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When I got my first Intel 286, I played Microsoft Flight Simulator for hours. I felt like I was flying a real plane from Hamburg to LAX. Often, I took off in the evening, left the computer on all night, just to land the plane in the morning. We crashed many times. Sorry, fellow passengers.

The first time I got my hand on a computer baseball game, I felt like Brian Cashman. The world was my oyster. I made trades like a crazy man and won the World Series twice.

When you purchase the Madden video game, you don’t purchase a game. You purchase the capability to be a Master of the Universe. It’s your show. It’s all you.

Gamification is overrated. The Masters-of-the-Universe layer underrated.

Russell Davies, brilliant as ever, calls it the “Pretending Layer”.

“Because that’s what we need to add to so many things, to give them that extra neccesary magic. A pretending layer. So it’s not just a useful or beautiful or functional object – it’s got some little nod to who we’re pretending to be when we’re using it. I’ve thought a lot about pretending, before. But it’s that phrase ‘the pretending layer’ that really makes it work.

That’s the pretending layer. The layer you add when you’ve solved the important problems, made the thing work properly and seamlessly. It’s the extra bit. The things I love the most have a pretending layer, so they’re not just for the practical me, they’re for the imaginary me.”

Give people the emotion of being the Master of the Universe

Build tools that give people the feeling they’re in control. Not the technology controlling them. Let them own their own data. And not the data own them.

While I think gamification is a fad, I believe the Masters-of-the-Universe layer is something that will gain importance over time.

This world is getting more complex and life more complicated by the hour. People hunger for control. Give it to them.