Niantic CEO on finding “balance between purpose and profit”

At the One Young World conference in London, the CEO of Niantic told CNBC that his company are designing games in a way that he hopes will minimise addiction in players.

An interview with John Hanke published this week addresses the World Health Organisation’s 2018 classification of ‘gaming disorder’ and how Niantic – the creators of Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite – are actively trying to avoid falling into a dangerous ‘profit over safety’ scenario by making games that force players to openly connect.

“I would really look at our games as an alternative to traditional video games, because they’re designed to be played in small doses as you’re moving around outside, and they’re meant to be played together with people in real life,” Hanke said. “They’re really the antithesis of sitting at home isolated, sedentary with a screen.”

“I think it’s a great example of how you can design technology that leads into positive impacts,” he added. “Technology is not inherently evil, but if you’re being led by profit and the dollar sign and you don’t have other goals, the outcome may not be great.”

Hanke told CNBC that the company focuses on ‘promoting community exploration, incorporating exercise into gameplay and encouraging real-world social interaction’ so that they don’t get lost in the margins.

“In a game like Pokemon Go there are hundreds of features you could build, and many would not fulfil one of those three objectives. It’s about finding that balance between purpose and profit and pursuing both in the context of a private company. It’s not easy — it’s a constant challenge — but I do think it’s possible to combine those things.”

Wireframe #25 is out now

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