dice 2010

Professor Jesse Schell Breaks Down Social Media In Gaming

by Jeff Cork on Feb 18, 2010 at 06:29 AM

Jesse Schell, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, kicked off today's DICE schedule by talking about the importance of social media in the gaming landscape.

He started out by reminding the DICE audience that there are more Farmville players than there are people with Twitter accounts. After pointing out surprise successes such as Club Penguin, the Wii, Wii Fit, Guitar Hero, Webkinz, and the popularity of the 360's Achievement system, he connected them by the psychological tricks behind their popularity.

Club Penguin's recurring charges seem trivial to parents at $6 a month, but that seemingly insignificant amount of cash adds up annually. Along the same lines, Schell says Webkinz is successful because to parents, $12 and $20 are interchangeable amounts of money.

Most importantly, these games all break into reality in interesting ways. Guitar Hero's peripheral, Webkinz's stuffed animals, and the 360's metagame all give players a tie to their real lives. Consumers have lost touch with authenticity, Schell says, citing the book Authenticity by James J. Gilmore, making them crave ways to better connect with the "real" world.

Gameplay is hidden in activities such as the Simpson's 20th anniversary scavenger hunt, fantasy football, geocaching and other places games didn't exist, Schell says.  A teacher Schell knows has even changed his grading system to an XP system, and attendance is supposedly up.



Schell predicts that in the near future we'll have embedded CPUs, cameras, and screens in everyday objects like soda cans and cereal boxes. People will be gain XP as they brush their teeth and eat corn flakes, the government will give tax incentives (and XP) for people who travel by bus. Dreams will be infiltrated by ads, and answering quizzes on the content will be rewarded with huge XP bonuses. Essentially, he sees a world where everything people do is connected to a massively comprehensive gamerscore. Schell was definitely trying to entertain the crowd with his increasingly odd predictions, but they were as plausible as they were creepy.

The presentation ended with Schell posing the question to the developers in the room: "Who's going to lead us into the future?"