GSummit 2013 Day 2: Main Stage Keynote and Talks

GSummit 2013 Day 2: Main Stage Keynote and Talks


GSummit 2013’s Top Talks and Highlights of the Main Stage

GSummit 2013 started off with one massive sprint of knowledge! Throughout the day, the main stage was home to many speakers to share their story and talk about gamification. Let’s check out some highlights.

1) Gamifying the World: From SimCity to The Sims of the Future
Will Wright, Founder, Stupid Fun Club

Will Wright, the creator of legendary the legendary games SimCity and The Sims, kicked off GSummit 2013 as the keynote speaker. Will Wright made it known that games are a medium in a league of their own – they force players to live vicariously through a story and to become engaged.

Too many stories are built off of our own limited experience and then the stories we hear from others – but gaming allows for constant new material and story creation. To Wright, games are not a storytelling medium – but instead gaming allows us to create the story instead. As long as a publisher makes a simple set of rules to guide players through the process, then gamers can freely create their own world and exploration.

He points out that in his own game, The Sims, people like to see failure. When a person beats a game within the first few minutes then there’s no challenge and no engagement. With failure, people have to keep trying out new things, go back and see why they failed, and see how they can eventually win or come to a conclusion. Gaming should be all about the user’s personal experience; games should be a reflection of our personal reality and should create a personal connection to those engaged.

2) The Role of Enterprise Gamification in Building the Digital Advantage
Maggie Buggie, Head of Digital Transformation, Capgemini

It shouldn’t be new information that in order for a business to succeed, they have to use technology and engagement to their advantage. The business world is at a crossroads where many new variables are introduced: pace of change, technology accessibility, psychology and motivation, and social maturity. In businesses, gamifying change management can lead to benefits across the board.

3) Transforming Education with Gamification: The Past, Present and Future
Robert Torres, Senior Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Senior Program Officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Robert Torres presents his case on the state of gamification’s impact on learning. To begin, the findings by Torres and his team on the current state of education here in the United States are not encouraging. Although innovative curriculum were tested to alleviate the poorly designed content, the reliance on the traditional assessment regime slowly drains away the initial effectiveness. What is also concerning is that even though 95% kids are motivated to go to college, only 20% manage to graduate high school to get to college.

With that, Torres pointed out that the utilization of games in learning is currently in its infancy, positioning primarily in the R&D phase. His research indicates that games serves as great assessment tools as assessment mechanics are already in place within games which enables effective data gathering. Furthermore, he hypothesize that the presence of high engagement and high cognitive demand  would intersect to become mastery. 62000 studies showed that “digital games are associated with significantly better cognitive competency outcomes among students, relative to other instruction comparison outcomes”. With that in mind, Torres encourages that game-based curriculum should focus on four elements which includes assessing complex skills, provide immediate feedback, engage with its audience and employ data analytics.

4) Creating Long-Term Community Loyalty
Jesse Redniss Senior Vice President, Digital, NBCUniversal / USA Network

Senior Vice President for Digital, NBCUniversal/USA Network Jesse Redniss talked how the network was a pioneer in building community loyalty for television. Redniss emphasized how television has evolved from a one way information transfer to viewers to a collaborative media platform which he coined as Co-create-a-vision.  To do so, the big question was how do we get people to become part of story and drive narrative? The answer lies with the common understanding that people generally use television to escape. To engage the audience, the step is to let them be a part of the story and engross themselves in this transmedia Experience. Thus, USA Network has not only partnered with story tellers, they enabled fans of their television programs as well as major brands to contribute as well.

Redniss told how this initiative first began with the popular TV show Monk where the team partnered with Clorox and developed a game. As the precedent was received positively, the reasonable course of action to follow up and expand upon the previous concept which resulted in SuitsRecruits for the TV show Suits. Their success can be attributed to their partnership with Lexus as well as non-linear content driven narrative. Prior to a new episode, original online webisodes and content available for fans to explore. During the live show, nothing new will be generated which in turn boosts live show ratings for the network. With metrics in place to track growth, USA dug into the demographics and has the following statistics to show for. USA visitors are more likely than the average online audience to engage in social media while they inspire more fan and followers than the competition with over 17 million fans and twitter followers to official show pages and handles. Before signing off, Redniss has this to say about the future of television programs, “it’s not brought to you by, its created with”.

5) Loyalty 3.0: Big Data and Gamification Revolutionizing Engagement
Rajet Paharia, Founder/Chief Product Officer, Bunchball

    Rajat Paharia is sometimes coined as the ‘father of gamification’ and it is no surprise why. Kicking off the series of the science behind the scenes of gamification, he asked the audience, “What is the right frame in which we view gamification?” Emphasizing upon the importance of having the right framework, he stepped us through how we should view gamification’s role in engagement and what sciences advance disruptive innovation.

    Can we view it as creating games? Not really because games have a pure focus on creating fun and pleasure. Gamification has ulterior motives in terms of changing behavior for both business and consumer objectives.

    Rajat says that we should view gamification under the framework of loyalty. But isn’t that what frequent flyer miles do? He claimed that to be Loyalty 1.0. Loyalty 2.0 is the use of mass subscription lists and the first stages of 1-1 marketing. However, people are clever to see through these basic techniques. People want to be engaged with their favorite brands in more creative and personal ways. Businesses want to find ways for people to resist competitive offers.

    Give a warm welcome to LOYALTY 3.0. Simply put, it is “gamification+big data+motivation” and it should be the current framework that designers use for customer, employee, and partner loyalty. Motivation is the behavioral and cognitive science that understands what gets people going. Big Data is the data science analytics that paints a story from data collected. Gamification is what ties Big Data insight with understanding the target audience’s motivation.

6) The Science of Motivation: Neurology, Psychology, Gamification
Andrea Kuszewski, Researcher and Manager, Vortex Research Group

    How to change behavior? Give them things that the person likes. Maybe if it is done once or twice. Sure I’d like a cupcake to clean my room. But once I realize you are giving me cupcakes just to clean my room, I’ll be turned off.

    Andrea mythbusted the claim that pleasure is what drives behavior change. She said, “The things that motivate a particular audience, cohort, or person may not be what you expect.”

    Studying dopamine, early research hypothesized that the brain chemical was only meant for pleasure. However, modern research has shown that dopamine is activated when a person is motivated as well.

    Her take away message was, “To drive engagement, have a healthy mix of pleasure and motivation.” She advised people to take caution of flight/fight situations such as using threats because people tend to avoid negativity. The single most important factor in driving behavior change is motivation. The best piece of advice she gave was to not assume what motivates your target audience. INVESTIGATE!

7) Verizon’s Ignite App: Engaging Your Salesforce through Motivational Design
Kes Sampanthar, Directer of Strategy, Cynergy

    Carrying the same message from the prior two talks, Kes reinforced the importance of motivational design. He worked with Verizon to come up with creative solutions on how to motivate sales reps to want to exceed business and personal goals.

    One important take away from his talk that uses Andrea’s advice to investigate is the idea of conducting ethnographic research. Within psychology, this is the use of personal interviews and observation in natural environment to draw inferences. Rather than theorizing over what drives motivation in a lab setting, Kes stressed that observing your clients in their natural environment helps understand the frame of the problem that is to be solved.

    By observing sales reps working at Verizon, he realized that employees do take a serious interest in their own performance but don’t know how. This is where Big Data comes to play. The science of Big Data is able to crunch all of the reps’ sales and create a map to show “over-time” performance. The truth of the matter is that not everyone is a good information worker, so Big Data combined with motivational design allowed Verizon to give qualitative tips along with quantitative results (ex. You have 2 sales left to reach your daily quota, here are some tips when it comes to selling 4G LTE phones…). Mapping motivation through feedback loops is the most important thing and he reiterates Rajat Paharia in promoting, “If you don’t understand what exactly motivates your employees, then your gamification implementation is wrong.”

8.) The Pleasure Revolution: Why Games Will Lead the Way
Jesse Schell CEO, Schell Games

In 2010 DICE, Jesse Schell presented a awe-inspiring talk on gamification which fostered serious discussion among designers and proponents of the industry. While Schell joked how he was surprised by how well received his previous talk was considering he was college professor, he has since made new observations since three years ago.

He begins by debunking the common misconceptions of general gamification, rewards systems and what motivates gamers to play. Gamification is akin to chocolate, it may go well on certain foods such as ice cream, but it does not work on EVERY other foods like cream cheese. Likewise, while gamification may work in certain environments, it is not for everything. For rewards, Schell points out how it may backfire and result in unintended consequences as we have yet to fully comprehend the psychology behind of motivation entirely. He then addressed how people are motivated not simply for the fun of it

but to fulfill 3 mental needs based on self determination theory such as:

  • competence – wanting to be good at what one does
  • autonomy – freedom
  • relatedness- wanting to connect with other


Prior to ending his presentation, Schell shared with the audience by coining a new term to replace the word gamification, “Improve motivational design” as well as five ways to achieve successful motivational design.

  1. make it appealing
  2. make it engaging
  3. make it effortless – avoid the need for extra action
  4. make it uncheatable – if cheating is possible, every effort made pointless
  5. make it not embarrassing – find ways to keep it private

9) Venture Capital Panel: Q&A session on the Future of Investment in Gamification

    The last mainstage coverage brought forth the perspective of how Venture Capitalists view gamification. In terms of business, this was an important and enlightening insight to how VCs treat gamification as an investment. When asked who was part of a startup, there were a lot of hands in the audience. This is one panel you don’t want to miss! The participants in the panel were:

  1. Tim Chang, Managing Director of Mayfield Fund

  2. Saar Gur, Charles River Venue

  3. Geoff Lewis, Founders Fund

  4. Ivan Kuo, Managing Editor of GCo Blog, Moderator

Q. Is there a huge gamification investment bubble?

    Tim—I wouldn’t call it a bubble. To be honest, I believe that the g-word will be gone in the next few years. It will simply be a good design toolkit and a good game design practice to incorporate to bigger schemes.

    Saar—Software service sucks at the moment. Gamification is an answer to the creativity that IT desperately needs.

    Geoff—It isn’t a bubble. Far from it. I view it as a sustainable sector that can bring disruptive innovation and help build strong presence in virtually any other sector. All 3 of us believe that health, education, and government are three sectors that can greatly benefit from game design toolkits.

Q. If not the gamification bubble, what about the loyalty sector?

    Tim—It isn’t just loyalty and the tangible results from that. With the rise of Big Data, we should be aware of how data is being collected and what are the insights derived from algorithmic analysis. This is where we love startups to bring forth an essence of the “nerd googler and Vegas Hustlin’ Promoter.” The nerd is second to none when it comes to data gathering and the club promoter can assist the nerd in putting an emotional touch. Not to say nerds are socially awkward, but their constant work around algorithms gives them a bit too much overconfidence on just numbers.

    Saar—As a partner at a VC firm, it is great to see academic research put into loyalty and game design principles. Another type of loyalty that can be promoted is gamifying the loyalty among startups and investors. Typically it is viewed as a one-way street of how can the startup appeal to the investor, but just as important is the startup’s feedback to the investor’s performance. When it comes to networking and knowledge navigation in the startup culture, constant communication between entrepreneurs and investors is key. Gamification can help with that.

    Geoff—Gabe recently wrote a great article on what Foursquare should have been. Simply put, the space to be the small business loyalty program is wide open. People thought Foursquare was going in that direction. Since they didn’t, we are on the lookout for the company that will take the helm. My biggest advice is to make sure that your idea can’t be copied. With the establishment of firm players such as Badgeville, Bunchball, and Big Door, I am not sure how much more disruptive innovation there is left in this space of gamification. I may be wrong, but it would be your job to show me your drive and prove that to me.

This article was a collaboration between Sudarshan Gopaladesikan, Alex Landa, and Heong Weng Mak.


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


  1. It’s interesting to read the investors aren’t worried about this being a trend. I think that’s some solid evidence for gamification especially for people on the outside looking in.

    • it is interesting to see that they haven’t written off gamifcation, only just as a space for the g-word to call an “exclusive space”

      I think they are urging designers to focus on gamification as good design rather than a holy grail for loyalty