Return to the real world – the rise in social gaming

Keeping up with what’s going on at the SXSW conference in Texas can be tough, with a myriad of new apps, technologies and god knows what else being talked up across every blog and tech news site imaginable. But, a bit like London Fashion Week, it’s not the catwalk fashions themselves that are going to necessarily appear on the High Street, it’s the overarching themes that are most likely to translate into the mainstream.

So, clumsy fashion analogy aside, what I’m finding most interesting about the reports from SXSW is that a lot of talk seems to be focused on apps and services with a social gaming element, where users score points or are rewarded for a particular action in the ‘real world’.

While social networks like Facebook and Twitter impact on our real world behaviour to some extent, for example how we organise our social lives, seek information and view issues around privacy, in the next few years social gaming apps are set to fundamentally change the way behave and interact with the ‘real world’. And this is next generation social gaming; more than simply checking in at a venue on Foursquare.

Take Scvngr, which is the tip of a potentially enormous digital iceberg. Part social network, part game, Scvngr allows users to check in to a location, just like on Facebook Places or Foursquare, but then goes a step further as users are encouraged to take part in a series of fun, real world ‘challenges’ to earn points, such as turning a fast food joint foil wrapper into an origami bird or performing a dance routine outside a shop and filming it. These acts then earn points which translate into freebies and discounts.

The chief executive (or Chief Ninja, as he calls himself) of Scvngr reckons that over the next 10 years, developers are increasingly going to create a ‘game layer’ on top of real life society, which I guess, could blur the boundaries between computer games, and actual life (for the more confused members of society, anyway).

And, just as Facebook’s Razon Detra is “connect and share”, this new wave of apps are all about “going places”, “having fun” “exploring”, you name it. This is all incredibly positive, as it’s all about encouraging people to have fun and experience life fuller. Maybe we can call it ‘real life 2.0’. It’s certainly an interesting challenge for marketeers in finding new ways for brands to be ‘fun’, and at a push even a challenge for video game producers, who could see gamers flock away from screens to ‘real world’ activities, as everyday life becomes more like a video game.

So, whether real life will become like the film Scott Pilgrim or not, either way it will be fun finding out, and it’s nice to see the return of ‘real life’.

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Filed under innovation, Social Networks, technology

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