Human-Powered Gamification

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Technology and games go together at meetings like flip charts and markers. As our May story about gamification points out, meetings not only gather together groups of like-minded people who want to interact, virtually every attendee is carrying a smart phone or mobile device.

But there also is something to be said for games that aren’t totally dependent on technology — as a game called Knowledge Market demonstrated at C2MTL, the business creativity conference that was held earlier this week in Montreal.

The basic purpose of the game, created by a Montreal-based company called E-180 which also designed C2MTL’s online community, is to help match up attendees who need expertise with attendees who can offer it.

photo-2The version played at C2MTL used four chalkboards which were wheeled out into a well-traveled spot in the meeting space three or four times a day for an hour each time.

Each chalkboard was devoted to a topic matched to the meeting content and game facilitators recorded attendees’ requests and offers of help in chalk. Under the game’s rules, attendees could win a card for making a request, for offering help, and for meeting another attendee or attendees when matches were made.  The winners is the person holding the most cards at the end of the game.

In order to enable people to find each other when an offer and a request for help align, the Knowledge Market uses iPads to display the photos that attendees upload to the conference online community.   But matching people via photos on iPads proved impossible when the WiFi at the meeting venue was overwhelmed by demand (Wi-Fi was flowing freely again by the second day). The technology glitch was not a problem: The game’s facilitators subbed in a bell and rang it every time a match was made.

“Knowledge Market,” also was designed to be played in more defined space  than was possible at the free-flowing C2MTL, where players wandered in and out of the game.  That meant, said E-180 cofounder and CEO Christine Renaud, that it wasn’t really feasible to keep score with cards. Again, no problem. The card-scoring system was dropped.

What was striking about the game is that it still worked so well, in spite of the hurdles.  It was impossible to miss the buzz that the game generated at the conference, as dozens, if not hundreds, of connections were made via lines drawn in chalk.

Although E-180 is best known for its digital work, creating online matchmaking tools for peer learning, it strives to be a human company, rather than a technology company, Renaud said.  More than 1,000 meetings were set up at the conference via the online community, she said. “But the chalkboard version adds a little serendipity.”

And its adaptability  — as well as the intrinsic value of the networking rewards offered to players  — offers a little insurance against technology and other glitches.

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