Musings On The Flappy Bird Craze: An Octalysis Perspective

Who amongst you has not heard of Nyan (Pop Tart) Cat, Grumpy Cat, or Angry Birds? It seems almost inconceivable to think that anyone would raise their hand. Names such as these are ubiquitous in our culture. Despite their wide-reaching influence, they are not the product of some creative genius but are rather characterized by ridiculous simplicity. And because of that, they have people hooked.

Arguably, Flappy Bird is the latest sensation to attain massive viral phenomena. According to its creator, Dong Nguyen, “I didn’t use any promotion methods. All accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram about Flappy Bird are not mine. The popularity could be my luck.”

Earlier this month, the game surpassed 50 million downloads and generated over 47,000 reviews within the App Store. Although it is free, the app generates over $50,000 a day from ad revenue.

But ironically, the overwhelming popularity of Flappy Bird resulted in its demise.

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Review: Gamification Revolution by Gabe Zichermann and Joselin Linder

Gamification Revolution: How Leaders Leverage Game Mechanics To Crush the Competition by Gabe Zichermann and Joselin Linder helps explain how games are changing the world of business.

When it comes to playing games, most people think of video console games or tablet/phone apps that help distract the player from the drudgery of work. But the gaming field also includes sports, card games, and board games and the old paradigm that games only serve as fun and recreation is radically changing. In Gamification Revolution, we explore this shift in culture and see how business leaders are now using games to their advantage.

The authors start us off by presenting a quote by Theodore Roosevelt that captures the old paradigm, “When you play, play hard: when you work, don’t play at all.” This has been the conventional attitude that has defined what it means to have a sound work ethic.

As games evolved and entered the corporate arena, the lines between work and play are increasingly becoming blurred. The emergence of technology, greater market competition and the need for organizations to grow and adapt has created the need for better mechanisms to accelerate learning and performance within companies. At the same time, these factors have also required that organization’s relate with their customers more consistently and authentically in order to gain quality insight on developing winning products and services. Games now serve as an “invaluable change agent” for corporations to meet these demands.


Gabe Zichermann on the Gamification Revolution (GSummit SF 2013)

The book cites a few interesting stats which illustrate the phenomenon of gamification as an actual revolution.

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Do Video Games Make Us Violent?

Image of controller depiciting violence in video games debate

For years, the debate on video games and their impacts on the psyches of players has dominated social and political discourse, especially around industry regulations. The question of whether or not video games cause violence is certainly controversial and its fierce debate particularly arises in the aftermath of school shootings and mass murders. Naturally, people seek reasons to explain why these events occur and look for ways our society can stop them from happening again.  What fuels these debates is that In many cases, investigations reveal that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes spent enormous amounts of time playing violent video games.

For some, it is clear that video game violence contributed to these tragedies. Yet research shows that the incidence of youth violence in particular, is at an all time low, falling by half between 1994 and 2010 while video game sales have more than doubled in this since 1996.

Some politicians are convinced that pervasive violence in video games contribute to real acts of violence. Last month, Business Insider reported on a tax reform presented by the House GOP which sought to prevent creators of violent video games from receiving an R&D tax credit for research and experimentation.

Last year, the Obama administration sought to develop a $10 million research program to investigate the relationship between video game content and actual violence (it did not come to fruition thanks to low public interest around gun control measures).

Despite the strong anti-violent video game rhetoric and biases of the federal government, the Supreme Court ruled (in Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants, 2011) that video game content is protected under the First Amendment and can’t be regulated by government. The Court also dismissed psychology research as unpersuasive as some studies seem to support a causal relationship between violence in video games and aggressive behavior in real life while others support no clear link.

In an age when violence in video games is more vivid and graphic than ever before, it is natural for parents and educators to question if their kids and young adults should be left to play and watch what they want.

Peer-reviewed research is looked to as a source of objective truth but, as it stands now, the findings have not pointed to any clear answers. Though lack of clarity continues to dominate the debate, here are a few notable studies that can help guide your own thinking on this issue.

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How A Game Helps Disadvantaged Women and Children Around the World

Image of a girl supported by the Half the Sky MovementMany women and children in developing countries have very limited opportunities to shape their futures. Their are countless tragic stories of abuse, intolerance, oppression, and suffering that because of their diminished voice go unnoticed by the rest of the world. Half the Sky Movement is a transmedia initiative that was created to shed light on the struggles of mothers, young girls and their families in countries like Cambodia, Kenya, India, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan. The project has received the support of celebrities like Diana Lane, America Ferrara and Olivia Wilde. What makes this initiative so appealing and powerful is how it combines different forms of media to share stories, raise awareness, and find solutions to a host of serious gender-based injustices.

Why the Half the Sky Movement Exists

Women in many parts of the world face specific abuse and crimes that continue to impact the daily lives of them and their children. In some of the countries mentioned previously, women often do not have equitable opportunities for real education nor security in a stable economic future- Women perform two thirds of the world’s total working hours but only earn 10% of wages. Statistics on school dropout rates are also dismal (according to Half the Sky, 1 out of every 5 primary school-age girls around the globe are not in school) This ultimately contributes to a cycle of illiteracy and poor career opportunities.

Without access to proper medical care, women often face a high risk of dying from complications related to pregnancy. Women are also victims to severe gender-based crimes such as rape and other forms of social, mental, and physical abuse. The exploitation of women as prostitutes by sex trafficking rings continues to be a growing global problem and in many cases, the laws in their countries fail to protect them from harm and often work against their interests.

Without resources and opportunities to change their own circumstances, the direct and indirect oppression of women continues to be a systematic and cyclical gross injustice.

To combat this and transform lives, The Half the Sky Movement aims to cut “… across platforms to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide, the defining issue of our time (Half the Sky Movement).”

So how do they do this?

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How More Organizations Are Playing At Work

gamification-09As many of you are well aware, the potential of gamification extends far beyond recreational fun. And 2013 was the year that a new book was published exploring this exact topic. It’s called Play at Work: How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking by Adam Penenberg, a professor of journalism at New York University. He is also the assistant director at NYU’s business and economic program. As a media contributor, he has written for Fast Company, New York Times, Washington Post. He as also appeared on the Today Show, American Morning on CNN, ABC’s World News and Money Line.

Penenberg reminds us that games are everywhere. They are no longer thought of as being just for children and computer geeks. There is an endless array of  mobile game apps for kids of all ages. Twitter can be considered a game where interesting tweets can grow the number of RT’s and followers. There are also lottery games like Powerball, Take Five and Mega Millions. Nissan has even incorporated a game within their newest models to encourage drivers to compete for the best efficiency levels.

Traditional forms of teaching seek to inspire learning, creativity, divergent thought processes, personal productivity and smart problem solving.  As much as parents and teachers want to impart these lessons, they feel like obligatory lists of shoulds and to-do’s for most people.  But when these objectives are integrated with thoughtful game design, they can be met quite easily and effortlessly. This dynamic has led to the development of highly innovative and practical applications for learning and productivity,  particularly for business organizations, science,  medicine, technology and culture.

The use of game mechanics within the workplace and other fields which depend on innovation has led to phenomenal results. Not only is information being easily assimilated and remembered, but also being applied effectively in real situations. And through quality game design, purposeful ideas and solutions are being generated at a faster rate than ever before.

Penenberg feels that mundane tasks can turn into fun activities that employees would actually be motivated to play. But this is not to say that games should be designed as efforts to squeeze more productivity out of them. Instead, the objective of the game design should be to cultivate a sense of fulfillment, engagement and satisfaction. With this intent, games can be designed to truly provide enriching and rewarding growth experiences, instead of bribing players with points.

Play at Work cites examples such as Google, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, IBM, Loreal, Canon, Wells Fargo, Lexus, FedEx, UPS and IBM.

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When Playing Games Can Help Save Lives

When immersed in a great game experience, learning, doing and solving problems feels completely effortless- the hours fly by.  The non-game enthusiast may see this as an idle past-time and some may even regard the compulsion to keep playing as a kind of addiction. But the people behind the Internet-Response League view this as an untapped social potential that can drive the accomplishment of enormous feats, the solving of tough problems, and the saving of lives in times of crisis and disaster.

The initiative is headed by Peter Mosur, Patrick Meier and Ahmed Meheina. Peter is a graduate student at the Metropolitan College of New York who studies emergency management. Patrick  is an expert on next generation human technology and has co-directed a Harvard program on Crisis Mapping. Ahmed is an undergraduate at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Alexandra who is studying communications and electronics. So what do these three have to do with this untapped potential?

The Internet Response League focuses on mobilizing and leveraging MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) communities. These groups have high numbers of players engaged with online game play where a healthy dose of enthusiasm is needed to solve difficult mission-driven challenges. With the right strategy, this problem-solving energy can be harnessed to produce socially conscious actions.

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