Connecting Curious Dots

On the intersection of technology, culture, and everyday life: My semi-updated space to collect and link my thoughts about interesting things I spot.

Akoha: Seeding Kindness with Social Games

IMG_3089 When I first heard about Akoha, I loved the idea.  I eagerly signed up to be a Beta tester and was excited when my set of mission cards arrived in the mail.  Still love the idea, but have been thinking about why instead of being part of the leaderboard, I've only played one card. 

Akoha is a MMP, mixed reality game.  The game centers around accumulating Karma points via real world missions of kindness (for example +125 for "Thank Someone", +100 for "Make Someone Smile", +200 for "Donate an Hour of Your Time") linked to coded cards.  This player probably reflects the ideal user experience and impact Akoha was aiming for.  

What made the game sticky and immersive for her, but not for me?   The primary adjective Akoha uses to describe its game is "social."  Theres two key dimensions to that: the social behaviors required to play the game and the social network of "friends" players accumulate during gameplay.  For me, that second aspect of social was too challenging to help motivate the first.  I felt like a lone player in the social game.  While there were many players in Canada, there were few players in New York.  To play I had to recruit friends or strangers (most missions required physical proximity to complete) – which is also part of the beauty in seeding kindness.  However, when "the work" of finding playmates > the reward of playing it's more difficult to get to the sweet spot (critical mass of friends and missions played to feel the impact, the addictive part of play). 

Since then Akoha has added a dynamic Community Map showing where players and missions are happening.  It's still a little clunky (requires several zoom-ins to find specific locations of interest) and could be more efficient in visualizing search interests, but tools like it are a step towards creating a means to finding friends, feeling connected to the larger community, and seeing impact.  (Looking at other social, location-oriented games like foursquare, one could also imagine interesting ways an Akoha mobile app could encourage play.)

The reward and reputation system also impacts stickyness — motivates embedding play into everyday social experiences vs. singular novelty play moments (especially for those with busy lives).  What do "Karma points" mean to players?  Is simply accumulating "Karma points" compelling?  Found this interesting thread of user feedback about wanting more of an addictive factor.  The users had quite a few good design suggestions (e.g. adding levels, mastery identities, mission combos, time-based rewards, currency that tied to real world donations).

If the thousands of cards played are any hint, I do think games like Akoha have huge potential.  Influencing behaviors and tapping beyond existing social networks are powerful dynamics, especially for improving global causes.  Bridging the digital and "real" world is also a challenge we are just beginning to tackle.  All said, I'll be staying in the Akoha game and learning from how well people play it forward. 

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This entry was posted on April 14, 2009 by in Culture and New Media, Design, Games, Social Media Networks, User Experience and tagged , .
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