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What your business can learn from computer games

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Yesterday, I participated in a brainstorm over Skype to thrash out some of the details of a new venture that I’m thinking of getting involved in. Until it gains a bit more traction, I’ll spare you the usual uncompromising zeal that accompanies most new and untested concepts.

But the conversation did get me thinking about the ‘weird science’ of new product development.

For example, I’m sure there’s a universal equation yet to be developed that governs the common, often annoyingly single-minded enthusiasm that forms the backdrop of every new venture.

Perhaps the newer the venture, the greater the enthusiasm.

We could call it the nascency:enthusiasm ratio.

However, that equation is not particularly instructive and unlikely to help anyone. Perhaps a similar equation could instead be used to predict success by measuring secrecy. For example, the greater the secrecy, the higher the probability of failure. (Or am I just being a bit cynical?)

As yesterday’s brainstorm progressed, which naturally involved an online concept to connect communities (Yes, I’m that predictable), I repeatedly found myself recalling snippets from the following Ted talk, presented by Jane McGonigal.

Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world

McGonigal directs game R&D at the Institute for the Future, a nonprofit forecasting firm where she developed Superstruct, a massively multiplayer game in which players organise society to solve for issues that will confront the world in 2019.

When I first watched this clip, in April, McGonigal’s message didn’t make much of an impression. It was interesting (and the epic-win pic is hilarious). But, yesterday, her words hit me with the force of a Level 4 Troll-hammer.

Why is it that some products and services (and not others) get us so vested (for want of a better word). Why is it that some tools, ostensibly developed for business, can be so addictive?

I’ve been trying to work up a new equation.

Could it be that business models that demand a certain (albeit tiny) amount of exertion from the customer, in return for a proportionate (or slightly greater) and guaranteed reward, are more likely to build brand loyalty than those which provide a solution that’s seemingly effortless to achieve? Could it be that successful products make us work for the promised result?

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