Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Playing It Forward

The criticism I get the most is "isn't it heartless and cruel to make a worthy cause dependent on income from games of chance? Why not just give them the money directly?"

Despite the economy of abundance we sketch as a backdrop, with the sun giving enough, in principle, to finance our surf, there's still the matter of triage and opportunity cost. The cost of whatever I'm doing now is whatever I'm not doing -- a tautology, and therefore more properly the business of philosophy than economics, but we can discuss that some other time.

Remember: the games tend to be didactic, in the sense of encouraging thought, though not necessarily about the worthy cause at the receiving end (someone in need of dialysis?), your wins redound to your benefit on your karma profile, nor need this funnel / tube be considered, ever, a sole means of garnering support.

Reach beyond CSN, by all means.

And finally: yes, there's a kind of Darwinian process in that some games won't attract loyal players and/or players with skill, and nor will the causes connected to them. This may be for a host of reasons. It's not my job to predict every corner case that might arise.

Remember: some people are philosophically opposed, on principle, to this or that. A chief benefit of playing it forward is getting to designate, even if only in the sense of a ballpark. If you don't want such-and-such a "charity" to be piggy-backing, taking advantage of your talents and skills, then here's a way to dodge those tentacles, to be free of those shackles. Drop charities. Turn your back. Adopt others. You have a lot of choice in the matter.

CSN puts you in the driver's seat. Manage your own karma profile.

Speaking of tautologies, it's easy to map this model to life itself. You're playing world game 24/7 and your playing has ripple effects that may benefit various projects and initiatives to some degree.

Others may study your profile to figure out what you're up to. Some may learn from your role modeling -- another way to have ripple effects.

Others may work to counter your biases, for example by attending to causes you seem to have no patience for, or which seem to rank low on your totem pole.

You might be a member of a team wherein the players have their individual biases yet, overall, the whole is greater than the some of its parts and lots of bases get covered.

Nirel looked like Mary Poppins tonight.

Friday, November 18, 2011

More Market Research

I don't usually review ISEPP talks in this blog, but Gabe Zichermann's talk was too apropos to CSN work to log elsewhere. Tara and I parked quite a view blocks away in a downpour, plus I'd forgotten my raincoat so showed up wet in my dark suit coat and bright orange T (with a collar -- a reunion relic).

Gabe is quite hip in the pre-hipster sense of "tuned in" (also pre-hippie), and carried his audience pretty effortlessly through his presentation. Folks had no trouble following. He included a long excerpt from Storage Wars, a televised game based on the auctioning and purchase of storage units. In this case, I'd say the game serves a legitimizing function in that people empathize with the back end vulture culture that preys on lapsed units. Reminds me of Six Feet Under in some ways, another deftly edited TV series.

During the dinner, I wanted to run by our business model: vendor profits prime the pump, with contributions to player-selected targets commensurate with performance (heroics rewarded), self profiling ("what type of philanthropist am I?"). He encouraged us to use Twitter for this purpose and I will do so later.

Tara asked about military applications and whether gamification could lead to the breeding of an especially cowardly subspecies of drone nazi, a kind of subhuman (paraphrase). Gabe acknowledged that militaries had been using gamification for dark purposes since forever and yes, he shares her concerns. Tara has grown up around Quakers and is interviewing for Earlham College tomorrow, so you can see where our household might not be especially enamored of keeping a devolved idiocracy in a controlling capacity where outward weapons are concerned.

Gabe cracked an Occupy joke or two, knowing Portland was friendly to this global blowback operation. He also knew we're too elitist about coffee to think of Starbucks as inner circle. Having studied this market, I welcome the influx of coffee drinkers Starbucks provides, plus I'm not against Starbucks adopting a few game kiosks, with our without the CSN imprimatur (just remember, you saw it here first). We could use some of that muscle to get past Oregon Lottery zealots who cannot abide the competition. That would take some of the pressure off the reservations to host all the parking (plus some of our best game studios can only be reached by bicycle, or electric ATV -- approach quietly please, serious studying ahead).