And I don't know if you saw Chris Hecker's talk, "Achievements Considered Harmful?"
JS: I'm familiar with it.
You mention intrinsic motivation.
But there's also extrinsic motivation, which is...
JS: Which is what slapping badges and points and all that certainly is.
And about how that can be de-motivating.
JS: Oh, absolutely, and I think everyone remotely connected to this space should read the book Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn. He does a beautiful survey of all the research in that area.
So, Chris -- and again I didn't see his whole talk but I read the summaries and such -- from my understanding, he basically took a very dim view, saying none of this can work because of that. I suspect I'm oversimplifying, and I've certainly met a lot of people who came out of that and said, "See, none of this can work, because of that."
But this is where it gets tricky -- is that intrinsic and extrinsic are tangled in complicated ways. So, for example, I may set up a system of giving out points, right, that's totally extrinsic. And you would say, "Well, therefore, in the long run, it won't work."
Well, but what if me and my friends all kind of get into it, and like we start this kind of social thing about one-upping each other, and we're now doing it not because we care about the points for the sake of the points, but it now becomes like a little social ritual with us, which is intrinsically rewarding?
So, these extrinsic systems can sometimes become an anchor for something that has intrinsic power, and that part is where I think our brains get a little tangled up, because it's difficult to predict and it's difficult to plan for.
There's been a lot of discussion since Facebook shut down the viral channel about moving from beating people with a stick to trying to carrot them into actually wanting to share the game with their friends in the way that we used to share people: volitionally.
And this kind of seems to tie into some of that; a similar psychology, maybe.
JS: No, I think it's true. I think it's true. So, in the early days... [old man voice] The early days of Facebook, almost nine months ago... Back then things were very different because so much of it was a novelty for people. People try anything when it's a novelty.
They didn't understand the rules of etiquette because no one knew them, so people were breaking boundaries all over the place. So, it was really easy to be spamming viral and have it work, and a lot of things are kind of trimming down, and everyone's starting to learn the rules.
So, now you have to find out, okay, what do people really want to do because they like to do it? And there are ways you can do it, but you have to think creatively, and you have to have something someone genuinely cares about.
We're actually experimenting with a few of those at our studio now. We've become very focused on social games. We often say everything we're doing now is about social games because social games aren't going to stay as they are. They're not going to be FarmVille forever. They're going to start to weave into everything else in unexpected ways.
So far, Schell Games has been working on MMOs. The announced projects have been MMOs, so far.
JS: Well, we've done MMOs... So this is the weird part. Let's see... There are unannounced projects I can't talk about. Horrifyingly, there are released projects I'm not allowed to talk about just because of the nature of the contract, but I will say we have done a mixture of... In the past, we've been about 50/50 MMOs and theme park attractions. We've done interactive theme park attractions.
And now, more and more, we've branched out. We're doing DS games. We're doing mobile games. We're very big into multiplatform... So we do a lot of different things partly because I believe in the vision of multiplatform. If you believe in that, you have to do a lot of stuff.
Right. Well, that's the zeitgeist, right?
JS: Well, people talk about it, but who's doing it? Very few companies are really actually executing.
Well, it kind of goes to that slide you put in your talk -- where incremental improvement is disrupted. Everyone's goal was getting better at making games: the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 line was linear. And then here came iPhone and Facebook and whatever. And they're still not equipped to handle a lot of them.
JS: Right. You know, the world is still changing. We still haven't figured it out. This is going to be a weird year. Between all the motion platforms in the house, the new emerging mobile platforms. You know, you've got a new Windows Phone and all that stuff. We're going to see a lot of crazy stuff this year. Social games are changing and new ones are coming out. A lot of crazy stuff is going to happen.
For all of those platforms, the ones that are new, obviously, they're a change, and the ones that are quote unquote "old", like Facebook are all evolving pretty rapidly as well.
JS: Yeah, everything is evolving fast. I mean, I saw a great quote... I was just at the Dust or Magic conference, which is a kids-oriented, kids' entertainment and education conference, and someone had a great quote from this girl, like 11 years old.
She was like, "Yeah, I used to play the DS all the time, but why buy one game for $25 when I can buy a ton of them for like a $1 each on an iPod Touch? Duh." Yeah, I guess so...
We're all trying to figure that out. Oh, and then you've got a cloud gaming showing up on top of that. There's a frickin' dark horse if ever I saw one. Watch that shit. That's going to sneak up on everybody because everybody thinks it's a joke... until we're all dead.
You mean OnLive and Gaikai?
JS: Mainly OnLive. Maybe Gaikai is being really sneaky, but mainly OnLive. If OnLive does it well, they'll become the Netflix of games. We'll see if they do it right.