Are We Ready For The Gamification Of Film-going?

For better or for worse, we've already witnessed the gamification of story structure in Inception and Scott Pilgrim where narrative becomes defined by the reach into the next level. With the infection of our content, the next phase is no doubt the gamification of attendance. Will winning a virtual badge be enough to expand the audience for non-Hollywood films? The LA Times sees gamification infecting all aspects of life:

New services such as GetGlue, Miso and Philo apply the Foursquare model to watching movies and television. If you're watching "CSI" you can "check in" to "CSI" on Miso to earn "CSI" points or badges, chat with other people who are watching the episode and eventually jump to the top of the "CSI" leader board.

Somrat Niyogi, the chief executive of the San Francisco-based Miso, says that the site builds on the sense of competition that pop culture consumption already fosters. "It's all about the statement, 'I'm a bigger fan than you,'" he says.

It may not be for everyone, but I do think if local theaters employed such tactics, they'd see an uptick in admissions.  People do say they would participate in more things, if we added more gaming to it.  Similarly, I would like to know more about the folks in my social network who are recommending movies -- and if I knew what they saw, when they saw, it would help me evaluate their opinions, for better or for worse. Granted that's really "social" not "gaming", but it is all "engagement" and the film industry, across all sectors, has been neglecting it for too long. Whether we are artists, exhibitors, or production companies, it is time we gave a lot more attention to it.

Engagement is a long term process. It requires upkeep. It requires personality. It requires transparency. And the gamification of all aspects of the process will help a great deal. I am not convinced that "All the world's a.. game." (sorry Mr. Shakespeare) but this interview with Gabe Zicherman brought me a lot closer to accepting it.

The Exhibitor Audience Collaboration

I ran into Chris Dorr last week and had a good conversation with him about the many different ways the film world needs to engage with social media. One of the ideas here offered was exhibitors and festivals utilizing FourSquare. I tweeted the genius idea and sure enough soon learned that at least one film festival was ahead of the curve. AMERICAN SPLENDOR created a soft spot in my heart for Cleveland and now learning what the Cleveland International Film Festival was up to brought a sweet pang of joy. What's FourSquare you ask? CIFF explains:

Foursquare, a social networking tool for mobile devices, is a cross between a friend-finder, a social city-guide, and a game that rewards you for doing interesting things. Anytime you log your location with Foursquare, you earn points that translate into virtual “badges.” Frequenting a place more than anyone else will earn you the title of “Mayor.”

My only question though is what does becoming Mayor of CIFF get you? It's the kind of thing that I think all festivals should engage in and Mayor status should bring a free pass for next year. Theaters should also do the same and offer free tickets.

Simple promotions awarding the monthly "Mayor" is just the start of things that could come from a FourSquare alliance.  Mike Vogel pointed out that filmmakers could come up with ways to entice people who had earned a "Swarm" badge with 50+ attendees.  What such ideas do you have to share?

Let's recognize and accept that it is not just the movie that audiences want, but also the social experience. We have to work harder to find ways to enhance that. One thing is for sure though, the more you know the regulars at a theater then more you feel at home -- and the more you feel at home the more that you are going to be there.

Update 3/21:  The comments below are full of good ideas.  I hope the film festivals & exhibitors  listen (and foursquare too).  Please let me know of any that are doing it right (and why) as you come across them.