Over the last six months, it’s often seemed that there’s literally no field of human endeavour (or suffering) that hasn’t had gaming mechanics applied to it. We can now get points and badges for reading articles, or for watching television. (I remember when you had to at least be able to swim 25 metres or tie a knot.) On a more altruistic level, we Brits can earn points for participating in the “Big Society” . On a more alarming level, US citizens can earn points for voting.
Then came the inevitable backlash. Zynga CEO Mark PIncus caused something of a stir by freely admitting “I did every horrible thing in the book to, just to get revenues right away”. Ian Bogost developed the Cow Clicker game partly as a satire on the social gaming industry, together with an intelligent and considered articulation of his concerns around the industry. Ironically, people then played Cow Clicker…and seemed to enjoy it.
Much of the backlash has come from “real” gamers; lovers of console games and MMOs who frown on social games as somehow lower on the evolutionary scale. Interestingly, that’s not Bogost’s problem. Nor mine. Full disclosure-Playstation holds no allure for me, nor have I ever impersonated an Orc. Not on purpose, anyway…. So why do I care?
We’re killing the golden goose (cow)
Applying gaming theory to UX design (still) has real and rich potential. There are inspiring case studies about the impact of gaming mechanics in healthcare for example-take this game designed to encourage children with cancer to follow their treatment regimes or some of the examples cited in this excellent post from the folks at Big Spaceship. We know more every day about how to design an online experience rooted in the psychology of the user that will bring about behavioural change. It’s an extraordinary opportunity for an industry which-at its best-has always been about finding the right prompts to change behaviour in our brands’ favour. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s news to no-one that on-line advertising is in a truly alarming state. Every quarter brings frightening statistics on the revenue shift from display to search and social and on the precipitous decline in click-through rates. (Currently less than 0.1%) MSNBC recently announced the removal of all banners from its site (although there’s some debate over the definition of a banner).
Prevailing wisdom in some quarters is that this doesn’t matter very much-that the demise of the display industry validates what so many of us have been saying for so long about the need for engagement versus interruption. That the demise of the banner heralds the rise of the platform; rich, useful and entertaining brand experiences.
I’m a passionate believer in the power of the platform. I think it’s essential that we start to move towards big, business changing digital ideas. The web can transform the way consumers interact with our brands, changing not simply brand perceptions but business models. The challenge is that there are any number of smart, engaging digital platforms out there that simply can’t get traction because no-one stopped at the outset to ask: how will people find us?