Author, Geek, Game-Maker

I’ve got a ton to work on today, so I’ll try to be quick, but I wanted to get you guys in on some fun ideas I’m playing around with. I love the idea of gamification—structuring regular pursuits into well-designed incentive structures with quick feedback and a sense of fun and/or competition to induce a state of flow.

I’ve been playing around with ideas for a long-running game-like system for my readers and fans and fellow writers. On the idea side, here are a couple possibilities I’m throwing around:

  • The Obvious Baseline: Players can earn points or tokens or whatever for buying and reading books, spreading the word on social media or otherwise, becoming patrons, etc. These tokens let them level up, get badges, place on leaderboards, get fun prizes, upgrade their virtual flying fortresses, or whatever.
  • The Fun Co-Op Element: Large-scale cooperative goals that let players band together to achieve milestones that will unlock new content, accelerate book launch dates, or trigger fun events or prizes for everyone.
  • The Writers’ Guild: Throw in some challenges for fellow writers. Let people earn tokens for building word count, commenting on each other’s work, publishing books, etc. Set up competitions or gentlemen’s bets where authors can go head to head or try to meet a challenging goal with tokens at stake.
  • The Monte Carlo: Set up a pretend casino and/or racetrack where players can bet their tokens on games of skill and chance whose outcomes depend on story elements or writing progress. Post odds on the outcomes of cliffhangers, the number of appearances a character will make in the next episode, or which author/project will increase most in word count.
  • The Wall Street: Let players invest their tokens in different stories or projects and give dividends as word count increases, sales rank improves, or specific milestones are reached. I find this one extra-interesting because if we set it up right it could actually start guiding production and/or predicting success.
  • The Grand Adventure: Create a series whose actual storyline depends on the game. Players who earn more tokens have more sway over the characters’ decisions and/or the success or resources of different factions or characters in the story.

On the implementation side, I was playing around today and discovered that you can set up a Google form to take information in, feed it to an online spreadsheet, have the spreadsheet make any relevant calculations or transformations, and then publish the relevant parts of the spreadsheet to the web with automatic updates.

Throwing in Google Fusion tables opens up even more powerful options. If I continue I will geek out and bore everybody to death, so I’ll leave it at that for now. Point is, that’s enough to get a basic setup for a fairly scalable interactive system with minimal setup and decent capabilities. I can work with that.

What do you think? Does this sort of thing interest you at all? If so, what sort of game would you find most engaging? Badges are fun, but I think it would be really cool to give it some real-world significance and (ideally) even take it beyond just me and my books. Any ideas?

Cheers!

—Ben

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