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Even Economists Are Gamifying

Gamification as a means to understand consumer choice is a relatively new idea for research (and controversial in many circles), but it is not new everywhere. For example, one sociologist, Dmitri Williams, has been studying economic behavior using gamfication for four years. His experiments were based on the online fantasy game EverQuest II, which involves thousands of players selling millions of virtual items every month. In essence it is a fantasy economy that works like a real economy.  

Professor Williams theorized that this provided an opportunity to observe the choices players made without fear of the Hawthorne effect (some people give different answers when they know they are being watched).   It also allowed him to set up test and control groups and observe what happens when, to take a simple example, prices go up (if you guessed “people buy less” you win) and to look at gender roles. He saw applications in many fields, not the least of which being testing the impact of various government intervention options before implementing them in the real world.

This application of course won’t work for everything. If you are selling a new virtual sword, it would work great, but if your new product research efforts involve something like a smart phone it can’t very well be worked into a game featuring Elves and Orcs. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it or that existing techniques like Max Diff and Discrete Choice have no value (of course they do). But it does mean that we should be thinking of creative ways to use game techniques to get answers that are closer to how people really think.  

President, TRC


Rich brings a passion for quantitative data and the use of choice to understand consumer behavior to his blog entries. His unique perspective has allowed him to muse on subjects as far afield as Dinosaurs and advanced technology with insight into what each can teach us about doing better research.  

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