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Fun In B2B Social Networks

I've just finished reading "The Theory of Fun" by game designer Raph Koster. I had been meaning to read this book ever since hearing him speak at a Serious Game Conference way back in 2005. While long overdue, the timing was quite good.I've spoken to a few of you (and lots more folks who probably don't read my blog) about some ideas that I have around using gaming concepts within social networks. In my role at Microsoft, driving engagement inside the CIO Network has been my primary focus. It hasn't been easy!

Koster's book is quite good for lots of reasons, like understanding what fun is, and how to have it for example. I was really pleased however with his discussion and call out of Game Designer Ben Cousin's concept of "ludemes." Ludemes, according to Cousins and Koster are the basic units of gameplay - the fundamental components (atoms?) of what makes a game a game.

Koster lays out some fundamental elements that make for successful games. My challenge is to figure out how (and if I should even try) to apply these ludemes and concepts in trying to create deeply engaging experiences within a B2B framework. Maybe I'm nuts, but I'm not done digging this well.

Here are the elements:
  • Preparation (players get some time to get ready - healing up, buying new equipment or perhaps by doing research, or understanding the parameters of the upcoming challenge.)
  • A sense of space - in games, this would be the map or playing field. In a B2B social network, this is perhaps the network itself or the parameters of a given problem/opportunity space that the group wants to work on together.
  • A solid core mechanic. The puzzle to solve and an interesting rule set.
  • A range of challenges. Content.
  • A range of abilities required to solve the encounter. Games are dull if all you need is a hammer to hit the nail with.
  • Skill required in using abilities. Bad choices lead to failure whether you are trying to kill a dragon, or develop a solution to a thorny IT issue.
Koster then goes on to talk about some additional features needed to make the experience a learning experience:
  • Variable feedback system. The results should not be totally predictable.
  • The Mastery Problem must be dealt with. In gaming, this means that high level players don't get any benefits from easy encounters. For me, it means that problems have to be hard to solve!
  • Failure must have a cost (at least an opportunity cost)
So what does this all mean, and how could/should it apply to a B2B social network? Good question, and one I'm struggling with. In the case where a member of the community wants to solve a problem using the network, it means we have to construct some game like conditions that will excite the community and give them a sense of fun, adventure and learning.

I don't have any solutions yet, but like I said earlier, I'm not done digging this well. There is something here, I know it.


Anonymous said…
Hi Marc -

Good post - I believe that the things that motivate individuals to play games are the same ones that motivate them to collaborate at work - personalization, constraints, rules, challenges, fun, acknowledgment, promotion, collecting....

All of these things can and should be brought into play if at all possible in online communities.


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