So, as I was explaining VRM to some people this morning, and how we were equipping individuals with tools for both independence and engagement, an analogy came up: role playing games. Dungeons & Dragons. World of Warcraft. Final Fantasy.

I was blown away. Not because it’s a great analogy, but because I … just didn’t know. I’ve never played any of these games. But the people I was talking to had (or still did) play these games. And they were getting something about VRM that I wasn’t saying.

So, rather than show a blank face again, I’d like to probe the possibility that There Might Be Something Here.

Dungeons & Dragons, Wikipedia tells me, has characters that can be equipped with “Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.” Hmm… What would be the equivalent for a VRM-enabled customer? Respectability? Able? How do you have those in a selectively-disclosed way? Are you cloaked or something?

So I’m looking for some help here. I’m giving a Big Talk tomorrow morning about VRM (among other things… but VRM is the big topic). While I’m not starved for analogies, I think we need more than we’ve had so far, and that my elderly ass can come up with. And I suspect this role-playing thing has legs.

Especially if there’s a RPG in which relationship matters more, or at least as much, as killing bad guys (or dragons, or ennui, or whatever).

I’ll betcha there is one. Or more.

What are they? Need answers today. Or by 6am Eastern Time tomorrow.

For this gig, anyway.

Good analogies are forever. Or long enough. Post your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks.


  1. Eric Norlin

    I’m not quite sure if the analogy holds or not (after all, you’re pretty captive to Blizzard when playing World of Warcraft), but I will say that WoW is an incredibly *relationship* based game. It requires you to bring your specific talents (and every character created really is different) to bear on problems that quite often groups solve. So, for instance, you’ll end up with “40 man raid parties” — 40 people that gather to solve something and then disband. But the banding together is all about relationships and the tools that exist for building them.

    Interestingly, WoW has its own economy (auction house), email system, numerous chat systems and ways to form both strong ties (guilds) and weak ties (spur of the moment, ad hoc groupings). It also lets you learn professions and gain skill in those professions.

    bottom line: if I had all of those tools for interacting with airlines, I’d be one happy flyer.

  2. Darius Dunlap

    Joi Ito would be a good person for you to talk with about this idea. He has spoken many times about the value of MMORPGs in teaching leadership in an organizational context. He may also be interested in the VRM connection.

    The analogy may be a bit of a stretch, at least for World Of Warcraft, the MMORPG that I play. The community around the game may be the provide the most interesting VRM analogies. There is a very active community of add-on developers for improving the user interface to the game, and informational websites to help you navigate the intricate storyline and achievement strategies. People spend a lot of time and energy optimizing their play, and share that information with one another.

    As Eric above says, it’s a wonderful relationship-based game, especially if you are in a “guild” that focuses on community effort. Try it, you might like it.

  3. whitneymcn

    I didn’t send this to the full VRM list since it seemed like a bit of a tangent off the question you were asking, but this is what first struck me:

    I think this may be a tangent (and I’m digging way back into my geeky past so the details may be a little off), but I’ll toss this out for consideration…

    At a basic level, role playing games quantify the characters’ attributes (you’re X strong, Y smart, and have Z level of ability in nerf herding), and some significant part of the characters’ interactions are governed by these attributes. In this sense one might say that a character in a role playing game is not unlike a CRM profile: based on Greywolf’s attributes, you know a certain amount about how he is likely to behave within the game. Also like a CRM profile, however, the character’s stats *don’t* tell you anything about the character’s…well, *character.* The stats tell you a certain amount, but not everything.

    But I think there’s an interesting parallel in a slightly different area: in the ’70s and early ’80s, most or all role playing games used their own proprietary systems to quantify characters: D&D used different attributes, measured differently, than did the Sci Fi game “Traveller.” (Again we reference different CRM silos.)

    In the mid-’80s, however, Steve Jackson introduced something called the “Generic Universal Role Playing System” (GURPS). This was a framework for defining characters that was independent of their setting: you could play an old west game, a fantasy game, or a sci fi game, and the same attributes applied to each and the same basic rules applied — even the characters could be “ported” over. Basically, you could create a “core” character for yourself that you used across many games; obviously some attributes didn’t apply across all games, but the core information and system for managing it were shared.

    That feels to me like a reasonable parallel to one aspect of VRM: GURPS allowed a player to be “themselves” regardless of what game they were playing, as VRM allows a person to be “themselves” regardless of what vendor they’re interacting with. A given vendor, like a given game, may not have access to, use, or even recognize all of my attributes, but they’re each working with a subset of the same data store, rather than each working from a discrete silo.

    Oh my god, I feel like a geek.

  4. Doc Searls

    Good points all. More soon.

    Meanwhile, Darius, I included Joi in a mailing to the ProjectVRM list that was pretty much the same as this post here. Covering a number of bases. 🙂

  5. Carter F Smith

    I like Whitney’s geeky 🙂 answer, and I think the analogy needs to stretch from the well known contemporary silos of WoW and Second Life to a GURPS model. The relationship magnet Eric describes in a VRM world should be more between us people (formerly known as the audience) and less between us and the vendor. That means teams of us are important, like Warcraft (don’t know about WoW), and conversations are what develops those relationships, like on Second Life (though still in primitive form there). Those same conversations and relationships will occur, naturally, once the trust is developed between us and the vendor.

  6. Kevin Marks

    I should get you to talk to my son Christopher about his trading on RuneScape – he had elaborate inter-world arbitrage schemes going on there, as well as a value chain based on out-workers making bowstrings for him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2023 ProjectVRM

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑