The Game of Life
August 27, 2010
Jesse Schell has prophesised the coming of a new dawn / age / epoch where we live in a world where life is a game. We score points for watching adverts, holding handrails and reading books. Engagement can be metered and we’re all over the moon because who doesn’t like scoring points? When was the last time you roofed a penalty and looked glum? Christiano Ronaldo is the only human-being with enough cyborg like qualities to look like he’s prematurely discharged a pistol into his thigh as he scores. Just as Clay Shirky says we’re predisposed to sharing, Jesse Schell tells us we like to rack up points. I think he has a fair point himself. And it’s also worth noting these points allow for data driven interfaces (which I’ve previously commented on) and concurrent competition.
But as Russell Davies has pointed out we like games because they are associated with fun and high production standards. I think he’s right to some extent that diminished quality won’t leave people desperate for more but then again farmville is no GTA and 93 million people play it.
The world that Jesse Schell talks about is dependent on the development of the Internet of Things (which I have talked about before) and is I think is a concept that opens up a tremendous range of possibilities. For life to become a game where we rack up points here, there and everywhere we need ubiquitous computing where a whole range of devices are always on.
We’re seeing this to a certain extent already with smartphones. Faris Yakob has talked about the ‘constant now’ and this is undoubtedly a good idea. The phone is always with you so it’s always ‘now’, whether this is the urgent, bored or repetitive ‘now’. This idea is dependent on context in space and time (which is what a phone provides). What smartphones can already do is collate vast quantities of information about us, as people, through our digital habits because they are always with us in the constant now. Crucially though they’re also finding out more and more about our ‘real’ world habits too because they know where we are in space and time and we’re using them to navigate our lives in/on the ‘real’ world platform. The boundaries between real and digital worlds are disappearing quite quickly at the moment and it’s going to create loads of really complex interactions (something I’m going to come onto in a post on digital weaving).
Aggregation services and interfaces could have a big role to play in a world where everything is a game. This space between data and consumer is somewhere that brands can potentially occupy I think. It provides brands with space to create valuable user experiences that can be fashioned for a particular purpose. How a brand does this though is going to get fiddlier and fiddlier. Fortunately what this means I think is that we’re going to see more and more interesting uses of media, which can only be a good thing, to help simplify the message / story. In a complicated space often what is really needed is a stripped down, clear message just because it’s all people have time for (with a bit of value exchange tagging along too).