Are games just part of our self-gratification?

I came across this article in this week’s Businessweek:

The article talks about how more and more companies are using “games” on their websites to keep customers coming back.  Though it is not directly related to videogaming, it hits on (though indirectly) a couple of Gee’s princples.  In particular, the Achievement principle.  Just to remind everyone, this key principle is defined as “For learners of all levels of skill there are intrinsic rewards from the beginning, customized to each learner’s level, effort, and growing mastery and signaling the learner’s ongoing achievements.”

So to bring it back to the article, customers (learners) earn badges, titles, and/or recognition on public leaderboards for things ranging from purchses to comments to feedback.  As quoted from the article:

“The business of engendering online loyalty through gaming techniques is fast becoming as significant as the real-world loyalty industry, which builds rewards programs for airlines, hotels, and credit cards. The difference is that real rewards, like free hotel rooms and airfare, cost businesses real money. Badges and leader boards, excluding fees to consultants like Paharia, cost next to nothing.”

Just another thought that is unrelated to Gee’s 36 principles, is that people are very caught-up in the social image they portray to others, i.e. when facebook alerts all of your friends how many points you scored in farmville, etc.  So maybe social status is perhaps the real motivator here. I guess it is sort of a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” debate, but nonetheless here is an excellent quote from the article which sums it up really well:

“We have this tendency to care about what image we portray,” says Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University. In real life, there are mansions and handbags. “In the gaming world,” says Ariely, “there are badges.”

So what do you guys think? Is it the “gaming principles” or “social image portrayal” that lure the customers back to the website?

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. caramol
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 23:54:33

    I think that’s really interesting especially when you think of an online company like eBay. They have a member score rating where members give each other positive feedback scores each time there is a transaction between them. These add up to a number that defines how important you are to the society. I know friends who will go onto ebay and buy the cheapest, most useless stuff (like 99 cents or lower) just so that they can get their feedback score up. It’s crazy how that a feedback system like that can entice people into buying products.


  2. Anthony
    Jan 26, 2011 @ 09:44:54

    I could easily make arguments that this type of scoring, labeling, and development of an only personality fits into a variety of other of Gee’s principles. Most ptominently, 8) Identity Principle (the people are developing an online personality which reflects their knowledge and learning both on and offline). But also:
    -20. Multimodal principle (we learn to recognize symbols like stars or status icons as important and meaningful, in addition to the words we read)
    -21. Material Intelligence principle (the symbols allow users to quickly get information about the contributors, without having to keep it all in their head.)
    -22. Intiutive knowledge principle (These systems are representative of the ways we show we value people knowledge, both explicit and tacit.)
    I can think of half a dozen other principles I could apply here, like 33-36, but I need to get back to my other work…


  3. Maria Kramer
    Jan 26, 2011 @ 13:59:30

    That article remins me of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. One of the human needs the Maslow identifies is the need to be esteemed, recognized and respected by one’s peers. If customers feel recognized and valued, they’re more likely to come back — maybe?


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