How much do game mechanics really affect your life?

How much do game mechanics really affect your life?


Here’s an interesting exercise – Stanford Professor B.J. Fogg created this interactive public graph on Google Docs on how game mechanics alter behaviors. Anonymous users are invited to view and edit this range bar graph. The purpose is to place popular websites, social media companies and apps in relative dimension to their “gamey-ness” (how many game mechanics exist in the platform) and how much the platform changes one’s behavior off-line. The size of the font used on the platform’s name suggests its relative popularity.

What’s kind of amusing about this is that the graph itself mimics some of the same game mechanics it’s seeking to analyze. Viewers can chat and interact with each other, move and add components and feel like an important participant in the ultimate outcome. If, in the end, the graph matches your own opinion you might even feel like you’ve “won”. Below is a screenshot of the graph, though bear in mind it’s in constant flux. Do you agree with the layout right now or do you feel compelled to get in on the game?

Distinguishing these characteristics is no easy task. For example, some frequent users of eBay might feel it doesn’t affect their life at all. They might visit the site, buy & sell items and forget all about it when they close it out. Others may plan their day around making bids, adding apps and paying for auction reminders sent to their phone. They may spend hours trudging through flea markets and garage sales (Hi, Mom!) looking for a diamond in the rough to resell at a profit, or researching the retail value of cherished collectibles.

Even more importantly, some users take a lot of pride in leveling up to “Power Seller” status while others are much less affected by negative feedback. It’s a fundamental tenet of the power of game mechanics: now more than ever, who you are online is defining who you are, period.

As I write this, there are over 267 (268…269…) unique users viewing the graph. It has changed noticeably over a dozen times, with certain titles moving around the plane, debating its own significance and effect on daily life. I myself have made some changes, as there is disagreement on the effect of Twitter, which I can’t help but take somewhat personally.  The fact that we’re so motivated to weigh-in on the conversation suggests how affected we all already are.

Hear more about Gamification & the Gamey-ness of life: Gabe will be appearing on CNet’s Reporter’s Rountable on today (9/24), noon PT / 3pm ET where this topic will surely come up. Click here for a link to the live show.


Need help with behavioral science and gamification? Get in touch with our boutique consulting agency Dopamine.