Monday, January 28, 2008

Massive Cookie Rolling Update

October2007 105
Originally uploaded by Avant Game.

If you've been following my cookie rolling project (now almost three years in progress!!), you'll be happy to see I've made a major update to the official cookie rolling text.

(In this photo: Can you guess what word I'm about to install in Mother's Party Animal cookies, made locally here in Ann Arbor?)

I've added nine new cities, on three different continents. These nine words represent the past year of cookie rolling.

I've done 33 words so far, in 10 countries, on 4 continents. I've probably missed about a dozen cities, that I really wish I had made time to cookie roll in -- Helsinki, Oulu, and Rovaniemi all in Finland are chief among the cities I was in but didn't roll. Next month, I'm going to roll in Austin to make up for a missed chance in 2005, and I've got at least three major Asian cities in three different countries on my cookie rolling schedule for this spring and summer.

After three years, I'm currently in the middle of my second sentence. I hope to finish this sentence by the end of 2008.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Yay! "Alternate Reality Business" makes annual "Top 20 Breakthrough Ideas" List

Harvard Business Review publishes an annual "Top 20 Breakthrough Ideas" issue; it's always a fascinating mix of strange and cool and often a little subversive thinking.

I'm quite happy that my idea to apply alternate reality game theory to doing real business and real research has made the 2008 list!

You can see all 20 breakthrough ideas online, including my article "Alternate Reality is the New Business Reality", and some other ideas I just love and think are really important -- such as Tamara Erickson's "Task, Not Time", and Dan Ariely's "How Honest People Cheat" and the "Transit Camp" (Sick Transit Gloria) project.

Here's a short excerpt of mine, which is a rather bold forecast (but one I think is actually a quite high probability):

In the coming decade, many businesses will achieve their greatest breakthroughs by playing games—specifically, alternate reality games, or ARGs. Custom-designed ARGs will enable companies to build powerful collaboration networks, discover solutions to specific business problems, forecast opportunities, and innovate more reliably and quickly.

Why? ARGs train people in hard-to-master skills that make collaboration more productive and satisfying. Playing an ARG teaches 10 collective-intelligence competencies. These include cooperation radar, a knack for identifying the very best collaborators for a given task, and protovation, the ability to rapidly prototype and test experimental solutions. Using these skills, players amplify and augment one another’s knowledge, talents, and capabilities. Because ARGs draw on the same collective-intelligence infrastructure that employees use for “official” business, games will map directly to a familiar reality—no translation required.

As these competencies mature within a business, ARGs will provide a truly stimulating framework for doing everyday work. Few meetings are as engaging as an ARG, whose emerging narrative evokes players’ shared sense of urgency and whose puzzles and clues deepen their curiosity. The structure for collaboration is clear, with players rallying around explicit goals and continually sharing theories, tactics, and results. Playing also generates compelling momentum: The puppet master monitors and rewards participants’ efforts, and times the release of new challenges so that players experience multiple cycles of success.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

My run is a videogame -- wanna play with me?

I finally got the Nike+ running system (a sneaker sensor + IPod interface)... and I LOVE IT.

My run is now a videogame, and I want you to play with me.

Here is a link to my first Nike+ run. Before you click on the link, you can guess wildly how far you think I run and what my speed is. How close were you?

(In case you're wondering about that big dip in the middle, I've designed my regular run so that halfway through I have to slug my way up a very steep incline, about 40 degrees. So I basically am reduced to walking speed for 90 seconds as I drag myself up it -- but it's hard and awesome and I like it that way!)

So why do I love Nike+? For tons of reasons -- the collaborative and competitive challenges on the Nike+ community, the virtual trophies I get for fastest mile, fastest 5K, longest run... and I definitely love the "power song" feature -- you can identify one song on your ipod as your power song to give you a boost when you really want to kick it in. Just hold down the center button and the song comes right up. (If you're curious, right now, my power song is "Dard e Disco" from Om Shanti Om, and yes, I am also trying to learn the choreography for that number, thanks to youtube.)

But most of all I love Nike+ because the real-time feedback it gives me on my speed is an unbelievably powerful improver of performance.

Evidence: The run that I did in 39:32 today usually takes me 41:30 on a good day, 43:00 on a slow day. No kidding. I cut 2 minutes off my best run just by paying closer attention to my speed and getting constant feedback about it!

I am a creature of habit when it comes to running. Since I've lived in Berkeley (six years now), I've had about five different running routes that I've really loved. What I like to do is stick to a single running route for a long time, and keep chipping away at the time it takes me to complete it. I was hoping to eventually get under 40 minutes this spring on the run that I've been doing for quite a while, but I thought it would take 6-8 weeks to cut off that much time. It's pretty shocking that the first day out with my Nike+, I blow my best run time out of the water. But wait a minute -- it's really not shocking at all. That's the second principal of my manifesto on why games are better than reality -- better feedback. It is SO true!

Now for the important part. I don't know anyone else who is running with the Nike+. If you are, let me know -- we can be Nike+ friends (or enemies!) and collaborate or compete on challenges. Drop me a line. If you aren't on it yet, the system is ridiculously affordable (if you have an iPod nano already, you basically just need to buy new Nike shoes with a slot for the sensor) and the online community is free, which is crazy, because I would totally pay for the service they provide.

Speaking of which, if anyone from Nike is reading this and wants a game designer to develop an MMO around Nike+, just let me know. The world is waiting on an alternate reality MMO with physical input, and I think a fitness MMO or fitness alternate reality game with Nike+ would just kill. I am ready to make it for you! ^_^

UPDATE: I went running this morning as a result of receiving my first challenge! (From a friend in Sweden!) How fun to be running with someone across the world. Here is my latest run -- about 10 seconds slower than the first run, but I was on slightly hillier terrain, so overall I think it was a better performance! Not to mention it's still two minutes under my best time prior to Nike+. Amazing!