Game mechanics for society, culture and people (Part 2 of 3)
In part 1 of this series I highlighted a major force in game mechanics that exist today, stock markets.
It’s hard to look at this in isolation and to dream up other mechanisms and incentives that could be created to deliver more than just financial value.
Here are some inspirational examples of incentives and mechanics that are already used or could be used to create new types of value;
«just had to add Twitter today after initially posting this yesterday».
Twitter Promoted Tweets. Tweets are rated on a metric called “resonance”. Resonance is driven by factors such as how much a tweet is passed around, marked as a favorite or how often a user clicks through a posted link. This ranking of a tweet measures the usefulness of the tweet to everyone. From Twitter Search, anyone (brands to begin with), can pay to sponsor a tweet in the results that is resonating. However, the tweet will only be shown if it’s resonance is high enough.
Here the host of the game are the people. The players are the brands/advertisers. The brands have an incentive to make the tweet useful to people. They have an incentive to make the interaction meaningful. The outcome that twitter creates out of this is that people see brands that matter. Brands can only play if they are truly useful based on people’s feedback, making advertising hyper-efficient and connected.
The social stock market. This doesn’t exist yet, but Muhammad Yunus is suggesting a stock market for social business. In such a market, businesses are measured on #1 their social benefit (not just profits). As with the stock market, the hosts of the game are the investors, and the players are the social businesses and entrepreneurs. Investors invest money in businesses they believe will generate value for society.
Google PageRank. Google invented the algorithm that ranks content with more citations higher than those with less. This is a content quality ranking which is then passed to the people who search. Google became a great search engine because the quality of the results were higher than anyone else at the time, and people valued that.
Google and the people who use it because they value content quality, are the hosts of the game. The brands/products/services/content providers are the players. The incentives are to for the players to create higher and higher quality content. The leaderboard is the SEO position for a particular keyword.
By trying to achieve a higher leaderboard position, people gain the benefit of being better informed, educated, connected with stuff they care about. Other companies have been started to plug holes where there are content gaps - places where people value having higher quality content. Google benefits through a selling market for keyword advertising.
Walmarts Sustainability Index. Working on behalf of their customer’s values, Walmart is defining incentives around sustainability, evaluating things like energy use, material efficiency and the impact on communities where products are made. They will regularly quiz their 100,000 global suppliers and share the results with the shoppers. The shoppers are then better informed to make decisions.
The goal is to drive social, economic and environmental change. imagine making a laptop purchase based on the level of carcinogens, or the level of mineral extraction required for the components, or water use - the data exists, and walmart among others are trying to make it visible so shoppers can decide what they care about. The assumption is that with the right data, people will change their purchasing decisions which will effect change.
So back to games, the hosts are the shoppers and the players are the product suppliers. The leaderboards are the rankings that end up being published, imagine a list of the top 10 shampoos based on water use, or having in store/on web site descriptions that have a ranking out of 10 in each area evaluated.
Walmart is the market where this information is used, in this case a market for personal goods. The incentives however are greater, especially if the suppliers also provide products to other retailers, walmart essentially drives changes across the whole market.
Trustworthiness Currencies. Defined by Cory Doctorow, the Whuffie, is a currency for reputation. To earn currency, you have an incentive to develop a reputation. There is a parallel to Google’s Pagerank, where by quality is inferred through some structural relationships. The Whuffie Bank was set up to start generating whuffies for people to claim and earn. They use re-tweets or social network references to achieve the same goal, except instead of quality, it is reputation. Here the hosts are the bank, and the bank’s customers are the players.
So this is one isolated market, where you can trade your reputation for other stuff, but extending it further, Craig Newmark calls for ethical and interchange standards around trust currencies, which would in effect make trust transferrable out of the Whuffie bank, into other banks. This ability to transact and trade is critical to further adoption.
So here are four different areas of gaming to create new types of value (I’m sure there are others I have not found);
- social benefit,
- media content quality,
- usefulness/interest (resonance)
- sustainability, and
- trust and reputation.
There are some key takeaways that I think are important for anyone designing and building games for society, culture and people;
- The incentives should be transparent - imagine if walmart ranked a supplier with a low rating, but never told them where they were lacking. the supplier would never improve. this is one area where Google lacks with Pagerank - they are extremely secretive about their algorithms, because they don’t want people gaming them, even though this is one big game (oh the irony). I suspect the alrogithms really aren’t that useful to society, content would not be improved x10 or x100 if they opened up.
- The points/rankings data should be open - anyone that wants to use it should be able to, to maximise it’s application and benefit. imagine a walmart competitor using the same data to provide information to their customers, making more people are aware, and therefore making a greater impact on suppliers. if only walmart benefited, society doesn’t receive the best impact.