Panic Button

Red ButtonThe BBC has reported on the Reddit button game that started on April 1. The game is simple: a timer counts down from 60 seconds. When someone presses the button, the clock resets. You can only press the button once, and you are assigned a color according to the amount of time that elapses before you press the button. If no one presses the button before the timer hits zero, the game ends. The number of game players is approaching one million people.

As pointed out by Joshua Bleiberg and Darrell M. West of the Brookings Institute:

  1. The button pressers have no clear common interest.
  2. They are not organized.
  3. The process of watching and pressing the button is mundane.
  4. There is not a strong incentive to press the button.

Given that online communities have formed on the basis of the colors that game players have earned, the game could be a useful tool for exploring the mechanics of collective action, identity formation, or political communication. 

A graphical representation of elapsed time between each press of the button, updated in real time, is available here.