Getting Game

The Oatmeal has me pegged and so I felt I needed to make amends.

Why did I wait for a free Internet cartoon strip series to guilt me in to buying the $1.99 version of a free game (ReMovEm) I’ve played over 12,000 times!?

As the strip posits, I had a rationalization problem. Anything that can hold my attention (or steal my attention a few minutes at a time over the past 2 years) deserves my financial support.

If you’re the Tetris-loving type, give the free version a shot and thank The Oatmeal for calling me on my own hypocrisy.

12,000 plays can't be wrong
12,000 plays can't be wrong
One Game, Two Icons
One Game, Two Icons

LARPing for fun and profit

I don’t really have much real-world experience with live action role playing games (or that phrase an oxymoron), but I do enjoy game mechanics and I hate doing my chores.

For the truly uninitiated who may have never even played a tabletop or MMO(RPG), here’s a brief video as a reference point to LARPs:

I’m fairly certain that clip inspired a good portion of the movie Role Models, but I can’t be totally sure.

Most of us probably don’t have the extemporaneous acting skills, free time or foam weaponry fabrication (smithing?) skills to participate in a LARP session but we love playing casual games on our phones and on Facebook.

A couple of posts this week by Jeff Hilimire and Thomas Strickland – mainly on the topics of location-awareness and technology’s place in place-based transactions got me thinking along a parallel path: gaming.

One of the hallmarks of most of the current crop of time-wasters (everything from check-in apps of various stripes, to FarmVille to even Twitter itself) are achievements. They take many forms: badges, buttons, mayorships, stars and even virtual goods and cash. But they share the feature of rewarding certain behaviors and actions with the acquisition of “flair” no matter how fleeting or ephemeral.

This idea of “the gameification of everything” has been rolling around in my head for months, since I first saw Kottke’s blog post, saw Jesse Schell’s DICE talk and heard about Jane McGonigal’s “SuperBetter” post-concussion ARG.

Here’s a recent video of a talk Jane gave in RE: SuperBetter:

These things may not seem related to why (or why not) technologies like Twitter or Foursquare or GetGlue ultimately survive, but they definitely have taught me that, as social animals, one need we have that exists right alongside this pure need to be social and share, is a desire to play, to have fun and to be rewarded in some way for our accomplishments. It starts with “tag” and moves to chess and now it’s XBOX Live and – some would argue – things like Gowalla and Miso.

But what I would argue (finally!) that “stand alone” experiences will never go away because, although most of the current crop of apps are about the “social”, you have to consider the personal, singular effects that these experiences have on the users/players who interact with them.

Do I think Foursquare will be around in 2 years? No.
Do I think Twitter will be around in 5 years? No.
Do I think Farmville will be around in 10 years? Yes.

Games are different and the introduction of game mechanics (and game-like risks & rewards) changes the math of what I’d think of as purely “social media” implementations.

What I’m most interested in (currently) are alternate reality games, social games and game-like constructs that help educate, inform and get things done. Two excellent examples, the upcoming Epic Win App and the Chore Wars RPG. The former is a GTD app/game for smartphones and the latter is an RPG framework for familial household duties. Fun AND good for you!

It’s these kinds of experiences – fun first – that I think point the way for future endeavors. You’ll always have loyalty-card-like systems (WeReward, Foursquare) but how about a “game” that gives me credit/points/something for calling my brother or working out regularly or giving an awesome presentation. One could argue that there are already portions of this functionality in other apps, but maybe I’ve just argued myself back around to this concept of pervasiveness that Jeff & Thomas put much more eloquently than I have thus far.

And while I think some if not most of the social technology and sites we have today will be gone in the near future, I think games/gaming are here to stay. The rub will be how does an activity I take in a game affect the real world? Donations to Haiti via Farmville is one way. Or how does an action I take upon entering a store or making a purchase or doing something here and now affect the game world on a server in China?

In the end, my post title is pretty meaningless given the current state of LARPs and ARGs. What I want is a better world (ha!) where I can snap a picture of the building I’m in or a QR code to update my game status for points that influence my fitness regimen or my diet and that tie back in to my game console, my TV and my running shoes. Like PerplexCity if had been played via phones. Or something like that. Maybe even like UGA’s Personal Media / Public Good projects.

It’s late and I’ve rambled on long enough. My ultimately-buried lede: while passivity is the logical outcome for all things social, active participation and outright gaming also have a long history and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon The fun begins when the games activate socially and the social activity you take without thinking about it affects your game.

Game on!

Mobile Me

In the interest of confusing the hell out of search engines and readers alike, I titled this post “Mobile Me”, in the style of Apple’s signature syncing technology (which I completely need to purchase but never end up doing).

No, I’m thinking more about the relationship (and yes, it’s a relationship) I have to the internet and how closely tied I am to my phone, my netbook and my Nook (eReader).

While in Mexico for Spring Break I turned off my iPhone, had the Nook in Airplane mode (for battery conservation) and only used the netbook once. It was like being on an island.

It was actually Cozumel, so it was literally an island, but it was also metaphorically an island of (self-imposed) lack of connectivity.

What the trip taught me, aside from the fact that I don’t necessarily need to be as connected as I am, is that being connected on a mobile device is much more meaningful than connecting on a desktop or laptop. Heck, my work laptop hardly ever leaves its stand in my office and my desktop has been resigned to near-paperweight status, so my main modes of internet usage are primarily handheld and mobile these days.

Turns out I’m not alone (and will be getting much more company soon).

The video above (linked & embedded) is a presentation by Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley, given at Google recently. GigaOM has the pull quotes that hit me the hardest (emphasis mine):

The Morgan Stanley analyst says that the world is currently in the midst of the fifth major technology cycle of the past half a century. The previous four were the mainframe era of the 1950s and 60s, the mini-computer era of the 1970s and the desktop Internet era of the 80s. The current cycle is the era of the mobile Internet, she says — predicting that within the next five years “more users will connect to the Internet over mobile devices than desktop PCs.” As she puts it on one of the slides in the report: “Rapid Ramp of Mobile Internet Usage Will be a Boon to Consumers and Some Companies Will Likely Win Big (Potentially Very Big) While Many Will Wonder What Just Happened.”

I’m already 75% there myself and we’ve gotten Raelyn a netbook for her upcoming birthday and Jenn & I are likely to replace our current desktops with laptops (and large terabyte+ external HDs) when the time comes. The future (as it usually is) is already here.

I’m even more excited to make the move to a more mobile-connected future now that I’ve seen these photos & video of the new iPhone. Yowza! My current contract is up in June and hopefully the new iPhones won’t be far behind.

Some of the things I love about being able to carry the internet with me (instead of waiting around catalog the day’s events):

  • Checking in via Foursquare/Gowalla
  • Though I’m clearly a creature of considerable habit, it’s still fun to keep folks up-to-date.

  • Sharing pictures of my beer drinking
  • A man should have hobbies.

  • Share my rapier wit/spew bile
  • Hello, Twitter!

  • Download a bestseller based on the readership of others in the airport
  • A horrible practice if you’re looking for quality literature, but still fun to do! Also, it’s fun to imagine a paperless world.

I need to upgrade my photographic capabilities (Eye-Fi Explore X2 [hint, hint!]) to really take advantage of the DSLR + Vacation + Flickr + Facebook + Twitter math, but I’m working on it. It would also make workflow easier, but that’s another post entirely.

Despite the fact that this entire post was written sitting at my desk, connected to the internet via a laptop serving as a desktop, I feel completely confident that won’t be the case for the majority of my internet usage this year or any year in the future.

See you on my phone!

Oversharing

I’m a forgetful son-of-a-gun most of the time.
I end up making lists like something out of Memento.
I’ve taken to clipping my business cards to my notebook with a binder clip (though I never got around to building a Hipster PDA).

To sum up: I’m the guy who usually says “I’ll email you my contact info” after you give me your card.

So, of course, last March at SXSW, I ran out of business cards before the final day. I only brought 75 (my mistake) when I could have easily brought 200 (about the number I came home with).

The inimitable (and very helpful) Amanda Lauter told me I should use contxts (though I didn’t sign up until yesterday).

A lot of folks have suggested Bump, but I only downloaded that back in October (and, at the time, I had biz cards at my disposal).

Then I became (rapidly) obsessed with acquiring a Poken, since I dig on the collectible, cute USBs.

So now that I’m everywhere all at once, which system will win? I’m betting on good, old fashioned cards (if & when I have them).

I can’t see myself bumping phones too often or touching Pokens (assuming other folks have them). Maybe the most useful of the three is contxts.

Easy to remember.
Easy to share (via txt or a little note).
Easy to import into your phone upon receipt.

The one additional thing I’d like to try would potentially be a custom QR code stored on my phone (Like this one that points to contxts or that one). It would have the same potential hurdles as Bump, but any phone that could snap/scan my iPhone screen could get the embedded information. Like CardStar for contact info. Or something.

I don’t know what I’m getting at, since I still use a glommed-together “system” of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn & a big stash of cards in my office drawer to keep up with folks, but at least the transfer of contact data should be better.

Of course, you could also peruse Mashable’s post on the same subject if you’re so inclined.

Happy New Year!

iPhoning it in

Thanks to a very nice pointer from SpaceyG I read an excellent article on creating your (my?) first iPhone application.

I’ve actually had a little vision in the back of my mind about creating something for the iPhone that I think would be excellent, but maybe I have a little too much of the get-rich-quick mentality in me. I could potentially make it reality, but I think my expectations wouldn’t necessarily be met.

I’m one of those folks, like Steve Rubel, who will try out a ton of stuff and pay for/recommend the stuff I really enjoy. So here’s something I really enjoy, would heartily recommend you purchase (even though I got it during the “free” window) and is quite addicting to boot: Fuzzle.

I’m probably the perfect demographic for the game: raised on Tetris, a lover of Bubble Bobble and every bright, shiny puzzle game on the internet (and Nintendo), so if that sounds like you, by all means give it a whirl.

Here’s a video explaining the game(play):

So whether I ever do anything about my hairbrained iPhone app, at least I’ve given someone else the love their own creation richly deserves.

Enjoy!