Big Cheese Day at the Gamification Summit in SF

If you follow my blog you know that I am a fan of The West Wing and sometimes I quote it in my writing.

In case you don’t know the reference to Big Cheese Day, in one of the episodes of The West Wing the Chief of Staff assigns the senior staff one day a year when they have to meet with groups that normally would not get access to the white house (usually because their message is not aligned with policy making or because their message is not relevant to a large part of the population).  An example was the people who wanted to build “an animal superhighway” to allow wild animals to cross a highway safely – potentially worth doing, but not something that would appeal to the entire population.

I was reminded of that while listening to the presentations and chatting with users and providers at the Gamification Summit last week.

Just in case you don’t remember, I have written and researched extensively on Gamification last year (was doing that before as well, but we did not call it Gamification back then; we called it Behavioral Economics) and tried to shift the focus from Gaming to Behavior Management.

I believe in the value of gaming dynamics as I believe in using technology in business: it is not the end, or the means to the end, it is simply a tool to be used by smart people to achieve the end.  In the case of gamification, the end result is not to play; it is to identify a behavior, understand what makes it happen, and then use gaming dynamics to entice the user to repeat it.

Anything else – it is just playing; there is no  business value associated with games by themselves.

I came to the gamification summit with the specific purpose of seeing how (or rather if) it had evolved.  I have been observing and researching this market for a while (disclosure: Badgeville is a client and worked with them on messaging and product strategy as well as being sponsored for the research I did last year) and began to get bored with the over-emphasis on gaming over behavior. I saw a blog late last year that talked about an epiphany by the author where he talked how behavior modification is the end goal of gamification and was encouraged… I thought maybe they (as in the so-called Gamification “Gurus”) were getting it — so I signed up to the Summit to find out.

The agenda was a — smorgasbord (to continue with the food theme) of topics.  Some of them were well entrenched in the common intellect of the gamification market (common gaming dynamics and techniques, using gamification for engagement, etc.) while others were more — Big Cheese style: not necessarily endorsed or adopted by everyone, but having potential to become significant issues for the market if and when practitioners begin to mature their implementations.

Anything from how to create better games to the psychology of gaming and pleasure, most of the topics were well presented and about half of them were mature to advanced topics.  All in all, this was a great conference that catered to two audiences: beginners and seasoned experts.  There was virtually none of the attendees that could not find at least 1/3 or more of the sessions to their liking and interest.

Alas, the most interesting part of this event for me was a clear reflection of Gamification (and a likely roadmap to where it is going): there are all sorts of people adopting the technology, from very early and eager to learn to those that have found value and are looking to take it to the next level.  The market for gamification for business, not gaming dynamics – behavior modification, is just beginning to heat up and lots more value will be revealed in the next few years.

Baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet!  I expect to see the next edition of the Gamification Summit to be less “Big Cheese” and more concerted, coordinated message about behavior management – wouldn’t it be great?

What do you think? is gamification something you are investigating? deploying? bypassing altogether?

Note: to me most of the best presentations happen on the first day, with a couple examples of better talks being: Robert Torres (who gave a great talk on using gaming for education and how MOOCs are using gaming to evolve education); Rajat Paharia (CEO of Bunchball) talking about using gamification to entice loyalty (not yet convincing, but showing sufficient data to convince people to try – i am still not a fan of the idea); and Andrea Kuszewski talking about the psychology of behavior and gaming and associating pleasure and gamification – that was the gem of the event in my opinion.
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