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Reporters' Roundtable: How game mechanics are infecting everything

From Green Stamps to Foursquare, game concepts and philosophies have been getting into economic and social apps for years. What's new in the field?

Today we're talking about game mechanics. Check-in apps like Foursquare use philosophies of game design to pull users deeper into engaging with them. The success of this concept has begun to infect other technologies, from consumer Web services to business applications. Software and services are getting game-ified.

We have three guests today to talk about this. They're all quickly becoming experts in this new field.

Dru Wynings is the founder of Reputely, a start-up that "brings game mechanics to your Web site."

I met Dru through a comment he left on the blog of our guest, venture capitalist David Feinleib of Mohr Davidow Ventures. David led investments in companies like Doxo, Hi5, and Visible Measures, and is currently looking at opportunities in the game mechanics space.

Finally, we have Gabe Zichermann, author of the book, "Game-based Marketing." David blogs at the Funware blog, which is about today's topic of "game-ification."

Now playing: Watch this: How game mechanics are infecting everything


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Show notes and talking points
Using game psychology in consumer products is hardly new. History? Gabe?

What's your take on this from an investing perspective? David?

How does the start-up Reputely fit in? Dru?

Which psychological principles are at work? Why do we all want to "level up?" Is gameness about status, achievement, or what?

Rafe's observation: Game badges tell people how much time I've spent not working or being with my family. I'm supposed to be proud of this?

Say I'm running my own Web or software company. How should I think about adding game mechanics?

Mark Zuckerberg recently said, when discussing companies like Google adding social elements into their services, that you can't just add social as a layer or widget after the fact. You have to build it in. Is the same true with gameness?

Dru, you maintain that there's a difference between "fun" and "play." What does that mean, and what are the consequences of that?

Appropriateness: What contexts don't work well with game-ification?

Does game-ification detract from the underlying experience/product?

Discuss the spectrum of gameness. See BJ Fogg's chart.

Game-ification overload: Won't game mechanics in biz apps get kind of old? In particular, The New York Times recently profiled a company, Scvngr, with the goal of "adding a game layer on top of the world." Is that going too far?

Outlook? How far can this go? Will there be a backlash?

Watch my Twitter account (@Rafe) for updates on next week's show. Of, if you have an idea for a topic you'd like to see covered, e-mail it to me.

Get all the show notes as well as replays and downloads of the podcast on the blog.