I’m a big fan of Errant Signal because it’s such a transcendent platform – game reviews are there, yes, but even those are so much more than about just the game itself. Then, there are works like the above, which tackle the bigger topics without the immediate proxy that the specific game would provide.
It’s a cool topic, gamification, and one that I always meant to write about myself. Honestly, though, I’m not sure I have any further commentary to provide – he nails it dead on. I could put the industrial design spin on it and talk about the psychology of using a physical product instead of a virtual one, but when it boils down the metaphors stand: using something for the sake of itself is different than using it for some arbitrary reward. I might add, actually, that the physical product market does add another logically pointless reward: this concept of coolness.
While you could argue for and against the coolness of using Foursquare, the virtual gamification doesn’t immediately care about what others think. You’re getting rewarded for the things you do. Sometimes it’s a public thing – you want others to see your achievements or point score or whatever, but it’s not nearly as open as, say, driving a nice car or wearing that expensive watch. The reward mechanism for physical product usage is available much more directly to strangers on the street. As such, choices are made to maximize that, often in spite of more practical and reasonable concerns. This would be a prime example for using a system (or product) more for the reward than for the inherent joy of the product itself. This would the real-life equivalent of grinding for GP.
Coolness – if I may go off now on a complete tangent – is a bizarre thing. It’s only acceptable if it’s seemingly effortless. People who try too hard to be cool are even less cool than where they started because true coolness would be apathetic to being cool. The truly cool people are those who just are, while the people who want to be seen as cool cannot be. It’s actually one of the few status related actions in humanity that I really appreciate. It’s hilarious and ironic and much like golf rewards those who are able to relax and let it be. If you try too hard to be good at golf you will tend to do miserably. Then there’s the downward spiral: if you slice a ball terribly the mulligan has to be better, so you try harder, and it gets worse. Repeat. The more you fail trying to be cool the more you want to be cool and the harder you try, the more you’ll fail.
In summation, golf and coolness are Chinese finger traps, and both Chris Hecker and Chris Franklin are awesome.
Look! More awesome posts: