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The Most Powerful Force in the Universe? Games.

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If someone asked me what the most powerful forces in the universe were, I would answer gravity, love and chocolate. Not necessarily in that order. But according to Gabe Zichermann, author of the new book Game-Based Marketing I'm totally wrong. Games are the most powerful force in the universe. Sounds incredulous right? I mean if you put 1,000 people in front of Mario Bros. or a chocolate covered cannoli I'm guessing 90% are heading for the cannoli.

But as Zichermann explains, "Games make people act against their best interests, predictably and without force." Well when you put it like that...

The book introduces marketers to the concept of "funware," the art and science of turning your customers' everyday interactions into "games" that serve your business purposes. Many brands are already using the funware concept to market their products. Airline Frequent Flier programs are the granddaddy of game-based marketing, but companies like Chase and McDonalds have also used the concept with great success.

When I asked Zichermann how he came up with the concept I figured I would hear some jargon about university studies and psychologists. Instead I got a story about a Grande Non-Fat Latte. Zichermann was on his daily Starbucks run and instead of waiting in line to order, the baristas knew his drink and would start preparing it the second he walked in the door. Doesn't sound very impressive - until he realized that this one small move was saving him 50 hours per year. "OMG," he thought, "I just leveled up at Starbucks."

"Leveling up" and "Starbucks" shouldn't normally go together, which is precisely the point. Games are all around us, whether we realize it or not. Many of our daily decisions, whether they be which airline to choose for our next flight, or which credit card to use when paying for lunch, are fueled by the games that marketers are playing with us. These marketing tactics can be explained by the common terminology used by video game designers, which is precisely what Game-Based Marketing attempts to do.

"Game mechanics work in so many spheres, from Casinos, to sales teams," the author explains. "When you apply game mechanics such as loyalty, status and upgrades to tasks that are not normally fun, I don't know that it will always work, but I know that it can't hurt." I agree. After all, who couldn't use a little more fun in their life?

Tell us about the everyday situations in your life that you realize are driven by games.

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