Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Little Big Planet as a UI Model for Currency Design

I am doing another post on video games because I think there are some really interesting and relevant stuff brewing in that world. Recently, I checked out Play Station's Little Big Planet. Little Big Planet is more than a game. It is a game building tool that allows people to build their own game worlds and share them.

We'll forget for a moment that it is highly proprietary and operating in a closed network (there is no open game protocol that people can use without having bought the game). That aside, I think this may offer a glimpse of what the future of UIs for currency design might be like.

Little Big Planet's UI is graphic, simple, and intuitive, meaning you don't need to know code to express your creativity. I am sure there will be ways of doing this with currency design in the near future as well. I can imagine some kind of flow chart that would describe possible relations between different account types. I cooked this diagram up in about 5 minutes on OmniGraffle, but you begin to get the general idea. What if there was a currency UI that would spit out a set of currency rules that corresponded to any such diagram you make.

More importantly, however, Little Big Planet has a large community of collaborators who build and share levels. To me, one of the biggest issues in currency design is the highly centralized power of the currency designer. This is analogous to Blizzard being the sole designer in the World of Warcraft world (see previous post). For currencies to be more emergent, a decentralized process of building and sharing currencies is necessary. To me Little Big Planet begins to hint at this possibility.

Of course, for emergent collaborative design, Twitter is still my all time favorite. Twitter is the classic example of "paving the cow paths." Twitter's users invented most of what is cool about twitter, such as @ replies, hash tags, and so on. We need a currency platform that will allow for the same kind of emergence in currency design. An intuitive UI will be an important first step.

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