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October 23, 2007


Leland M


Hey Dino,

Gaming has always been a big of interest of mine so thanks for catching this article. In fact, you should read _A Theory of Fun_ by Raph Koster. It’s one of my top 10 of all time favorite books.

It's interesting how Rex says we’ve ended-up in a world that we play as a game. I disagree with him. Life has always been a game - the infinite game. It's a game with no finish line. No final destination. Surviving is an end unto itself.

Plus I think it’s natural for humans to create games where no games existed before – i.e. Facebook, dating, etc. It’s our way of partitioning out part of the world and organizing so we can manage it and learn how we should behave in it. In other words we create games to help us understand how to behave. Games are simply a series of If…Then statement. In essence, rules. If , then . If , then . After all, games originated to teach us how to survive – protect, hunt, fight. Games are a teaching mechanism first and foremost.

In response to your question: “I wonder what Leland thinks of this and how the idea of a gaming meta-trend might fit with his thoughts on "hacking". They may not be that far off?” My response: They both challenge the “player” to search the vast landscape of possible strategies for the ones that will work given an environment's conditions.

For instance, a game is an environment. It has conditions in it that dictate what a person can do and not do. It also has hidden strategies that will be successful in overcoming the challenges it poses. (This is no different than nature or business.) It is up to the player – through trial and error – to learn what those winning strategies are. In doing so, that player slowly collects a series of rules. If then . If then . Eventually, the player creates a set of rules (a strategy) that overcome the challenges posed by the environment (game).

Hacking is the exact same. Hackers explore the space of all possible hacks to figure out which ones may work in overcoming the challenges posed by a computer program, a business model or a marketing environment. Through trial and error they learn which ones work and, like the gamer, slowly collect the rules that seem to work. Eventually, the player creates a set of rules (a strategy) that overcomes the challenges posed by the environment (computer, business model, marketing environment, etc.).

I never would’ve thought of that had you not pointed it out. Thanks. Good call.

On a final note, whenever we participate in a game or create a game for people to play in, it’s important to identify what role we or the players will play. This is where archetypes come in handy. For example, in _Civilization_ we play the archetypal role of ruler. In watching _24_, we play the explorer (detective). In _Halo_, the warrior. In Facebook, we play the lover. In _Grand Theft Auto_, we play the role of outlaw. In _Second Life_, we initially play the archetypal role of the innocent until we grow up into a new role.

You get the idea.


Now that's a comment!
Thanks a lot Leland, I think I'll be calling on you more and more as I try to wrap my head around some of this!


Leland M

I just reread my comment and noticed there were i said 24 in the last paragraph I meant to write Lost. Sorry if that was confusing.

I also noticed that there are a few sentences that incoherently read: If , then. I had actually written out rules using the carrot icons "" unfortunately typepad saw those as me entering code. So everything in between then was erased. For example, in the 3rd paragraph, it should've read: "If[I get very close to an orc] then [jump back to avoid his strong close range attack]." Just wanted to clarify that so you didn't think I was insane.

[ paul ]

Interesting. I don't know that I agree with him though. I think he's played far too many games in his lifetime and now he sees everything as a game. Just like to Harold and Kumar, everything became a White Castle burger as the night went on.

Maybe for some people it's a game to see how many 'friends' they can acquire on social networking sites or how high they can get their blog ranked. But I don't think that's what the bulk of people on these sites or writing blogs are out to do.

I know for me personally, that's not how I look at these things. I don't even know how many friends I have on Facebook or how many connections on LinkedIn.

And as for the blog, I could give a shit about my blog's rank. Sure, it's fun to look at and see who is linking to you and in what regard. And it's fun to look in Google Analytics to see if what you're writing is being read and where in the world from. It's even encouraging. But I am not really trying to drive up my blog ranking at all. If I send out a link to something I wrote, it's because I feel strongly about the subject. And I can only think of a handful of times I've done this. Never was I trying to drive up my rank or traffic. If it climbs on its own, great. If it sinks, fine too. I write out of my passion for this business and genuinely wanting to try to make it better in some small way. I write so I can put my thoughts down and hang on to them somewhere. And if I'm lucky, have a few smart people such as yourself grace them with a comment or reaction every once and a while that helps make me grow and learn. But I don't look at trying to make myself a little more intelligent as a game. There's no end point at which I'll say, 'Well, I'm done. I beat it. I can't get any smarter.'

There certainly are some people out there who are always trying to drive up their blog rank and traffic. But I don't know that they're looking at it as a game. I think it's more likely that they're trying to make themselves feel something that they aren't, yet they desire to. Or they're simply feeding their ego.

In a game, you play to beat it, to win, to get to the end. With people collecting friends or driving up blog traffic, is there really an end point that you can say that you've won?

I really like Adam's distinction between play and gaming. I think that's a great call. In his terms, I guess you could say that what I do with my blog and social networks is play. I'm not trying to win anything. I'm just having fun and communicating with people who I share some common interests or bonds with.

Anyway, I used myself as an example far too much here. Now, to tie this all back to brands and such, I still like the idea of looking at what we do for the brands we work with as playing and gaming. If we use Adam's view, I suppose that the individual campaigns/ideas can be looked at as gaming/games. There is a finite period to them, with some defined boundaries and an end goal. Conversely, we should try to look at our bigger brand ideas as a form of play that will allow for many types of games to happen over several months or even years perhaps. If we look at them as a form of play, then we don't have as many rules and boundaries to hold us in and there's not really an end goal. The goal is to constantly and infinitely have fun.

I kind of like that idea. People like to have fun. At least most people I know...


"I guess you could say that what I do with my blog and social networks is play."

I think this is the most interesting aspect of "the gaming of everyday life"... (Had to squeeze in my pet trend name!)

The hack is to recognize the gameplay space you can enter to start playing the 'game version' of play, but choose not to and remain in the play space.

It's the choice to be above all competition by refusing to compete at all. It is especially affective as a superior pose if you've anticipated the games eventual pay-off and decided it isn't of enough value for you to play *that* particular game.

The hacker takes great care when deciding what project to engage in. It's far too easy to be dragged into fashionable games just because the 'mundanes' decide that's where they want to 'play' together/against each other.

I think you're spot on with the campaigns=games, brands=play analogy. I'd caution that because people are so hyper-aware of being in these states and the terms of engagement set out in the invitations to them, they must be assumed to be in the in-between space: gameplay, self-consciously deciding on what terms they will engage: play the game, game the game, or non of the above.

So many games, so little time!


"In Second Life, we initially play the archetypal role of the innocent until we grow up into a new role."

That's a perfect description! I wish I could go back to my 'innocent' days ;^)

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I kind of like that idea. People like to have fun. At least most people I know...

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Its as clever and engaging as filming people drive to a gas station and hearing that it doesn't sell gas. What is it with the US at the moment? Wood for trees?logo design

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