Journal 2 – The Game Layer on Top of the World- a TED talk by Seth Priebatsch

July 5th, 2012


In this TED talk, Seth Priebatsch ,  talks about what he calls sort of a new concept-“  building a game layer on top of the world.” According to Seth, whereas the last decade was marked by social connections in the web as evidenced by Face book’s success,  this decade will be about using “game dynamics to influence people’s behaviour. In this talk, he presents 4 of these game dynamics and substantiates it with real life examples already happening.



When I first heard”chief ninja at SCVNGR”, I had to ask, am I suppose to know what SCVNGR stands for? Is this something a ‘connected ‘person should know.

My initial gut reaction was “what is he talking about?????”  “What do you mean a game layer o top of the world” and what is ‘Open graph” I could not make head or heels of his talk.  I had to download the transcript, read it by myself then listened to his talk again before I could figure out what I needed to do next.

Why is this talk even on this course?

In the end, I felt that the talk was a sales pitch to entrepreneurs/business to invest in his company or at least to convince people of his company’s potential profitability.


I reacted very strongly because I felt defensive about my limited technical knowledge.  I looked up SCVNGR on Chrome and found out it was a pretty new company founded by the speaker. He was quite successful in using the idea of scavenger hunts and turning this into a game application on mobile phones. Jason Kincaid writing for had this to say about SCVNGR “SCVNGR is one young start-up that’s managed to tap into a niche market very successfully.” (Kincaid, 2009) In that same article, Mr. Kincaid also explained that though SVNGR  was  only launched in fall 2008, by that time, “ it’s already seen use by over 300 universities, including Harvard and Princeton, as well as corporations, who have used the company’s enterprise-grade game builder for things like employee team building exercises and orientation events”(Kincaid,2009)

Pretty good for a school drop-out (my prejudices show up again) It sounded like he is pretty successful and assumed that everyone would have heard of SCVNGR. In his talk, Mr. Priebatsch just assumed that everyone in his audience knew what he was talking about. I think if he’d taken some public speaking courses, he would have a more successful sales pitch. But then again, maybe the problem is not with him but with me. After all, he is the one with the start-up company.

I wondered why the talk is on this course. I guess, we are listening to his talk because it is a good example of application of intellectual property and copyright law. Mr. Priebatsch took a very common idea (scavenger hunts) and transformed it into game application for mobile phones. He copyrighted his idea and is now profiting from it (at least it sounds like he is) But is it really an original idea? The ingenuity is his adaptation of an old idea and evolving it into something usable in the 21st century.

Mr. Priebatsch also mentioned how his 2nd dynamic “Influence and status” can also be used in school. In his exact words, “why have games that you can lose?” This again is not a novel idea; there are many books out there that espouse cooperative games. He should be commended for thinking out of the box. He is using game applications that take advantage of intrinsic human behaviours. He is using different terminology, but essentially theses ideas have been around. The need for routine/structure (appointment dynamics) the need to be recognized and appreciated (influence/status), the need to grow (progress dynamic) and the need for community (communal discovery)

Another obvious reason that his talk is part of this course might be because his ideas have the potential to change/affect education in the future. From an Early Childhood Educator’s point of view, I could not agree more. Play is a child’s work and in play the child is making meaning of their world, unfortunately in our school system, play is not valued and we prefer to teach according to the test.

In the article by Jason Kincaid, he cited 3 universities using SCVNGR social location based gaming program as orientation for new students to their campus and libraries. (Kincaid 2009)


What do I take away from this? Coming from an Asian culture, where education is valued above all else, learning about SCVNGR’s success is another proof that it’s what one does with one’s knowledge that leads to ‘success”. This made me reflect on my role as an early childhood educator and how some parents of the school are pushing for more academic content in curriculum.  I am reminded that I ought to support intellectual learning more than just academic learning and perhaps I will need to start sharing this idea with the parents. Academic knowledge is good to have but what’s more important for children to learn is that they know how to apply that knowledge in life and how to seek what they do not know. Asian parents pushing for more academics in programming  am I supporting children to think In the end, it’s what one does with one’s knowledge that


Kincaid, J (2009), SCVNGR Let’s You Build Awesome Scavenger Hunts For Any Mobile Phone, retrieved on July 3, 2012 from

Priebatsch, S (2010), “The Game Layer on Top of the World”, retrieved on July 3, 2010 from

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