Over the last month, i’ve been driving Mimi’s Hybrid on and off. One of my favorite things about the Hybrid is that it tells you how many MPG you’re averaging over time. I find myself driving around town trying to maximize that number, getting uber excited when it goes up and super sad when it goes down. It reminds me of when i used to try to maximize my miles per hour when going from Boston to New York only this is more environmental. Yet, it’s not the environment that i’m concerning myself with - it’s all about number games in the same way that people obsess over every pound on the scale or the calories in every bite.
Then i was thinking about Tantek and Jason raving about Consumating. I love the fact that it’s a lot of cool geeky people but i can never get over the lameness that i feel when i log in and look at my score. And yet, i can’t be bothered to answer the questions that make me feel all uncomfortable in the hopes that someone will like my answers and rate me higher. It’s a catch-22 for me. Yet, i totally understand why Tantek and Jason and others absolutely love it and why they go back for more.
And then i was thinking about the people on Yahoo! Answers who spend hours every day answering questions to get high ranks. It’s very similar to Consumating only it’s not all embarassing because it’s not really about you - it’s about the answers. There’s no real gain from getting points but still, it’s like a mouse in a cage determined to do well just cuz they can.
This all reminds me of a scene in some movie. I can’t recall what movie it was but it was about how you just want to be the best at something, anything… to have something to point at and say look, i’m #1! The validation, the proof of greatness! Even if that something is problematic attention getting like being the #1 serial killer. (Was it Bowling for Columbine?)
I started wondering about these number games… They’re all over social software - Neopets, friends on social network sites, blog visitors, etc. Who is motivated by what number games? Who is demotivated? Does it make a difference if the number game is about the group vs. the individual, about one’s self directly vs. about some abstract capability?
Are there some number games that work better than others in attracting a broader audience? I’m thinking about Orkut here… if the game is to get as many Brazillians on the site as possible, you only need a few obsessives to be the rallying forces; everyone else is part of the number game simply by signing up. So there are tons competing in the number games but only a few invested.
Does anyone know anything about how these number games work as incentives?
[Also posted at Apophenia]