Feedback Helps us Make Better (Data-Driven) Decisions

Raph Koster_Game Mechanics

“Game mechanics are rule based systems
/ simulations that facilitate and encourage a user to explore and learn the
properties of their possibility space through the use of feedback mechanisms.”

[Raph Koster]


As Koster says, narrative in a game is not a mechanic, it's a form of feedback.

Why is feedback important? Within the context of a game, for example, feedback lets you know how you are doing in solving the problem built into the narrative.

Finding the path involves connecting a series of steps, some of which quite complex. Because the presentation of tasks is arranged to provide feedback, we delight in finding patterns and in the immersive experience even in the most complex of games.

Social networks are all rigged to provide some form of visual feedback — e.g., the red counters of Facebook and Google+ — to encourage repeat use and stickiness.

Counters are not new, we had them in our email systems to indicate the number of unread messages, and see them in our smartphones. How long do you go before you update your apps, or check your messages?

Feedback triggers reward mechanisms in the brain.

In social situations, we are constantly looking around and adjusting out behavior to that of others. Collective behavior informs culture — so, for example, Italians in line look very different than Americans, the line tends to be more horizontal and messy in Italy, with people closer to each other.

The ability to solve for complexity is one of the driving forces for using games to harness game mechanics and social behavior to help solve real world problems. Some examples in science: Computer gamers solve problem in AIDS research that puzzled scientists for years#, How a Facebook game could helps us tackle climate change#.

Because they engage the collective actions of many, games can help make a better world#.

Making data-driven decisions

Much of our activities are now connected by digital bits.

This should make it easier for businesses to gather feedback and act upon it. I am wondering if we should design counters into those loops as well. Would that make businesses more responsive?

The problem with feedback however is that we rarely know how to give it, and seldom learn how to take it.

For data-driven feedback to be usable, we need to design systems that take into account the social, cultural, and organizational settings in which they will be used. Further, it is still a matter of seeing (and hearing) what is happening and deciding to do something about it once we have the right query set for feedback to be useful.

Corporate marketing departments are increasingly more proactive in making product design and delivery decisions. There is tremendous upside in doing so. When building through iterative processes, for example, companies benefit from linking customer feedback and data more closely.

Understanding customer and user needs helps with delighting them. It also helps with better forecasting, better time to delivery, and ultimately better return on investment.


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover
the value of promises and its effects on relationships and
. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.