Now that I’ve had a few days to digest all the insights I picked up from the Gamification Summit, I can say that the one underlying “ah ha moment” was when I realized how this group is using science to redefine marketing. This is a big deal. Gamification is really the science of behavior patterns, and its application to other disciplines is going to rock the old demographics (or even “pyscho-graphics”) model because, whether we want to face it our not, technological innovations such as the smart phone are rapidly changing the world as we know it.
My feeling now is that the individuals doing the work are going to zoom by all of the traditional marketing agencies, because demographics really don’t matter any more. Individual rather than group behavior is what has now taken center stage. The fact is that marketing has always been about behavior, but it was much easier to lump people together, just like it was easier to base results on how many viewers were passively gathered around a television watching the Ed Sullivan Show. Now, however, the focus has shifted to live streaming to our phones or ipads and our individual interaction with those devices.
What I find really exciting, however, is that the new field of gamification is being driven by behavioral science as applied to the communications technologies that have had such a dramatic impact on our everyday existence.
Rather than a frivolous distraction for young people, high-tech games now represent a whole new approach to educating students, consumers and even scientists. Yes, scientists. As is currently being reported by the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, online gamers have succeeded in cracking the enzyme structure of an AIDS-like virus that had eluded scientists for decades. And in a likely first for scientific publications, both the researchers and the gamers are listed as co-authors.
The game involved, Foldit, was created at the University of Washington as a “fun-for-purpose” video game in which users compete to unfold amino acid chains with online tools. One of Foldits creators, Seth Cooper is quoted as saying, “Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week’s paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before.”
All I can say is “Wow!” If people playing games could manage to uncode an amino acid that might help further the research into the treatment of AIDS, just think what game designers could do to promote a phosphate-free laundry detergent or a three-watt LED. News like this should put traditional marketers on notice that “gamification”is more than just a passing trend. A whole lot more.