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Mario has been living in Silicon Valley since 2001. He is researching technology trends, writing books and consulting companies on topics such as Innovation, Silicon Valley Mindset, Foresight Mindset, Automotive, Artificial Intelligence, Creativity, Intrapreneurship. For many years he worked at SAP as a development manager and innovation strategist.
Now he helps companies on how they can apply the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit from Silicon Valley in their organizations, to be more innovative and discover trends and tipping points earlier and influence them.
He gives keynotes about these topics and conducts workshops on Foresight Mindset, Artificial Intelligence, Innovation, Silicon Valley-Mindset, Automotive, Creativity, and Intrapreneurship. He also looks at signals of emerging technology trends and how they impact society, politics or employment.
He also hosts and meets delegations from other countries and bring them contact with people and companies in Silicon Valley.
Guest Links and Info
Links to episode mentions:
- Proposed guests: Yu-kai Chou, Roman Rackwitz, Marigo Raftopoulos, and Sebastian Deterding
- Recommended books:
- Favorite game: P0 Snake
- Microsoft Flight Simulator
- The book Dealing With People You Can’t Stand
- Jane McGonigal. Reality is Broken
- Gabe Zicherman
- IDEO the design company
- Richard Thaler
There are many ways to get in touch with Professor Game:
Looking forward to reading or hearing from you,
Full episode transcription
Welcome to Professor Game podcast, where we interview successful practitioners of games, gamification and game thinking who bring us the best of their experiences to get ideas, insights, and inspiration, to help us in the process of getting the students to learn what we teach. And I’m Rob Alvarez. I teach and work at IE Business School in Madrid, where we create interactive and engaging learning materials. Want to know more? Go to professorgame.com/subscribe, start on our email list and ask me anything!
So engagers welcome! Once again, we have another rockstar or at least he used to be a rock star in gamification. We might get into that with Mario, but Mario, before we get started before, you know, we delve right in, are you prepared to engage?
Let’s do this. Because Mario has been living in Silicon Valley since 2001 and researching technology trends, writing box and consulting companies in topics like innovation, Silicon Valley mindset, foresight mindset, automotive, artificial intelligence, creativity intrapreneurship. And he worked for many years as a SAP SAP development manager and innovation strategies he is now helping companies apply the inevitable and intrepreneurial spirit from Silicon Valley into their organizations to be, you know, more innovative discover trends and tipping points earlier to influence them as well.
Rob (1m 32s):
He’s given keynotes about these topics, conducted workshops on foresight mindset, artificial intelligence, innovation, Silicon Valley mindset, all the things that we mentioned before. And he’s also looking for signals of emerging technology trends and how they impact society, politics or employment. So, Mario, is there anything that we’re missing from that intro?
Mario (1m 53s):
No, that’s already way too long. That intro.
Rob (1m 57s):
Fantastic. So Mario, you’re now living in Silicon Valley. I understand you’re originally from Austria. Is that correct?
Mario (2m 4s):
I was born in Austria, in Vienna. I’m from the capital of the musical capital, so to speak and born to a family that was basically really hardcore Viennese, multiple generations and, I studied chemical engineering at the technical university and also had a name having an MBA from the university of economy in Vienne. And we’ll put that together. We worked a lot on big data stuff and then move to SAP about 98, working in Germany at the headquarter.
Mario (2m 35s):
SAP is this large software company that back then nobody knew of. They were already pretty large and predominant. And then in 2001, right, two weeks after September 11 happened, I moved to the US to Palo Alto where we are really in the middle off the Silicon Valley, you know, and the Silicon Valley is area from… depending on how you define it, but let’s say it’s San Francisco down to San Jose, about 60 to 80 kilometers distance. And the Silicon Valley is also the birthplace basically of Atari.
Mario (3m 7s):
Atari was, 30 years ago, s super dominant company here, apparently where Steve jobs and Steve Wozniak are also programmed for them and worked for them. And there was a lot of, I think, LSD involved. So it was, it was apparently a great place to work I understood.
Rob (3m 28s):
I hope it’s still is. And that’s one of the reasons why you, or you want to be there as well. So Mario in a day like today, you know, we had a pre chat and we talked a bit about coronavirus, but what are you doing nowadays? What’s your, you know, what’s moving you nowadays. What is your, your regular days look like
Mario (3m 44s):
During the pandemic, where we have lockdown? I, I have the feeling I have more work in the sense of, I have more time to spend on my writing. So many of the listeners may know me from my book enterprise gamification, where I wrote about how to use gamification back then in the enterprise environment for employees, for clients, for partners, not so much in a marketing or entertainment space or loyalty program space or in the real I enjoy writing books.
Mario (4m 17s):
So it helps me to structure the knowledge that I’m working on and let’s me see the gaps that I have so that I can research that. And often I find a lot of new stuff that I was not even made aware that existed. So writing a lot, typically my day looks like in the morning is my writing thing. It takes me some time to get into the writing of the flow, so to speak, it can be highly flow kind of thing. But then I write about two to three, four hours, depending on how good I am on the road.
Mario (4m 47s):
And then mostly the afternoon is spend on reading and doing other stuff, basically doing the routine stuff, sending emails, preparing stuff, slides, whatever is necessary. So this is during Corona during a lockdown like this. During other times, I’m traveling a lot. I’m giving a lot of talks or doing workshops. So I have more uninterrupted time to write books at the moment
Rob (5m 14s):
That is a perk, one of the few ones that we can have from a situation like this one. Mario, we always like to talk to our guests and we will be getting into other things about, because we know you were very deep into gamification. You have a book and gamification now it’s probably not your main dedication or you’re probably not even doing much in that sense, but we want to go back in history. We want to tell, you know, talk about a story about a time when you used, you were creating games or a game fight strategy. And, you know, there was a fail or first attempt in learning.
Rob (5m 45s):
It didn’t go as well as you expected. Can you tell us that story? And of course, what can we learn from that? And reveal as many names as you can, and, you know, hide as many as you need as well.
Mario (5m 55s):
Okay. So we’re not going to go back here and maybe even going back before the time of SAP, where basically it started with gamification where we started using this term, like everywhere else in the industry. But I’m maybe going back actually to the eighties, I was a teenager in the eighties and the most popular computer was at home. Computer was then the Commodore 64. Some of you are maybe way too young to remember that, but it was, it was significant because it was the first, I think home computers sold millions that you could program.
Mario (6m 29s):
And it came with fantastic sound chips. So suddenly the music was a completely different level that we had there. And back then, I didn’t have the money to really buy the software. It was super expensive for us. So we had all these pirate copied games. I think I had, like, I spent all my allowance that I got for floppy disks. That basically was the storage medium where we stored this software. If I had like 2000 games, I think my brother was the one who was more motivated by playing flight simulator, Microsoft Flight Simulator that you may still know today was there already on a Commodore 64 because the basic system, the, this stuff had a basic emulator was from Microsoft in the eighties.
Mario (7m 16s):
So that’s how far the history goes back. I was not so much motivated by playing the games. In fact, I was not so much the player. I was what a collector. I was thrilled, collecting the games. And you may have had 2000 games, I think for the Commodore 64 in total, there were probably about six to eight thousand games program for that platform in its time. And it had a good run of like six or seven years. Yeah.
Mario (7m 45s):
So had 2000 off these games, those 2000 games I played maybe on a regular base, 10 or 20 of those games only. Yeah. So that’s quite interesting to see that. So, so that was, that was kind of stuff. So we learned programming there. We taught ourselves already. My brother and me and my brother used to be a pilot. He’s been flying. He’s been a captain for, some airlines before the Austin Airlines group now for 25 years. Wow. And I went into software development. So during my PhD I had to program a lot, and this is where the first time I basically used the gamification technique, what we did was we measured heating systems.
Mario (8m 24s):
So the emissions of heating systems, you know, climate protection and as this stuff started already back then to have an impact. So we wanted to know in this study that that was prepared before the Kyoto and real goals, climate goals, to figure out how much emissions are there actually really coming from our country for the different fossil fuels gas, oil, you know, biomass. And so, and my PhD on measuring and calculating the emissions for carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur suit, and all this stuff for heating systems, oil fired.
Mario (9m 3s):
One of the fuels actually was nothing else than diesel. And later on, later on, I have at the moment, a lot to do with the automotive industry. So I know how to manipulate that. Yeah. But we had these big forms back there in the nineties where I wanted to team step. We’re measuring that to fill out that form and we had troubles people filling out the forms correctly. And we did not have enough measurements. Yeah. So one day I started in the meeting room, we had to put up a number The number was how many heating systems we had measured.
Mario (9m 40s):
I remember about 60. And we were far below the first milestone and hour, the boss of these people. He said, okay, if you reach a hundred, you’re gonna have pizza and beer and pretzels. And suddenly just by putting up this number and everyone knowing suddenly where we are at, they started to on the, on the, on the road, having ideas, talking to the people at be oh yeah, my neighbor has also heating system. So you can go over there and measure the oh my brother-in-law also has one.
Mario (10m 15s):
So suddenly instead of having just five measurements, they brought 50 measurements back home because they all wanted to have pretzels and beer. So that was, that was kind of my first, what was became important with these during this work was also that behaviors I had in this four years of my PhD project worked with this company and the first two years, really good, everything went smooth. We were on the same line. And then, and then leadership changed and new people came in and suddenly it went downhill.
Mario (10m 47s):
And I did not know what’s going on there. So I started to read books on odd behaviors book, like dealing with people you can’t stand or about dialectics. That means how you use words and phrases in order to basically green a person or, or basically be the person verbally. Yeah. And when so then fast forward SAP, I was a software developer, software development manager.
Mario (11m 17s):
and then innovation manager and about 2010, the iPad came out. So in April, 2010, the iPad suddenly was here. Yeah. And I had already had an iPhone and, and, and SAP back then you have to remember that it was full Blackberries. So 18,000 Blackberries in the company, but probably 60 iPhones, that’s it. Yeah. And we started programming for that and we have to defend ourselves against our managers and then their managers, why are we doing that for iPhones are not for Blackberries.
Mario (11m 49s):
And so I was looking at what was happening with the top 10 apps that where in the app store and we looked into them and we could not understand how they design them, that they were so compelling and so great to use. And then, you know, if you’re familiar with SAP software specifically on the other side of the spectrum, it was very difficult to use, very complicated and difficult. And so a lot of people are frustrated with that and we didn’t want to see that experience happen again on an iPad or an iPhone.
Mario (12m 23s):
So we had to do something and I was looking at, and remember the colleague who had five years prior to that, that needs to do doesn’t five suggested for a hackathon that we had shouldn’t we do some like video games, look at that and, you know, video games to do business apps. And so, and of course back then nobody thought it was stupid idea.
4 (12m 45s):
Of course, I know. Remember that. Yeah.
Mario (12m 48s):
I said, you know what, let’s meet, let’s take a look at video games so we can learn from that. So I Googled video games and the business apps and found the term gamification. So when I looked for the term gamification 2010, this was August, I got only 400 search results back then. And I wasn’t even sure if this is the term that I was looking for. So I started an internal group where we have to, we had internal inside the company or discussion groups. And so I started one, it was called video game development at SAP.
Mario (13m 21s):
And it quickly became clear that this was gamification we’re talking about. So we had, I had within a year, like 700 colleagues worldwide. Jumping on that group in trying to understand it. And, and we are really working on identifying applications that use gamification design elements, like points or badge here, some fun elements. And we had to, I basically had to also read up on game design and what are the game elements that they’re using and, and you know, what motivates, what makes a game.
Mario (13m 59s):
Good. And I think this is still kind of a black box for a lot of game designers that it’s very difficult to design a good game. If you look at that, the afflict three or 4 million apps on the app store designed the category games and how many of them are really successful. Yeah. 10,000, 20,000, a hundred thousand? It, it’s still a fraction of all the games that you have. So you see, it’s kind of, it’s kind of a dark art to get to good a game. And it’s a bit, bit easier for gamification because nobody expects for a business app or a non-game app to be entertaining.
Mario (14m 35s):
So everyone is happy if it said be a little bit entertaining. So I had this group surf basically that we educate ourselves, that we look at those things, you know, and understand bill over Amazon and the game design elements on Amazon. You look at LinkedIn, you look at others’ cores and, and motivators to fill out the forms properly and, and come again, Facebook yet Twitter, they all use these game-design elements here entail, and you don’t even notice that.
Mario (15m 5s):
And so we built up this knowledge and identified about 120 apps, business apps, applications, concepts, sometimes not realized, sometimes realized, inside SAP that SAP had used. That means different departments from marketing to internal motivation, from HR to I don’t know… software developers? They built the iPhone map where they had used game design elements. And then it became clear. This is something that’s not just an outlier or some odd thing.
Mario (15m 38s):
And we knew we need to get more structured on that, educated on that. And that’s how we came into under that kind of thing. Now that brings me back to the books from the nineties that I started on behaviors. Once I started to work on my book, I thought there are books on loyalty programs. They have books on entertainment, but they’re all oriented toward companies, towards a client to keep them loyal, like, like the airline loyalty programs, the supermarket loyalty programs, or a TV station, a channel, a series, that show that that tries to keep their customers engaged and watch the show.
Mario (16m 20s):
But we were looking at how can I make it more fun for an employee who has to enter data in the system as to interact with our software here. So, and nobody, nothing was out there. So I started to write on the book and look at what is published before the first gamification books had come out at Jane McGonigal. Reality is Broken. Although she didn’t label them, as gamification and then Gabe Zicherman
Rob (16m 44s):
She didn’t even like it too much.
Mario (16m 46s):
She didn’t even like it too much. Exactly. So I saw her the first time in San Francisco at the first Gamification Congress, a conference that Gabe Zicherman had organized and so invited to actually she spoke in a day, she was the first woman to speak at an SAP tech at the tech conference as a keynote speaker. So I’m very proud of to have her there. But when I looked at that, I had the feeling that something is not right, that this is not what we’re talking about is not covering the right motivations.
Mario (17m 19s):
It’s not covering the thing correctly. Yeah. Just put a badge here and it works and put a point. No. This seems too simplistic. And it also dies pretty quickly in my experience and what I saw
Rob (17m 31s):
Mario, let me just jump in for a second because I ‘m hearing you. And I think we’re, we’re heading into something like, what do you think makes good gamification and how does it make it work? So I wanted to ask you a question related to that. And it’s, if you were, you know, and I know again that you’re not necessarily doing this right now, but when you were doing these, did you have some sort of process, some series of steps? Like how would you approach a project where you wanted to use gamification? Did you have a framework, a mindset? Like how did you, how did you do that?
Mario (18m 1s):
Yeah, it’s more, it’s more, I called it the gamification design thinking. So I live here in a world where design thinking, some are some, some of you may have heard about that was invented and is now used all over the world. IDEO the design company based in Palo Alto invented that. And then Hasso Plattner the SAP founder. He brought it into SAP and his schools that he had funded. So he had the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, starting with design thinking.
Mario (18m 33s):
And then he founded at Stanford University, paid for the Hasso Plattner Institute, which is basically the academic program on design thinking. And design thinking in this sense is a way to approach a problem. So the Kelly brothers, Tom Kelly in the video. He said, you know, we don’t know anything about the products that we’re building, like, like a toothbrush or a space cockpit. We have no idea about that, but we know about the process. And so, so as a gamification designer?
Mario (19m 4s):
You don’t know anything about the process. The the app, the business app that’s, that’s there, but you know, the process. So that means you’re going out, you’re starting from a hypothesis that says, you know, kids want toothbrushes and yeah. And kids are just something like smaller adults. That’s a hypothesis. But instead of starting to build the toothbrush or build, now the business app or the gamified business app.
Mario (19m 36s):
You actually going out in the field and looking into the bathrooms of the kids and watch them brush their teeth. And then you realize, well, there’s a very different problem. Kids have not the fine motor dexterity of their hands, for example, to hold a small brush that, basically clasping, clasping, deep brush. So you need to actually make the handle of a toothbrush thicker then for an adult, because that’s how they can hold it. Yeah. In the same, when they go out with gamification design, you think, Oh, people just need some points and badges, and then they’re filling out all the forms.
Mario (20m 9s):
No, you have to first look at their work situation. Why are they not, for example, filling out the forms properly why they’re missing information. And then you sit at a table and then you see that they have to handle seven systems to maybe help a customer on the phone. Yeah. And just copying the data from one system to the next can not be improved by putting a point system on it or making a funny icon on it. Yeah. There are underlying problems that you have to solve first.
Mario (20m 41s):
So it should assist them is not becoming better. If you just put points and badges on there, you have to, you have to the shitty system. So this, this, and this, I call it the gamification design system to go on. But that’s just one component because you need to also understand who your players are. And for me, it was always important to distinguish between user and player. Yeah. Because if you call it a user, you’re chickening out of some important component. When you call the player, player, you always keep in mind that it has to be fun.
Mario (21m 15s):
What you’re building for the player when you call it user, you forget the fun here. You are not thinking of the fun anymore.
Rob (21m 22s):
And, and even the, the activeness, like a player is an active subject. It’s the user is, you know, is receiving things.
Mario (21m 30s):
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I mean, they, they always have the users in the center of the attention, but in the center of attention, he’s an obstacle. Yeah. He’s always in the way of us working there. So when you look at, as a player you still are looking at, is this fun, this is still fun? If you make that, is it still fun? And then when you look at the player, what motivates them? Yeah. And as soon as you start looking at that, you’re realizing a lot of these things that back then were state of the art and maybe still a considered state of the art today, or for these discussions have been going on for years are actually catering only towards certain type of motivation, namely the extrinsic motivation.
Mario (22m 16s):
So you just reward people in with gold stars and points and badges, but you never look at the intrinsic motivators. And I think this has been one of the big problems within the gamification industry or the gamification industry at the struggle with first are all the people who started in the gamification industry thought, Oh, just put some batches and points over there and then it works. Yeah. So there’s a lot of these tools when those came out focused primarily on those things, because they were the easiest to build the easiest to understand.
Mario (22m 50s):
But these are also the ones that they bring, bring in the beginning grade results, but then fizzle out and basically fail. And it’s way more, more complicated to have something like intrinsic motivations, figuring that out that thing. Yeah. And unfortunately, a lot of customers or clients come from the perspective, Oh, that looks so easy, easy, easy. It just points and badges. We can do that too. Yeah. So they don’t hire an, a gamification designer, but doing themselves and then it fizzles.
Mario (23m 22s):
And of course, it’s gamification doesn’t work here because it’s stopped. And so they give up, it’s like, if you have no driver’s license and never drove a car and you hit a tree, it’s not the car. It doesn’t work. Yeah. It’s just you’re shitty driver. Yeah. And became effication with gamification. It’s the same. You need to understand that. And you cannot just do it and think, you know, everything is actually a sophisticated process to keep that thing running. And it’s not a project, you know, you design it and then you start it and that’s it, no, with the start of that gamified system, the whole process continues.
Mario (23m 59s):
Yeah. You have to make sure it’s running properly. That people are, cannot cheat. That certain things that you identify can be used to emphasize that. And some have to be toned down. It’s like a community running a community here of gamers. So that’s why it became important to look at the underlying behaviors, the motivators. And that’s where completely move over into behavioral science and behavioral economics and this irrationality. And that, that is basically what I discovered them back then, this, with the books that I had started to read in the nineties, which kind of kept me fascinated.
Mario (24m 34s):
So when I looked at my library, I figured out that I had already quite a number of books on odd behaviors and irrationality of people. And that was exactly what I needed in order to understand gamification better. And so I had to rewrite, basically my, my entire book. It took me two and a half years for a book to get it out there because of that thing.
Rob (24m 57s):
That makes sense. That makes sense that you did it, you know exactly for what you wanted. Just a quick break before we continue, are you enjoying this podcast? If you’re listening through a podcasting app, please subscribe and rate us on the app. This will be of great help to reach more engagers so we can change the world together through gamification. So Mario, we would like to know, I mean, after you’ve been saying quite a few like good things that we should do and things that we have to consider and keep in mind, is there, is there something that you would say is sort of not a silver bullet, but maybe a best practice when you’re thinking of a gamification project and you’re, or you’re analyzing somebody in something that somebody else did?
Rob (25m 36s):
Like, is there something that you could say, well, if you, if you think about it this way, or if you do this kind of thing, it will definitely improve or help you or your project.
Mario (25m 45s):
I’m obviously of the opinion do not make it a big bang kind of thing here. When you gave me a fine go and start, start with small things. Yeah. And improve over the time. And continuously look at that. I think many first-timers and I mean, companies that do gamification for the first time, maybe attempted to do kind of an important system that they gamify start big and roll it out. And then they run into all the problems because there are a number of elements that are missing.
Mario (26m 18s):
Yeah. Start with an app. That’s not bringing down the house if it’s not working, start smaller, but learn through that. So starting small and learning things, small, learn, improve, iterate, iterate, make it bigger, get basically an in house team that can learn to acquire the knowledge, acquire the skills. And once that thing is working, you will have interest from others, from other departments coming to you, asking you for how could we, could we do something similar here?
Mario (26m 49s):
How would you do that? And then you have the skills in the house. Maybe yours will take, of course, some gamification design group or external vendor, especially with the platform then to help you work on that, to make it professional. But you need the insight skills as well that the people understand it. A gamified system is a living beast. It’s something that needs constant attention. It’s like a community forum that you have, you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t install an SAP system and then expect it to work up without problems for the next two years.
Mario (27m 24s):
No, it has to be constantly paid attention. And then every, so often, every like two years, you do a refresh, a larger refresh on that. Like, like you have, you know, games like FIFA world cup every two years or three years, you have the next version of it, where they add new functionality, new stuff in between you, you add just smaller things like new badges, new missions. Yeah. Things like that. You make minor changes that keep it fresh. But then every two years you make a larger one.
Mario (27m 56s):
So that suddenly it becomes a, again really interesting for a lot of people who are tempted to, to not buy the new version again.
Rob (28m 4s):
Mario (28m 5s):
And it doesn’t matter what gamification design elements and tactics you’re using, that is not. So it’s really that, you go out carefully. I’m more, it was always more a proponent for that thing.
Rob (28m 17s):
Absolutely. Absolutely. And Mario, after, you know, hearing this interview, is there somebody that you think, you know, thinking back of your gamification years, is there somebody that you would think like, Oh, I would really like to listen to this person in an interview in an interview like this one in Professor Game?
Mario (28m 32s):
Well, I’m not sure to whom you already had it, but I mean back then, and I, and after, after say first at first I haven’t done gamification or for the past four or five years. So I do not know who are not the, the newbies, the new newcomers that, that pushed into this space came here very highly motivated. So I know people of course, that I have heard and seen all the time back then one something that I’m very active, of course, I as is yeah. Yu-kai Chou. With the Octalysis Framework.
Mario (29m 2s):
Yeah. You have also Roman Rackwitz in Germany that FMR.
Rob (29m 6s):
Yeah. Those are absolutely great in this case. I, again, I understand that you, you haven’t been,
Mario (29m 13s):
Let me see one, one, one, more name, maybe.
Rob (29m 15s):
Yeah, sure. Please.
Mario (29m 16s):
Marigo Raftopoulos, of course, from Australia.
Rob (29m 19s):
Mario (29m 21s):
Yeah, because she comes from really, really from the scientific side also, which is good.
Rob (29m 25s):
Very useful. Yeah. And she’s great. Especially as well also…
Mario (29m 29s):
And then there is a Sebastian Deterding of course. Yeah.
Rob (29m 34s):
Sebastian. Yeah. We haven’t had Sebastian. In fact, I think I tried to contact him a couple of years ago and something happened with our communication. I, I dropped, we, I think we both dropped.
Mario (29m 45s):
So those are people that I did. I definitely always would want to listen because they have some really great insights, Sebastian especially has a very, it’s very outspoken in the sense of he’s very blunt or frank or candid. It gives some very candid views on the gamification industry. So this is always what you want to hear and, and Marigo the same.
Rob (30m 8s):
Yup. Yup. Absolutely. Absolutely. Those are great recommendations. And is there, of course, right next to your books on, on gamification, is there, is there another book that you would also recommend to The Engagers, to this audience?
Mario (30m 22s):
Well, I’ve written 17 books so far. I think this is my number and I have seven, seven of them are the gamification books. They are, they maybe a little bit outdated now because they came out 2013, 2014. Oh wait, wait a second, 2014 or 2015 in that timeframe. Well, maybe to give you another book that I’ve seen is of course, Actionable Gamification by Yu-kai Chou. One book that I always recommend is Punished by Rewards Alfie Kohn, where he talks about this kind of extrinsic motivators of how they are wreaking havoc, especially in education systems.
Mario (30m 57s):
Yeah. I wanted a lack of was top dog about competition here. Many people in the gamification design space also confuse gamification with competition and think competition is super important. No, competition actually can be full de-motivator and only one or 2% of the people that participate can win. So the book Top Dog by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman is one that I, that I always do recommend to get the notion of don’t deal with that. Yeah. And then there are quite a number of smaller books that people have written that are not specifically necessary for gamification.
Mario (31m 36s):
There are some fresher ones, little ones to go quickly. And if you’re newbie Toby Beresford had just one Infinite Gamification, but I generally would recommend looking at books like Drive Dan Pink or Dan Ariely spoke about Irrationality. So they, they or Daniel Kahneman may have heard about him Thinking Fast and Slow.
Rob (32m 3s):
Mario (32m 3s):
And once you are going into that space and stuff, these books, you realize you’re getting so much new materials and insights and Richard Thaler is one Nobel award winner for economics, on behavioral economics. He basically started that field. That’s the same that Daniel Kahneman’s working on or with Dan Ariely, yeah. So these are interesting areas to understand Pella motivation and extrinsic motivators and how they’ve backfired. And then of course, the thing that always makes sense also to look into game design books,
Rob (32m 36s):
Absolutely, absolutely many, many great design and gamification books. You have a full list of recommendations there, of course, right next to your books, Mario, which are great as well. And you know, we’ve gone through the recommendations and I have one final request in the side of, of game of recommendations. And you mentioned that you’ve been playing since the Commodore 64 and collecting, especially since then. So what would you say is your favorite game?
Mario (33m 5s):
So actually I played when you look at video games yeah. What games is a different, different stories. I was at games. Yeah. Video games started for us before the Commodore 64. We had TicOtronic, this Nintendo handheld games where you had Donkey Kong and, and this kind of things. I’m actually not really a gamer. So basically my gaming time had stopped with a Commodore 64. Although I try to, to look at Skyrim and such games and World of Warcraft.
Mario (33m 41s):
But when I look back at one of the gamea that I liked was very, very simple. I can’t remember what it was called. It is basically you can play it and emulate it still on a Commodore 64 emulator. And it’s kind of a snake game. So you have an empty field and just snake runs. And what you have to do is to catch an area to cover an area.
Mario (34m 11s):
And now of course are interference as there’s kind of lines of dots that are flying around. And if they hit you a line before you close it off, making a field, you die. And the idea is you have to get to at least 50% of the area covered by your things. Yeah. And the higher, the more above 50 you are the better, the more is this, the highest score. And this is graphically is super simple game to make, but it’s extremely compelling.
Mario (34m 44s):
And that is maybe, maybe I can, I can bring it in. A friend of mine is a game designer. He’s my age. So really old. And he says, when he hires people, game designers, he’s asking them what games they’re playing. And he becomes especially interested in people who name games that came out on Atari games and, and commodore games back then in the seventies, eighties, because the graphics was so simple. You couldn’t really do much there.
Mario (35m 16s):
So as a programmer you have a lot of time or a relatively large part of the game programming, was on the game design itself on the, on the, on the gameplay.
Rob (35m 28s):
Yeah. None of the, on the theme, on the graphics…
Mario (35m 32s):
Yeah, exactly. So today, a lot of the games that you have, a lot of tons of resources are spent on the graphics and un the sound and, and this kind of things, but the gameplay sucks. And if you look at those games and you basically, you overlook the, the game graphics of those games, you realize these are really captivating games with just super simple graphics. So, so often today also, I mean, think of Flappy Bird, what was it called?
Mario (36m 5s):
Flappy Bird. Yeah. I mean, that was suddenly the absolute hit game because it was difficult and it didn’t, you know, put honey on your, on your lips, it made it super difficult and the graphics was shit. And that, that, that just shot through the roof. Yeah. And the good, and even, even I would say Angry Birds, the success of finger bird is that the game play was just fantastic. There was no game story became story can later.
Mario (36m 35s):
Yeah. I mean the pig stole eggs. Yeah. So what? The birds have no other means to basically get the eggs back by killing themselves, by throwing themselves exploding it at pigs. But that’s fun. I mean, I don’t need the story anytime, you know, instead of having these elaborate stories and then it’s just a shooting game. I mean, shooting games are great too. Yeah. But, but elite, yeah. It was one of those games that became, that was a vector graphics game.
Mario (37m 7s):
That’s still one of these games today, which have endless universes. Yeah. So, but, but you can hear, maybe I want to, I want to do, I’m looking at the gameplay and that, that is that where the gameplay factor is much higher than their, the graphics factory, but that’s system.
Rob (37m 26s):
Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. And Mario, I, we, we’re basically out of time, but I don’t want to let you go before we have a quick chat about why you are no longer, you know, in the gamification field, you were what you are actually a massive expert in the area. You know, saying that the book is outdated. It’s like saying that flow is outdated. You know, it’s a great book and some things can just turn into classics with, with time, because they’ve been thought through in all these things, but is there, you know, what were the reasons, can you, can you talk us very quickly about like why you’re, you’re no longer in the, in the industry?
Mario (38m 0s):
So, so I think what I have discovered is when I had clients, customers coming to me and wanted to do gamification, I realized looking at the issues that it was not so much about gamification, it was data they gamification is fixing problems that they have. But the underlying problems where completely defined areas, it was about engagement. It was about innovation problems that they had. It was a generally behavioral problem or cultural problem or, or other places, innovation problems that they had.
Mario (38m 33s):
And they thought gamification’s a band-aid a, put it over there in it, fix it, but you have to do surgery. And because I had done innovation a lot, that SAP was always in innovation groups. I was always at the forefront of new technologies. I got more and more in touch with those innovation managers and those kinds of people. And those are also driven a lot by behaviors. So gamification became a much smaller part of my work. And so I started to write about the mindset, the behaviors that people show, what is the difference between the Silicon Valley and Europe, for example, in, in, in mindset, on innovation, why are there all these companies such as Apple, Netflix, Uber, Tesla, Google, here and not coming from Europe.
Mario (39m 21s):
Yeah. And so suddenly I became high demand with that. And then I said, okay, I think, I think that’s, that’s where, where people are really interested. And so I less and less spent time on gamification really much into that space and then focus on certain industries like automotive technologies, like artificial intelligence. And that’s my focus today.
Rob (39m 49s):
So Mario we’ve gotten great advice. We’ve done many, many things out of you today, and we’re very thankful to have you in an episode like, like this one on today, however, you know, it’s, it’s time that we think it by at least for now. So we will know if there any place where we can find you in social media and still maybe even ask you a couple of gamification questions here and there, can you let us know where we can find you? Anything else of course, that you want to plug, or let of people know where to find you it’s, it’s the perfect place to do so.
Mario (40m 14s):
Yeah. I’m very active on social media and have a multiple of episodes. So if you just Google Mario Herger, you’ll find me, and also can get contact forms, and my email is out there. They’re very simple. If you have gamification questions: first, I would recommend reading the, read the book. I may have answered it already. So I have one book that may be of interest it’s called Enterprise Gamification, which it goes from the basics really to a lot of elements. So if you’re not familiar with that, just, just look it up. It’s on Amazon, so it should be available and everywhere. And if it’s still a question, just feel free to ask me again.
Rob (40m 52s):
Fantastic. Thank you very much once again, for, for this time for jumping, at least for a little while back into the gamification wagon with, with all of us, however, at least for now and for today, it is time to say that its Game Over. Hey engagers, thank you for listening to Professor Game Podcast. And I hope you enjoyed this interview with Mario. And I’d like to know if you have any questions that you’d like to ask future guests like him or her or any other guests that we have in the future.
Rob (41m 22s):
All you have to do is go to professorgame.com/question and ask your question. If it was it, if it is selected and I’m pretty confident that we will get to it, it will come up in a future episode and, you will get answered live in an episode. So before you go onto your next mission, have you subscribed using your favorite podcast app so that you can listen to the next episode of Professor Game? Well, I hope you do see you there.
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