Data mining and customer tracking are familiar concepts from online advertising, but an article at the Guardian examines how metrics and analytics are becoming a big part of the social games people play as well. This merging of games and advertising sounds just as distasteful as you might expect: "Whereas traditional games are about creating big macro-environments for player exploration, freemium is about micro-managing every step the player takes toward actually buying something. 'A developer can build 'funnels' that depict the player actions leading to a financial conversion like purchasing extra content or virtual merchandize,' says Justin Johnson, CTO of Playmetrix, another British company specialising in game analytics. 'It's then down to the developer to use this analysis to improve conversion by removing obstructions and bottlenecks that may be inherent in the design.' ... It's a strange business. In the free-to-play universe, every player action is a potential metric in a revenue model. In-game behaviour is an algorithm that needs to be unraveled and de-coded. Developers have to operate like a sort of secret police agency, effectively bugging players – the Playmetrix software allows them to embed 'call backs' into their game code that trigger when players do something of interest. This is all visualised via graphics and charts so activities become infographics.'"
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