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A gaming layer on reading (and everything else for that matter)

Prompted by a lot of people (Rockjimford and Matt Bagwell especially) I finally got around to watching the Seth Prietbatsch TEDx talk about building a gaming layer over the world.

His central conceit is that the last ten years were about building a social layer on the world with the web. This has now been achieved and is called Facebook, whether you like it or not.

Now you can argue with his premise that the social layer is all done and belongs to Zuckerberg (I’d tend to disagree, on balance) but what Mr Prietbatsch does have is a fascinating lens through which to view the way the world works: it’s all a game. It’s status, appointments and other dynamics that keep the world moving, keep us doing things. And he wants to play with that (and help businesses literally game our gaming instincts).

Paranoia fans who enjoyed and are currently enjoying the corporatisation of our social networks are going to have a lot of fun with this stuff…

Prietbatsch’s own company is a location-based gaming service, called SCVNGR. It comes on like Foursquare but more fun (sets you challenges to complete in various locations) and next-big-thing fans are already putting it forward as the new plaything of edgy marketers everywhere…

You can see some of Prietbatsch’s world-is-all-games logic in a new service called Readness. It connects your Facebook, Twitter and Google Reader profiles and then sets about building gaming dynamics into the way you read.

Since the way many people (including myself, on occasion) read their RSS feeds and links from Twitter in a bit of a compulsive way, gaming ideas like ranking your reading habits against friends, leveling up and going on quests sound like they could work well.

Naturally, there’s a concern if you’re going for quantitative gathering/sharing behaviours there may not be a lot of digesting/reflecting going on, but it’s an interesting idea nonetheless.

There’s definitely something in using playful, game-type ideas to help us in our daily work. Think GTD with a leaderboard. In a way, the life-saving (in my case*) Pomodoro technique with its got-to-get-don-in-25-minutes mechanic is game-like.

Here’s a video introduction to the Readness service…

Anyway, Prietbastch’s game-thinking has really stuck in my head. We shall speak more of this!

(* If the definition of life-saving can include getting documents written on time.)

Life is like a boxed board game…