answer.

    What’s wrong with math education in the US? What’s wrong is, Whatever it is that makes my students uninterested in learning any more math than is required to minimize feeling stupid.

    So that we’re clear, lots of my students are totally awakened to the interesting weirdnesses of mathematics. But, it takes some doing, and I can’t do it by myself. Hence the podcasts and the lunatic twitter stream and the plans for TV shows and online games and godknowswhat else.

    I’m trying to get across that if you are highly motivating, if you have a high degree of fire and “Fuck yeah!” and “What, that’s impossible, but true!”, you can get students to express interest in theorems named after dead Hungarians.

    I’ve always been “bad at math” (and things I see as related: chemistry, physics, mechanics, etc.) Is there any hope for me (for example, have I just had bad math education in the past?), or is it an unchangeable function of how my brain works?

    That’s the real question, isn’t it? And I’m totally unqualified to answer it because I’m “good at math.” I tell students that “Math will wait for you until you are ready.”

    One of the best Einstein quotes in this regard is the one where he says, “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s that I stay with the problem longer.”

    Well, have you had students who have been able to turn that around? Go from being “bad at math” to being really into it?


    Let me tell you a theory about math knowledge. A mathematical concept can be expressed in symbols (algebra), in pictures (geometry and diagrams), verbally, and numerically. This is a common theory; my additional spin is that math knowledge also exists as a performative concept. Like, the way that I direct the attention of the students (“If you ignore this alphabet soup for a minute, you can see it’s really just a product of two things…”) Or, the way I will use physicality. Like, the other week, I climbed onto the chair and then onto the desk while I was trying to explain slope.

    ANYway, the theory goes that you don’t understand a mathematical concept until you understand it in TWO modalities. I do very well with visual knowledge, so my notes of understanding are full of color and pictures and mindmaps and arrows linking concepts, and I highlight the holy hell out of math books. However, I don’t believe I KNOW a concept until I can explain it verbally, because I can barely understand anything if someone just talks it at me.

    First swipe is through my best modality, second swipe is through my worst modality. The whole “learning style” thing may be overstated, but it remains true that getting students to understand things in a variety of modalities seems like the way to go.

    Maybe they don’t get the picture. So you ask them many verbal questions. (Questions, not explanations, 99% of the time.)

    I don’t know if you saw the article I posted here at Technoccult a few weeks back, but it looks like the whole “learning style” thing is complete bunk.

    Which makes sense, I mean who really “learns best” by having someone lecture at them for hours or reading a book with no illustrations anything?

    There may be some people who CAN learn that way but I don’t know if anyone really learns best that way.

    But yeah, multiple modalities always seems like a good way to go.

    Sure, maybe. But as a teacher I have to do something, and those somethings may as well be grouped by, “What things do I need to prepare? Should I work out a lot of pictures, a lot of numerical ‘recall this fact…’, a strong narrative for the problem at hand?”

    You know? It’s like… all this shit is imaginary.

    invisible pink unicorn

    Mathematics is like unicorn anatomy. You imagine this thing, and it doesn’t exist, yet it still comes with facts. I know how many legs a unicorn has.

    So, if you’re trying to imagine a thing that doesn’t exist you can use multiple modalities like tweezers — “The thing isn’t a picture, but here’s what a picture of it would be like. It’s not a verbal thing, but here’s the best we’ve got.” The real thing is the underlying Platonic concept.

    Post-Platonic? Now I wanna go make Xeroxes of Plato with his eyes X’d out. Thanks, punk-rock atemporality!

    Whoa, tangent.

    Let me expand briefly on one thing I know is wrong, and I hope that a networked learning environment can fix.

    Networked learning might — might! — solve the example problem. Students need familiar examples, but what is familiar is different to different students. I’m hoping that we can teach the web to send people the right example.

    Math for Primates

    You’re the co-host of the podcast Math for Primates. What’s the purpose of the podcast, and who is your target audience?

    Math for Primates started from the concept that there are certain things that humans are always interested in. Really, they like other humans. That’s the best thing. The internet used to just be a box with text, but once there was a critical mass of social information on it, it was a box with people inside! We love looking into boxes that have people in ’em!

    So, the concept I pitched to Nick was, “Let’s talk about math from the platform of ‘Math that humans are likely to want to know, because it’s about other humans'”

    Social conflict. Sex. Beauty.

    It gives us an excuse to talk extensively about game theory. And, game theory is a key place to teach humans mathematics, because we seem to have some optimized “cheat detection” in our brains.

    Let me give you an example, it’s something like, uh…

    There are four face-down cards on a table. There is a rule: “If the number showing is even, then the back of the card MUST have a vowel.”

    Now, given an E, 3, 8, D, what is the smallest number of cards you need to flip over to verify that the rule is being followed?

    Maybe I fucked up the puzzle. But, anyway, the answer as I’ve phrased it is NOT E and 3.

    You need to make sure that 8 has a vowel on the back, and you need to make sure that D does NOT have an even number on the back.

    Everyone gets this wrong, basically. Well, non-mathematicians always do, and I’m pretty sure I got it wrong because I get every answer wrong on the first try. Punk as fuck.

    Now, if you ask the same people a logically equivalent question: “You see four people. Two are drinking beer and two are drinking coke. Whose IDs do you have to check?”

    No one says you have to check the ID of the coke drinker. Because who cares how old they are? If it’s the same puzzle, but phrased as a problem of possible social cheating, we nail it.

    Wow. That’s interesting.

    This is interesting to us. We think it’s fascinating that, given just a change of context, people can do logic puzzles more effectively.

    So! We believe that if we put the context of mathematics into social situations, and maybe some other human-centered situations (like, we want to talk about group theory, but we will try and make it about “Symmetry” because that’s something that human eyes will pluck right out).

    I have to say, that your podcast has made Game Theory seem a lot more approachable to me. I used to think of it as something that was mathematical and scary. And I guess it’s still mathematical, but it seems entirely approachable and not scary.


    The thing about math is, you can only answer yes/no questions. How many questions in life are really just yes/no and not “it depends”? Very few. So, the problems that we can attack in mathematics must be very simple indeed.

    It’s just that they have a large number of component parts sometimes, because we are trying to build a complex and nuanced model out of stuff that is so simple that it admits a “yes/no” answer, always.

    We are talking about putting together an entire mathematical text starting from game theory as the first principles.

    Start with relatively simple social games that we can understand. Simplify them until they admit mathematical analysis. Now, introduce the minimal set of tools to solve this problem.

    That’d be great. Because what still scares me away game theory is knowing that most texts are still probably going to be incomprehensible to me.

    They may well be. Don’t get me wrong, the learning curve is always steep. I tell my students, “You say you’re bad at math, but the truth is, HUMANS are bad at math.”

    It takes a lot of quiet reflection to make any of it make sense.

    So, our target audience is, humans. But, only humans who are willing to be surprised and confused, and who think that paradox is something to be explored rather than fled.

    But not necessarily humans who already have a strong background in math.

    Heavens no. We have been referred to as taking the “Beavis and Butt-Head approach to higher mathematics.” And we are very proud of that. This was coming from someone who hope to have on the show soon, with a doctorate in mathematics and a grown-up job and everything.

    Superstruct Threats

    On to something completely different… Can you tell us a little about superstructing and how you got involved with it?

    Deep cleansing breath.


    Superstructing means to build upon something that is already there, right? To extend a structure, build on top of existing structures.

    But, when Jane McGonigal and the Institute for the Future use it, they mean something pretty precise: “Superstructing: A new way of working together, at extreme scales, supported by game platforms and mechanics.””

    “Extreme scale” means that an individual working alone for 5 minutes should be able to contribute to a project. But it also means that in principle you might be taking on some enormous problem space to explore collaboratively. And you’ll need hundreds of person-hours. The game platforms and mechanics provide the support. If you define some huge problem… ok, what do you do?

    The designer of a good and superstruct-y game-for-good will have clear missions, things that you can do, ways to compete and cooperate. For points, for gear, for social status, whatever. The idea is that you can use game mechanics to extend human capabilities so that they are able to achieve goals that previously it would take a whole institution to do but you do it in such a way that you can also extend the power of extant institutions with the networked abilities of social primates.

    The individuals form a network and get stronger. The institutions get large numbers of humans thinking and sharing and communicating, and get smarter. You’ve superstructed, built on what is there.

    How I got involved: I’ve been wrestling with knowledge management for years. I have several linear feet of journals full of mindmaps, but, y’know, you can’t grep dead trees. Back when I was trying to use a file cabinet for knowledge management (ha ha ha ha) I tucked the printout of an NPR transcript (ha ha ha) into a file marked “Ludology”, because I was getting interested in play and games. It included an interview with performance and games researcher, Jane McGonigal. I’m pretty sure that this must have been after ILoveBees, the ARG she designed for the Halo launch.

    Anyway, serendipity led me to clean out the hideous file cabinet, I see the Ludology file, I check to see what this McGonigal person is up to, and I find her New Yorker talk.


    I suddenly felt totally okay about playing EverQuest for three years and stacking up pizza boxes to my sternum, because, hell, there are lots of ways of getting in worse trouble living off Hollywood Blvd when you’re 23.

    “Ah ha! I was doing research on early gameplay and networked collaboration! How wise of me!” And, lo and behold, she was starting a new game called Superstruct.
    I played the game, drank the Kool-Aid, got the t-shirt. (I’m wearing it now, in fact.)

    So what did you do as part of Superstruct?

    I wanted to simultaneously win the game, and help it realize the potential I saw in Jane’s Big Idea. The first problem was that the interface was very bad. It would log you out constantly, it was hard to search, it was hard to keep track of what you had done so that you could nurture it.

    It was totally gorgeous, the design was beautiful, but the functionality was not what the really hardcore lunatic Super-Empowered Hopeful Individuals (SEHIs) needed in order to shine. Filter failure, basically.

    I remember taking a look at it from time to time and giving up within minutes of hitting the site. I couldn’t figure out how the hell to participate.

    Right, that’s because when Global Extinction Awareness System released the report, it woke up a swarm of No Future assholes who did their best to disrupt the site. (Possibly government operatives were involved; one storyline got a researcher in jail due to the riots after the report came out. [No one was arrested in real life – .ed])

    So, I decided that the interface itself was like our first boss fight. In-game, there was a story line of all the shenanigans that dedicated hackers and griefers can do…

    So, obviously, the SEHIs needed to save the project by duplicating efforts on more resilient networks. I did not have the technical skills necessary to do exciting things, so what I did was tried to locate anyone who might help the interface be improved, and do the best social engineering I could manage.

    Foundation (who is in Portland) wrote a screen-scraper that would relog in as often as necessary, so he could scrape the site and get interesting information.

    He was able to use this tool to send mass messages; I suggested that what we needed was to wake up the SEHIs who were clearly interested but maybe turned off by the site.

    So, we identified all SEHIs who had a minimal amount of activity (“Has joined a superstructure”) and sent them a “secret” message. Basically, we told them how bad ass they were (“You are the CORE SEHIs”), and where they could find additional off-site resources.

    That’s the thing that I was really proud of. The project wouldn’t be good without lots of active people, and we did what we could to try and maintain excitement and intrigue in the face of a somewhat boring “There are no RSS feeds!” obstacle.

    I also delivered an address from Open Source Scientists which people liked a lot. That was fun. I felt like people weren’t bringing their A game, so I basically told everyone, “I’m offering a resource as a prize for you to do something, and I think I will win this game even if I give you that prize.” It was cocky and snarky, and I got to show off my alarmingly large forehead.

    What I really wanted to do was some data visualization so that we could reduce redundancies. Lots of people had really great solutions, but some of those solutions were duplicated.

    I envisioned hundreds of superstructures circling each other like marine organisms, infecting and eating and mating with each other. Alas, I did not have the skills, nor the data. So as to remedy that I’m teaching myself Python and regular expressions for the next data analysis project that arrives.

    Once I know what I don’t know about social network analysis and random graph theory and data mining, I’ll have a clear path toward datamancy: being able to convert information on what people are doing into game-able decision points.

    Really, I just want to be able to look at people doing cool interesting things collaboratively, through a lens of computation, make a pretty picture, and strategize from there.

    Maybe it will even work!

    Sounds good. I think we can call it a wrap unless you have more…

    Just one more thing. Tell everyone to go sign up for Evoke!


    Will do! I think I’ll give Evoke a shot this time.

    From what I can tell, it’s got the secret sauce from Superstruct, packaged in a way that will make a jillion times more clear how to participate. (Jillion being a technical math term.) And, it’s about resilience, entrepreneurship, and helping other primates — it’s what the world needs!

    How many zillions in a jillion?

    A jillion is a squintillion with a zillion zeroes at the end. Glad I could clarify that.

    Jane McGonigal interview at WorldChanging

    NY cryptozoo

    Above: People playing CryptoZoo

    Suzie Boss: For the uninitiated, what are alternate reality games?

    Jane McGonigal: When people think of computer or video games, they often think of playing in a virtual world that doesn’t exist in reality. But alternate reality game designers are trying to get people to play in the real world. We want people to bring the same curiosity, wonder, and optimism that you feel when in your favorite video games into your real lives and real problems.

    SB: Your games sound pretty different from commercial products like World of Warcraft.

    JM: There are two big distinctions. First, alternate reality games are not in a virtual environment. They’re built on top of social networks, so we use ordinary online tools like online video, blogs, wikis, and being part of a network. It’s not about graphics and avatars. Second, it’s real play and not role play. You don’t adopt a fictional personality. You play as yourself.

    SB: Do your games actually change how people act in real life?

    JM: CryptoZoo is a good example of a game oriented to changing your everyday behavior. I developed it for the American Heart Association with the mission of changing the way people think about physical activity. Right now, many of us think of physical activity as requiring you to carve out an hour and changing into your gym clothes. You think you have to go to a special place to sweat. It feels separate from our everyday lives and not integrated into what we do when we’re hanging out with our friends. CryptoZoo inspires people to say, let’s be active for the next five minutes. We teach people to see real streets, real parks, real physical environments as opportunities for playing the game.

    WorldChanging: Jane McGonigal on Gaming for Good

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