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Play 'til it helps?
May 27, 2010 12:07 PM   Subscribe

The 'attention economy' is so 2007. Now we have the 'engagement economy'. How to turn attention into engagement so we can enlist average joes to help save the world? How about permeating the game-reality boundary? Futurist, game-designer, and existential cookie roller Jane McGonigal assures us that gamers and gameplay are the answer to real world problems. And, apparently Serious Games are geting better. Killer Flu, Chore Wars, and Evoke are recent advances. The 7th annual Games4Change Festival, ending today, offers a spate of new promises. Hope or hype?
posted by cross_impact (14 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
In the economy of engagement, it is less and less important to compete for attention, and more and more important to compete for things like brain cycles and interactive bandwidth. Crowd-dependent projects must capture the mental energy and the active effort it takes to make individual contributions to a larger whole.
Ugh. Here's a thought, why not let people decided what they want to spend "brain cycles" on themselves instead of trying to figure out how to "capture" them and get them wasted on whatever project you want. If you want people to work for you, then pay them!
posted by delmoi at 12:15 PM on May 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hype. But well-meaning hype!
posted by Damn That Television at 12:22 PM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Double? At the very least, Previously.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:28 PM on May 27, 2010


If you want people to work for you, then pay them!

Do you find it humorous that the corporate ogliarchy that derides anything resembling "socialism" has no problem sending jobs, production, and money into socialist countries like China?

Maybe "humorous" was a bad word.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 12:28 PM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm amazed there's no mention of Foldit.
posted by Jonathan Harford at 12:39 PM on May 27, 2010


Ugh. Here's a thought, why not let people decided what they want to spend "brain cycles" on themselves instead of trying to figure out how to "capture" them and get them wasted on whatever project you want. If you want people to work for you, then pay them!

Well, sure, but the only thing better than paid workers are FREE workers! These folks are basically trying to figure out how to get people to do things without giving them any real compensation.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:40 PM on May 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Not so much free work, as 'less wasted' work. Aren't the people who are spending 2.5 hrs/day on gaming already 'captured?' And for free if not paying for the priviledge? I think the idea is to create games engaging enough that they'll want to play and not waste their ingenuity on imaginary worlds like Azeroth.

Given the choice of a dopamine reward treadmill that feeds my ego and sense of self importance and a dopamine reward treadmill that feeds my ego and sense of self importance and also might have a real world benefit, I'll take the latter.
posted by cross_impact at 12:51 PM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is an over-the-Net version of an intellectual PlayPump. I have a hard time seeing how people could be ripped off, directly, in such a fashion. The designers have goals accomplished, the players are playing and being entertained. People want to screw around, kids want to run about and shove large metal objects — except when they don't, actually, and the system does not get used.

You could argue an indirect effect, such as "This lowers the value of other work." It probably differs from the Design My Logo sorts of contests in that this does not directly compete with the work of paid professionals — this seems to be work in new areas, like FoldIt. There's probably a maximal complexity to the problems solved analogously in the game, so the targets would be work machines do not do well versus work people do well, grunt work, and such. I am not sure we could map, say, wandering around a virtual landscape to designing a workflow for SharePoint.

Still, the impact seems to disproportionally hit the sort of labor for which you may have once paid.
posted by adipocere at 1:31 PM on May 27, 2010


Not so much free work, as 'less wasted' work. Aren't the people who are spending 2.5 hrs/day on gaming already 'captured?' And for free if not paying for the priviledge? I think the idea is to create games engaging enough that they'll want to play and not waste their ingenuity on imaginary worlds like Azeroth.

The imaginary world is essential to the concept, though. When you're playing WoW, you participate in fake events that allow you to improve your fake character and get new fake items. The feeling of progression and accomplishment is key, and it's just not that easy to translate to actual real world accomplishments.

For example, look at any forum that has some sort of game-like system for user classes or points or reputation. Those systems certainly encourage some people to gain more points and whatnot, but most of that takes the form of "Me too!" spam comments, reputation circle jerks, and downright cheating. If anything, those forums are much worse off for incorporating those kinds of systems. WoW only works because the rewards are the whole point, rather than the means to an end.

In my opinion the main flaw in this kind of thinking is that game reward systems offer a significant incentive for people to do things that they otherwise wouldn't do. The idea of using a gaming system to crowdsource real world problems sounds like Mechanical Turk with the micropayments swapped out for achievements and levels. I can't help that thinking an MMO that paid its users for their accomplishments would be extremely popular, so why would a Mechanical Turk that used MMO-style rewards be successful? The way to create a successful crowdsourcing project is to figure out what people want to do and design a system to let them do it, not figure out a way to trick people into doing things that they don't want to do through a rewards system.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:51 PM on May 27, 2010


Do you find it humorous that the corporate ogliarchy that derides anything resembling "socialism" has no problem sending jobs, production, and money into socialist countries like China?

All the profits of a first-world customer base with none of the stifling unions, workplace safety regulations, minimum wage or child-labor laws... sounds like the free market works after all.
posted by hamida2242 at 2:17 PM on May 27, 2010


Well, sure, but the only thing better than paid workers are FREE workers! These folks are basically trying to figure out how to get people to do things without giving them any real compensation.

Isn't this what social networking sites are, when "these folks" are market research companies
posted by hamida2242 at 2:19 PM on May 27, 2010


How to turn attention into engagement so we can enlist average joes to help save the world?

I don't object to the goal of world betterment per se. If you're unhappy, or you see others being unhappy, it's easy to conclude that the world needs reforming, I guess. I'm profoundly skeptical about the technocratic approach, though. It's rarely the case that people are just doing things wrong and need new techniques, as appealingly elegant an approach as that might seem.
posted by clockzero at 4:52 PM on May 27, 2010


I dunno, to me this is what technology is about -- enabling people to cooperate, and to do more without regard to distance. Hardly "technocratic." People peovide the solutions and the sweat equity, but technology facilitates. If a game enables useful collaboration and it happens to be fun at the same time, great.

Maybe it's cause I am a Gen Xer that I have little faith in institutions. I don't agree with the cynical idea expressed above that these games are an attempt to shift the responsibilities and costs of solving large problems from government or institutions to groups of free laborers. That would assume that institutions would otherwise be on the case, spending money and effort. I don't expect any of our large institutions to hand us a solution because the marginalized of the world are neither profitable nor are they influential.

I am a worker "on the ground," so to speak, in trying to solve some of these problems, at least in my local community. I know for a fact that the global solutions are local, person-to-person, maybe small-group-to-small-group, and all an institution can really do is facilitate. I also know first hand the challenge of engaging volunteers to do the hard work when every one is hyper-busy. I've found that you have to catch people being passionate about something and then be there to make it easy for them to turn their passion into action.

Gaming sounds like a potentially great mode of engagement and I am encouraged that there are people out there putting some serious thought into things.
posted by cross_impact at 7:07 AM on May 28, 2010


In an attention economy, skipping ads is theft.
posted by acb at 8:46 AM on May 28, 2010


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