• Andrew Keller

Guest Gabe Zichermann - Gamification

Andrew 0:00

Is re posted.

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Larry 0:26

Gabe Zichermann is an author, public speaker in business businessman with most of his work centering on gamification, the power of games to help engage people and build strong organizations and communities. You can find me on the Twitter's at G zuckermann, Gz. I, CH e RM. What my kids are going to get from that intro is that you want them to play more video games. Thanks for coming on again. So let's start with a quote from you. Games are the only force in the known universe that can get people to take actions against their self interest in a predictable way without using force gave you give a whole TED talk on this, but some of your game theory in like little 32nd ish.

Gabe Zichermann 1:06

Yeah, it's games are really like part of the human fabric. So they've been around since people have been around, people used to make up their own games. And eventually, many of those became the proto games for the current era that we think of like chess checkers, you know, step on a crack, break your mother's back games, right. And so they're very, very closely tied to the way the human brain works. And so what has happened over time, is that as technologies have improved, and these are technologies like artificial intelligence, and technologies, like 3d rendering, and technologies like notifications, and alerts and stuff, those games have gotten smarter and smarter about tapping into those parts of our brains, that triggers us to want to take a particular action. Okay, so the easiest example to think about is in a casino, when that sound goes off at a slot machine, then to the right, what happens to everybody within earshot, immediately, your your pulse is elevated, your you know, your eyes widen, like you're aroused, right? And that sound is really triggered by the way that the game is played. So it's sort of Pavlovian, and other kinds of games and interactions have become much more sophisticated, right? Instagram is a much more sophisticated game than a slot machine, and so on and so forth. So you know, now we're, some people talk about us being slaves to the algorithm, but I often feel like we're, you know, actually slaves to the game, at this point.

Andrew 2:38

You had mentioned your TED talk was a few years ago, and you said, do kids have ADHD? Or is the world to slow? And I mean, back then, the world was a lot slower than it is now. Do you have a different thought on that kind of paradigm now than you did when you had the talk?

Gabe Zichermann 2:55

I mean, I think it's sort of come to pass, right, the all the hand wringing about Ed, Ed, because during that time, that's what we were really, that was a big concern for parents with that sudden spike and add that appeared, you know, in the early 2000s, late 90s. And, you know, I think that the concern about that has somewhat receded. And of course, Coronavirus to everything under the boss, right. All of the ideas that we had about reducing screen time went out the window, as soon as we had to deal with our children 24 hours a day, seven days a week for months on end, that's like, Please take this device, and please go use it. You know, so so there's like, circumstances create context. But I think that what we are finding and we will continue to find is that particularly education, game based education, computer based education that uses gamification is more adapted to keeping kids with ADHD, engaged and functional. And there's a few reasons for that if you want to get into why that works. But

Larry 3:56

I know this because I saw the movie wargames, in the 80s. The only way to win global thermonuclear war is not to play. And I gotta be honest with you, with my wife and kids, they're so damn competitive, the only way to win a game with them is not to play. So please tell me the game of vacation theory is that it's not just about winning, but it's also the actual how you play the game.

Gabe Zichermann 4:16

Oh, it's, it's winning is so so winning is one of the most misunderstood ideas in game design. Okay. And the average league person thinks that all games are about winning, because that's kind of how games are presented to us right as the as the content. And I think one of the best examples of this that I can think of why winning is not the point of all games is monopoly. So we've all played it, right? And as you probably aware, there's a point in the game, which the game feels unwinnable, right, one person is runaway, they have almost the whole pot, they've got all the properties. You're just playing a losing game, you're never going to get anywhere you're going to be stuck in this detached forever, right and you're never going to move forward. At that point. You want to give it a go. A monopoly was actually designed as an anti capitalist teaching tool. The fact that everybody at the end of the game one person ends up with all the money is specifically the point. So what it is, that is exactly what it's trying to tell you. Right. And so part of the thing about it is like, you know, games, you know, games that are designed to educate, and ones that are designed to educate well, and that's an important qualifier, they actually use the process of learning as the context for the games engagement, and not just the final sort of output.

Andrew 5:37

So I'm curious what you think about so I guess it kind of makes sense for some things that are fun, like Carmine, San Diego was a fun game that you actually talked about that it was a universal hit. But like gamification of not like education, I'm renovating a house right now. And I made it we were pulling staples out of the floor, because there was carpet down I was like, how many staples? Can I get for the next five minutes? And like you do those things over and over? Is the purpose of the gamification of education to make monotonous things engaging is that what what are you trying to accomplish through that?

Gabe Zichermann 6:08

Usually, we think of Usually, we think on the monotony side, and we're talking about gamification and monotony, normally, the exactly kind of what you're doing, which is less about learning and more about work. That's the places where you see gamification working against monogamy, right? You're right, like, if I, if I make a game out of lifting, pulling staples out of the ground, it's somewhat more enjoyable than just pulling the staples out of the ground, is not gonna, you know, change your life, it may not, you know, make you into a staple remover professionally, right. But at least while you have to do this super monotonous task, it's somewhat more enjoyable. I think in the learning context, that's actually not the goal. The goal is to help you overcome that very, very difficult, initial barrier to learning that you actually like to learn or do. And I think the easier example to think about here is physical fitness. So if you're starting off, like me, kind of a chubby person who's not very fit, and you want to start working out that first six to eight weeks, it's bare, it is awful, you are exhausted. And if you're really taking it seriously, you're not eating the things you used to eat, you can't go out with your friends at night, assuming no pandemic, you can't, you know, you're sore, you're not sleeping properly, all the all the kinds of things that at the beginning of learning a new habit or skill, or ability, there is a learning curve. And that learning curve can be very, very demotivating. For people. That's the point at which most people sort of quit. And so one of the things that you do with gamification in contexts like health and like education, is you're trying to sweeten that time, as much as you possibly can, so that the person gets through it and gets to the other side of it, where they realize, Oh, actually,

Larry 7:58

let's let's switch to the business part of that, when a company brings you in to talk about gamification. What are you encouraging business to do is to train employees with games, empower them? What's kind of the main thing you use with gamification,

Gabe Zichermann 8:11

so the single biggest application for gamification, you know, in the professional world is really the learning piece of it. And that's, that's why, you know, learning is this recurring theme. And it's got the same sort of issues. You know, companies have invested literally 10s of billions of dollars in learning management systems and courses, any employee working for any company with more than right now, let's say 400 employees, probably has an online learning system that the company is paid for, that offers the employee free classes, to learn all kinds of different things, sometimes related to their job, sometimes is general improvement. And many larger companies will also give you money to go to the advanced university degree, if that's a thing that is applicable to their business, the take rate for those services is surprisingly low. It's very low utilization product, right? You're lucky if one digits worth of a percentage of an employee population takes an online class, that's not mandatory, right. So you can make the best effort to, you know, give your employees or give your constituents a tool for self improvement. But if you don't actually make that process, fun, engaging, rewarding, compelling from the junk, then no matter how much free stuff you throw at people, they're not going to take it, they've got plenty of other things they can do. Everyone has a smartphone in their pocket. If I don't want to learn right now I can watch any one of 1 million TV programs that are available to me on demand from seven different service providers who are happy to have you watch them 24 hours a day. So when you're creating something that's meant to make people better children or adults, you have to be playing at that level. You've got to be thinking about the quality of your experience, the engagement of your experience, at the same level that Instagram is thinking about it, that Netflix is thinking about it. That Apple,

Andrew 10:10

do you have an opinion on what the future of games are going to be like? You talked about Apple, sorry, Instagram and just apps competing for your attention? Are people going to gravitate away towards a console and do stuff more on their smartphones? Or is it traditional like Xbox still going to engage?

Gabe Zichermann 10:29

Right now here's what I would say. Right now we're in the middle of the continued breakneck expansion of the video game business. I mean, I remember when I first got into the video game industry in 1998, I joined as the Director of Marketing for the industry, three big developer, trade outlets, game developer magazine, Game Developers Conference, income stream Comm. And so it was my first job in the games business. And I remember that at that point, we literally could not get mainstream media to cover video games. This was around the time that the video game industry, total revenue matched the box office revenue for filming us. And we publish that stat and talk about it. And in media, people will be like, that's no, no, no, no, it's actually happening. This is this is like, you know, late 90s. Okay. At that point, we viewed games as being something you did in your basement, that anti social boys, right, very specifically, anti social boys did in the basement of their parents apartment, who were non functional humans, and so on. So just think about how much that's evolved. Right? Now we understand completely every part of the population is playing games, grandma's playing games, infants are playing games, certainly adults are playing games, we're all playing differently. But we're still in the high expansion mode. So to answer your question, at this point, I think the rising tide is lifting all boats. Long term, I, I believe very strongly, that the idea of a standalone game, so something that is like different from reality, and you literally go into it will become an increasingly complicated, convoluted, expertise driven product area. So it'll be a little bit like the difference between driving any car and driving a Formula One car. So most people can drive a car and everybody will be playing some games. Yeah. But then increasingly, we'll see the, you know, the hardcore side shift is more and more complicated. More and more difficult to master experiences

Larry 12:38

are good because you're the game guy. And you're the only person that I've ever met from the University of Waterloo. One is the mascot of the University of Waterloo. Oh, man.

Gabe Zichermann 12:49

I don't know. I was such a nerd. I mean, did we even have a mascot? I feel like our mascot was like a slide was Napoleon.

Larry 12:57

No. And that's what I thought because you're a research university very well endowed. You guys are the warriors. Oh, go black and gold.

Gabe Zichermann 13:05

Okay, great. Yeah, I listen, I have to tell you and I could not have spent less energy on sport. In my undergrad in that environment. I was like a little nerd thrown into a pool of big nerds. I I was just like nose deep in every you know, every textbook that I could get.

Larry 13:24

Well, we've certainly enjoyed you taking a couple of minutes today and you want to learn more about Gabe in the gamification can find them on the Twitter's g zuckermann Gz. i c h e r m. Cave. Thank you so much for today. Thanks, you guys.

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