Psychological Insights from Social Gaming and Their Real-World Applications

Some guiding principles that could be applied to the design of collaboration, communication and attention game mechanics in the future, based off the success of Farmville, Mafia Wars and all the other annoying updates you get spammed by on Facebook from your middle aged and female friends*!

Based on Jesse Schell’s, of Carnegie Mellon and Schell Games, talk at DICE:

1. Psychological Design drives user behavior

Use of free-to-play, virtual currency, lead generation and “velvet-rope” models shape and channel user behavior to ultimately spend real money in-game to create new revenue streams.

i.e. – the freemium model, where the heavy users subsidize the majority of users, works.

2. Break through to Reality

The most successful games break through from a virtual experience to include real-life interaction.

i.e. what we’ve known in the communications business for ages continues to be true. Offline events drive online coverage and community.

3.  Technology Diverges. Gaming will too

As technology advances it wants to diverge not converge. It grows and spreads. You might call this the Law of Technical Divergence. Mobile devices are an exception.

i.e. don’t get enamored by the technology, focus on the behaviours it elicits and draws out of your user group.

4. Sensors will enable new gaming mechanics in everyday life

As activity, location, biometric and attention sensors emerge and are embedded in everything from our toothbrush, to clothing, to food and of course devices, we will see an explosion of game mechanics used to drive and change our behavior.

i.e. get your tin foil hats out – privacy is shrinking.

5. Persistent history of our actions could drive improved behavior

In the near future, when we are all being tracked, watched and measured by all kinds of sensors; and our children’s children will know what we read, ate, did and thought, will it inspire us to improve our personal behaviors.

i.e. technology improves your experience the more you use it. If it can be used to improve and change your behaviours, see below, then that’s even better.

Also of interest:

Jesse Fox at Stanford finds that experiences with avatars, including personalized images of ourselves, can change our view of reality and the way we act in the real world. From

via Bruce MacVarish Notes: Avatars & Game Psychology Reshape Real Life & Behavior.

* According to this eMarketer study on social gamers. More than one-half of players are female, and the average US player is 48 years old. Relatively few US weekly gamers are under 30, while nearly one-half are over 50.


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