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3 min read
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Game-ifying Google Reader, And Also Everything

I just discovered “Google Reader Play.” - an interesting way of taking your Google Reader behavior and “game-ifying it”, i.e. using the reward structures and idioms of gaming to make an activity more fun and encourage certain types of behavior.

I’ve always wondered why, even though Google employs hundreds of the world’s most intelligent software developers, and then encourages them to spend 20% of their time on a project of their own choosing, there had apparently never been any game development coming out of that 20%. Maybe it’s just frowned upon, or maybe it’s just difficult to convince other people to spend their 20% of time on your game idea.

Of course they tried getting into something very close to game – virtual worlds – with Google Lively. But it seems like they considered that a failed experiment. Perhaps the ultimate answer is simply, “What does this have to do with Google’s core business – organizing all of the world’s information and making it accessible?”

Perhaps there’s still some impulse for game development within Google, and it’s expressed in different ways. For instance, I just discovered “Google Reader Play.” It looks to be an interesting way of taking your Google Reader behavior and “game-ifying it”, i.e. using the reward structures and idioms of gaming to make an activity more fun and encourage certain types of behavior.

Of course this isn’t the first time that there have been efforts to do that. Apparently Target has created a “game” for their cashiers to play: the faster they check people out, the more points they get.

Also I think that Jesse Schell gave a speech at DICE 2010 that talked about talking everything in the world into achievements and game reward structures that manipulate your every motivation and action and turns the entire world into a Skinner Box, though I haven’t found the time to actually watch that speech (since frankly the entire idea/prediction sounds depressing if correct, and stupid whether or not it’s correct). Here’s a link to that video, for people who actually have time to watch things.

And of course then there’s Dan Cook of the wonderful Lost Garden game design blog, who was tapped by Microsoft’s Office Labs to help design Ribbon Hero, a way of game-ifying the experience of learning Office. I’ve recently read Raph Koster’s book “A Theory of Fun for Game Design” and find its core assertion – that the real core of the “fun” we experience from playing games is the experience of learning – to be irrefutable.

I would criticize the rest of that book as being more of a way for Koster to explore a bunch of other barely-related ideas that interest him and spew out lots of cool/nerdy tidbits of information. But that criticism is probably pretty hypocritical, since I just wrote a blog post that was me doing that kind of spewing. THE ONE YOU’RE READING RIGHT NOW. :O

[This spew-of-links-to-interesting-ideas, which I suppose can be called a "blog post", was originally posted on my game design blog, Deep Plaid.]

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