The Great Game

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hi there. Today, I'd like to talk to you about the Game.

The Internet, you see, is an enormous, three-dimensional gaming surface. This gameboard consists of billions of nodes (web pages) joined by trillions of connectors (hyperlinks), fluctuating and evolving in real-time. It helps if you visualize it as a physical thing, and to do that, we'll need to put on our magic decoder glasses:

It's like an interactive, three-dimensional, massively multi-player game of Chess, Dots, Risk, and Tetris all rolled into one. Each player in the Game - and there are hundreds of millions of us - controls zero or more nodes, and has the ability to create connectors leading to and from those nodes.

The object of the Game is to ensure the dominance, or at least, the survival, of your nodes, in competition with everyone else's.

This, friends, is the Game to end all games. It extends across all industries, all languages, all walks of life. It's infinitely varied, infinitely deep. It's rich enough to satisfy the hungriest of minds, immediate enough to satisfy the shortest of attention spans. On any given day, hundreds of millions of players participate. And the stakes are literally the stuff of which dreams are made: success, money, acclaim, celebrity... pick your poison.

In that respect, it's similar to another Game (with a capital G) envisioned by a great author, in one of my favorite books:

The The Glass Bead Game is quite famous. Wikipedia describes it well enough:

At the center of the monastic order lies the (fictitious) Glass Bead Game, whose exact nature remains elusive. The precise rules of the game are only alluded to, and are so sophisticated that they are not easy to imagine. Suffice it to say that playing the Game well requires years of hard study of music, mathematics, and cultural history. Essentially the Game is an abstract synthesis of all arts and scholarship. It proceeds by players making deep connections between seemingly unrelated topics. For example, a Bach concerto may be related to a mathematical formula. [emphasis added]

Again we see the same theme, of topics and connections, nodes and connectors, web pages and hyperlinks. Let's examine these terms a little more closely, as they apply to our new system. In Game terms - I mean our Game, not the GBG - a node is any resource - such as a web page, an image, or a feed - which can be addressed through a specific URL:

Each node is an expression of a particular idea or set of ideas - which could be literally anything. Even a boring old boilerplate login page is an expression of a basic principle, a core functional motif.

A connector is a navigational and semantic association between two nodes. Connectors are usually (but not always) expressed as hyperlinks. From a Game perspective, the underlying technology doesn't really matter; but here are a few ways in which connectors can be built today:

<a href="">Visit!</a>
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" src="" />

<img src="" />

The key characteristic of connectors is their navigability. Traffic - Internet traffic - flows through connectors like water through pipes, bringing life and participation to sites that desperately need it. Search engines, for their part, use the presence or absence of connectors to assign a relative rank or value to a site: a calculation famously known as PageRank.

Make sense? A search engine, expressed in Game terms, is simply a node whose job is to display a relevant set of connectors (links) for a particular query. A directory or links page is a node whose purpose is to present a static list of categorized connectors. A login page is a sentinel node which guards unauthorized access to other nodes. And a blog is a collection of nodes, one of which is an authoring interface or node-generation factory, whose job is to enable the generation of a sequential, dated series of nodes discussing a particular set of topics. And so forth.

Virtually every interaction the Internet has to offer can be interpreted in terms of this theory.

Those of you who want to learn search engine optimization, online marketing, the building of online communities: virtuosity begins here. Are you amazed by the success of bloggers like Jeff Atwood and Jeff Jarvis? These are the virtuoso players of the Game, and a lot can be learned from them. On the other hand: blogging, authoring - writing - is just one of many possible ways to play. In fact, many of your most formidable opponents don't blog at all. They're busy doing other things.

In conclusion: try to see the Internet not only as an expressive and/or creative medium, but also as a strategic and tactical one: a vast Rube Goldberg contraption which you can leverage and harness, if you know the location of the secret levers and hidden pulleys that control it. That's where the money's at, and that's where you want to be, too.

Good luck, and see you on the battlefield.

UPDATE: Take a look at the Internet Visualizer screenshots for another view of the Internet gameboard.

Tags: SEO, PageRank, Internet, The Great Game

12 comment(s)

Nice pic! was that generated by a tool or did you put it together yourself? If it was a tool: what's it called? :-)

Its an apt way to describe the internet.

I often talk about creating 'web gravity' - coordinations of many players connecting together to create events larger (in share of internet voice) than the sum of the parts could achieve alone.

I've nominated your post on as one of the best posts of the day from the 18th.


Perhaps that explains the Response.Write anomalies appearing at the top of your page output last night?

We too often blame gremlins for what happens when we develop against live production ;)

Yeah James - good approach. Boo yah. That one will work every time. ppl are unhealthy fixated on this "it has to work" stuff anyway.

I was looking for this information, thanks for put in this easy way, I mean in a easy way to understand it jajaja, well until the next time.


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