Seth Priebatsch’s Game Layer on Top of the World

Seth Priebatsch

I could not have been more impressed by Seth Preibatsch’s keynote at SXSWi (w/audio recording). A 21 year old who dropped out of Princeton after his first year, Seth started SVNGR, a location based service that makes checking in into a scavenger hunt and other games. His energy, presentation, insight, humor, and content were all right on. He wasn’t a smug, cynical hipster opportunist geek like so many presenters. He was humble enough for someone I expected to be brash.   He won me over from the beginning.

He said that in the last ten years we added the social layer to the web and in the next ten we’ll add the game layer. Then he went on to talk about all the stuff the game layer can fix, like education, by re-engineering motivations and rewards. Rewarding your participants is key for game makers, and your business is a game. It is by creating Epic Meaning for people that they become blissfully productive.

The first thing you’ll find when you flip through his slides are his ideas about how bad grades and failing are as motivations for school along with some suggestions for how we could have students level-up like a video game and remove some demotivation.

He had us play two games during the session. In the first he asked the audience to start clapping. They did, like applause. Then he asked them to synch up and clap a beat. They did in about 20 secs, it was a big crowd. He pointed out how quickly and easily a totally decentralized task can be accomplished

The second game was brought up in the context of how to solve global warming. Everyone had a colored card. The object was to trade cards while staying seated, and arrive at every row being a solid color. He gave them 2:30 to do it, and if they did, he would contribute $10K to a wildlife charity.

The audience accomplished the goal in 1:30 and he pointed out that the task was accomplished in a way that would have been impossible for a centralized government, that the hope of what the game layer can accomplish is taking an impossible problem and making it simply very difficult. All this from a 21 year old!


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