Games, Gamification, and Empire Avenue

This year’s South By SouthWest conference had several panels on “Gamification,” which I didn’t get to see. However, there is a great summary of all the gamification panels.

The idea of “Gamification” is, according to Wikipedia:

…use of game play mechanics[1] for non-game applications (also known as “funware“),[2] particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications. It also strives to encourage users to engage in desired behaviors in connection with the applications.[3] Gamification works by making technology more engaging,[4] and by encouraging desired behaviors, taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.

Applications like FourSquare use the “Mayor” badges and “points” for check-ins as incentives and encouragement to continue to use the app. We are all animals at some level – we like positive reinforcement, the emails that “so and so is following you” or “John is following your updates” and similar devices that give us incentives to keep doing what we’re doing. This isn’t a new phenomenon.

Mafia crime family structure tree

Image via Wikipedia

I remember just a few years ago when suddenly, all my friends were in the Mafia. They all turned into hit men (and women), looking for territory, weapons, and followers. Yes, sometime in 2008, (but it’s unclear when), this game got really popular, and quickly died off. But for a while, people were very enthusiastically asking for help, support, followers, endorsements, and more. It quickly grew to be too much noise, and I tuned it out. And now, along comes Empire Avenue.

Empire Avenue is a “stock market” type game where you buy shares in others who are online. If you want to join, you can try my link which gets both of us credit (full disclosure) for your joining in that way. The “value” of a particular “stock” or person (or brand – I’ve noticed both Ford and Intel on there so far, and Ford has invested in my profile) goes up based on interactions here in the social web.

Here’s a ticker showing my stock:

The more online social interactions, the more my stock will go “up.” In some senses, this is a prediction market about the value of someone’s online influence.

So far I’ve joined, initially to experience this so I can understand its value for my clients and the way my friends are using it. There are already some good posts on the subject, like Scott Monty’s “Gamification of Social Media,” Jeremiah Owyang’s Empire Avenue Provides Social Gaming Opportunities –and Challenges– for Brands, and David Armano’s “Is A Social Currency System the Next Big Thing?Scoble interviewed the founder of Empire Ave on YouTube.

I’ve invested in some friends (mostly ‘real friends’ and not just people I know online ; the “words for friend” is always a problem). I’ve connected my social accounts. But in order for my value to grow (and hey, I’ll admit to being a bit ego driven here), I have to post and contribute online. I do that pretty naturally, but will Empire Avenue change my behavior?

I’ve already thought of some ways to add posts and have connected my Inc. blog in addition to my personal and company blogs. The main way to “grow your value” in this system is to contribute (and also to be part of the site, log in, etc.).

Is Empire Avenue a better way to predict influencer value than Klout or similar systems? Or even general research – finding people who are of value in specific communities? Tough to know for now – I’ve just started using it, and I don’t know the volume of data or quality of data they’re collecting. I will be looking into that more soon. For now, hope you’re long on HOWARDGR.


Extra credit reading:

What my stock price doesn’t tell you

How Much are you really worth?


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