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“The Game Layer”

In class we have talked about some fairly simple two player games and auctions among small numbers of people.  However there are several sets of additional games that can be applied to large networks of people.  Seth Priebatsch, founder of SCVNGR, is working on adding what he calls the “Game Layer” on top of the social networking framework that has been constructed over the past decade.  In his talk, Seth briefly mentions four out of seven types of games that can affect be used to “get anyone to do anything”.  His first category of game is called appointment dynamic.  The prime example referenced in the video is Farmville.  On the Facebook network, this game became extremely popular when it was released in 2009.  Even I became a victim of its incredible power.  While playing the game, your rank among friends was displayed at the bottom of the game.  In order to move up the ranks a player would need to make more money than all of his friends also playing the game.  To do this, Farmville crops needed to be harvested at very precise times, otherwise they would wilt.  This estabilshes the “appointment dynamic” Seth speaks of.  Millions of players changed their daily routines in order to harvest their crops as soon as they were ready to try to gain an edge on their friends.  Clearly, the best strategy in an “appointment dynamic” game is to be the most punctual of players in order to win.

The next game is “influence and status”.  This is probably one of the most commonly used games in advertisement.  He cites some examples such as American Express’s black credit card and Modern Warfare’s ranking system.  This game can easily be used to manipulate people into playing harder, ie. spending money.  This can be seen lots of places.  For example, when a friend of yours has a fancy designer purse or sunglasses, you’re tempted to think that they’re cooler or a higher rank than you because they have that product.  You might even buy the item they have so you can be just as “cool”.  In this type of game, a player’s strategy tends to be work hard in order to achieve that same rank as the other player in the network.  This status can of course easily spread.

The third game is “Progression Dynamic”.  Unlike the previously mentioned games, this is more of a single player game.  The classic symbol of the progression dynamic is the progress bar.  With everything we are used to seeing on computers nowadays, we have become accustomed to the fact that a progress bar needs to be completed.  Use of such progress tracking devices can persuade players to keep playing until they have completed the task.  Priebatsch states that the use of simple granular steps that fill up a progress bar or level meter can easily influence an individual to play to completion.  For example, he mentions that users of the game World of Warcraft spend an average of 6.5 hours a day playing the game to level up their player and complete all of their tasks.  This of course can be used to influence a large network of people to do just about anything.  Say, each time you recycle, your recycling progress bar goes up 5%.  Everyone within the influence of the game will be compelled to recycle each time in order to claim their reward at 100%.

“Communal Discovery” is the last game mentioned in his speech.   The cool thing about this type of game is that everyone must work together as a team or network in order to win.  An example cited in the clip is the DARPA Network Challenge also known as the Balloon Challenge.  A group of students from MIT were able to quickly discover a winning strategy for this game and implement this to win the challenge of finding 10 red balloons across the entire US in under 9 hours.  Their plan was to split the winnings by giving $2000 to the individual who finds a balloon, $1000 to the person who invited the finder to the game, half of that to the person who invited them … and so on.  A game like this highly relies on the ability of a network to be connected across vast spans of node clusters.  The more clusters a game like this can hit, the more successful it can be.


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