One of my favorite movies of the year is Moneyball, which has been nominated for multiple Oscars including Best Actor for Brad Pitt, who has done more with this movie to make statistics sexy than a million analytics wonks. The movie is based on the Michael Lewis book of the same name, and tells the story of how Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane employed analytics to assemble one of the most competitive teams in pro baseball even though he had a minuscule budget that was dwarfed by the spend of other teams. The sabermetric techniques used by Beane and his team went on to redefine the way players are measured and valued. His approach balanced the art of baseball with science.
Baseball is not the only game to undergo this transformation. In the last few years, the rise of social and free-to-play gaming, championed by companies like Zynga, has had a similar impact on the world of video games. Just as Beane's approach was controversial and met with resistance by Major League Baseball, so too is there much gnashing of teeth within the video games industry by those who see the encroachment of science into play as a threat to the art. Critics are quick to label free-to-play mechanics as “casino tactics.” And while some social gaming companies have undoubtedly gone too far in their use, it cannot be denied that the use of analytics is bringing a better understanding of how people play and how players stay engaged.
With this new guest blog, we're launching an effort to engage frog alumni and other leading thinkers in the field of design and innovation. Chris Heatherly worked at frog from 1997-2002 and helped create the frog Strategy Group. He is now VP of Production at Disney Online Studios.
Christmas of 2011 saw Santa put new types of toys under the tree—toys that take advantage of the latest in mobile and other technologies to combine physical and digital play in new and interesting ways. These devices say a lot about the growing role of digital devices in kid’s lives. They also give hints about where play is going over the next several years.