It might seem a little weird but, when you think about it, data's already at the heart of every competitive sport. If no one took score at the footie, cricket or rugby then there wouldn't be any winners - let alone any league tables (though perhaps that's no bad thing if you're a West Brom supporter). And it goes without saying that you'd never be able to break a world record if nothing was recorded in the first place.
With that in mind, my thought for the day is that the explosion of information we're witnessing has the potential to turn all kinds of activities into games - and that brands are perfectly placed to help us play.
Let's take a look at a few brands that are out there doing it already. First up is Nike+, which has turned the solitary pastime of jogging into a social, competitive event, just by letting people collect and compare data about their runs. Suddenly joggers everywhere have a simple way to take on their mates, the rest of the world or just their own personal bests. In 2008 this culminated in Nike's landmark Human Race, which saw close to a million runners around the world compete as one. Imagine applying similar technology to anything from cycling computers to gym equipment, roller skates, punchbags and beyond...
"So far, so sporty" you may say. Well, for something a little different, check out the competition that Fiat are running off the back of their eco:Drive system. By collecting and comparing data about fuel efficiency, to see which test drivers are the most environmentally friendly, Fiat will be soon be crowning London's first eco:Drive Champion.
Whilst I haven't had the chance to see it in practise yet, there are three reasons why I love this idea. Firstly, it's an original, engaging mechanic that allows Fiat to show off the clever kit they've created. Secondly, the social element of comparing information about your driving could add a whole new layer to the experience of owning a car. Think of the value added when a trip to your nan's house becomes a chance to improve your rankings vs the rest of the country? Thirdly, if you can turn environmental friendliness into a game, then the ultimate winner has to be the planet. What if school recycling bins also kept score, so that the kids could compete to win prizes for their schools? And what if we had something similar at home?
Moving on, my last piece of inspiration comes from the world of computer games, where conquering those elusive high-scores has kept many a good man, woman and teenager up all night. Now our consoles are plugged into the net, gamers worldwide can compare their conquests, creating a whole new generation of world record holders - many of them celebrated in Guinness' new Gamer's Edition of their famous Book of Records.
Imagine if other, more prosaic, applications allowed you to compare your data in the same way? Surely Microsoft would seem a little more fun if you could get a world ranking for your typing speed in Word, or the distance travelled by your mouse in Windows? Russell Davies reckons this kind of "Passive Multiplayer Online Gaming" could be a great way for brands to bring a bit of playfulness to people's lives. As he says, "imagine games based on loyalty card points. Or Air Miles. Or Oyster card use. Or frequency of Ocado deliveries." Sounds like fun, huh?
We humans have always been a competitive bunch - and all we need to challenge each other is some information, plus the means to compare it. Now, thanks to a mixture of new data capture devices, plus the world wide web, fresh playgrounds are being unlocked all over the place. In the future, anyone who thinks data dictates dullness had better think again - because the bell just sounded for Information Playtime.