All Work and No Play
What You can Learn from Game Design
an IxDA Workshop
26 November 2009
Phil Ohme & Eric Pan
Intuit - San Diego, California, USA
Agenda start times
I. Introduction and Principles #4 - #9 (45 min) 2:00
II. Principle #1: Personalization (30 min) 2:45
III. Principle #2: Progressive Disclosure (30 min) 3:15
IV. Break for coffee (15 min) 3:45
V. Principle #3: Balance Reward & Challenge(45 min) 4:00
VI. Exercise: Application to software (30 min) 4:45
VII.Present teams' applications and conclude (45 min) 5:15
Note: Each Principle will involve teach/lecture, gameplay to discover examples, group
What the heck do Eric & Phil know about games?
Why are games important to look at?
Expectations - what do you want to get out of this?
Examples of how games have influenced the design of
Other minor principles outside the big 3
Why games are important to look at
Everyone intuitively knows how to play
Powerful and instinctive expectations for games:
easy to understand
Engage players in what their goals are with feedback
instantly (short first step) and continuous
Failure is not painful, but fun
What would all product experiences standard look like if we
held it to the standard of games?
What do you want to get out of this workshop?
Interesting UIs, Interactions/Experience
Interface is disappearing
Moving towards cinematic, doesn't feel like playing a
Game example: EA Fight Night
What did you see?
Principles #4 - #9
We will quickly look at these minor examples as a warm-up
to the big 3 principles of game design
Small Superfluous Flairs
The Open-Source Factor
Interpersonal & Adaptive Play
Functional, Interactive Sneak Peek (Salting/Priming)
Principle 4: Small Superfluous Flairs
tiniest flair can be a delighter
totally not necessary but makes it more fun
little "useless" things that could be done boring & regular.
how fun can you make
animations when you
change font size
stacks for news moving
around as you zoom in
and out of the global
cat tips while loading
Principle 4: Small Superfluous Flairs
MINI Cooper Convertible's new "Openometer"
Measures how much time you clock with the top down
Has real business value:
If the owners will get
more satisfaction and
be happier with their
top down, this can
encourage them to
laziness and put it
down. Then they will
spend more time
happy – increased
satisfaction and net
Principle 5: Exploration Encouragement
Save entire state, then play around, then reverse
Strong undo system
Any order you want to proceed (don't force linear unless it
Grand Theft Auto
Prince of Persia Sands of Time (reverse time )
The more you can get the user to explore, the greater confidence and
skill. Unnecessary constriction is bad. Comfort to explore means
confidence. Note the ways exploration can be encouraged.
Principle 6: The Open-Source Factor
Technical decision to allow public
Lets you do work once to create engine, but others can
put different experiences on top of it.
Teams modding can make adjustments to your original
vision/engine that make it better, then you can accept
that (and make your original better)
HalfLife (video) & CounterStrike (video )
Counter Strike Mod (
Article on game mods (link )
The Key is staying focused on the purpose of the
game/software, not controlling hardware & software.
Principle 7: Interpersonal & Adaptive Play
Many variations on rules (user interpretation, user
Challenge changes when you progress
Two ways of supporting adaptive:
Rules are loose enough
World of Warcraft (Leroy Jenkins clip)
Salesforce.com sells little tools you buy a la carte
Principle 8: Functional Sneak Peek
Functional, interactive preview before game even released
Allows for salting (priming) of target audience
Free Trial that encourages (and makes easy) spreading viral
iPhone Cube Runner (free, but different courses)
Spore upload to YouTube
Shop Buy Use --> Shop/Use Buy
Amazon's new Window Shopping site
Zappos.com and how they payoff loser call center agents
Principle 9: Help
How does Halo teach you how to play?
Tips screens? Wii News Cat
Actual help screens?
Tough to get the right balance of fun help and annoying
Halo intro (need volunteer)
Wii Bowling - drop the ball
Microsoft Clippy (bad)
Contextual/point of need (Flyovers/hover help)
Apple "ShowMe" and fade in help
How do the different types of help work? When are they
Principle #1: Personalization
Tailoring remap of keys (inverted look)
Game Examples: Avatars: Fight Night, Mii
App Examples: iGoogle makes you more likely to read
stuff you created vs. canned Yahoo front page content.
Personalization can increase the depth at which the
customer engages the product. Sometimes it's a nice to
have, sometimes it's a necessity.
Principle #2: Progressive Disclosure/Discovery
Wii Sports: Bowling
Compare to software:
Power vs. Simplicity. Show a few of most important
options. Show advanced upon request. Novice vs.
Advanced. Create environments that graduate novice
users to expert - if they want to!
Principle #3: Balance Reward & Challenge
Changing difficulty level dynamically based on your
performance throughout game
Satisfaction when overcoming challenge, so don't just
make super easy (boredom in a game)
Sense of accomplishment
Every person has a different patience target level, so
adapt based on learning (or at least be aware)
Do not reward gamers with significant or solely
monetary rewards--"leaderboards" make status its own
Case Study: Betty Crocker cake mix
Principle #3: Balance Reward & Challenge
to boss stage)
Piggybanks as a
Games influence “regular” software
Xero for Small Business Accounting online
bank reconciliation UI resembles Tetris
clearing rows is fun!
Xero (a QuickBooks competitor from New Zealand, specifically their #2 bank reconciliation)
Wasabe for personal finances
Compares your spending at a particular merchant to
other spenders across the country
App Zapper for removing programs on a Mac
Exercise: Apply gaming principles to products
2. Progressive Disclosure
3. Balance Reward & Challenge
4. Small Superfluous Flairs
5. Exploration Encouragement
6. The Open-Source Factor
7. Interpersonal & Adaptive Play
8. Functional, Interactive Sneak Peek (Salting/Priming)
Prize for applying a principle most effectively
Prize for applying a principle with the most novelty (go
Appendix: More resources
Good Experience Games has hundreds of clever and unique UIs ready to try out, right now.
Designing Interactions Book and DVD by Bill Moggridge. Info on the topic of play & the design of
interactive play in Chapter 5.
Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business by David Edery
and Ethan Mollick. Published by FT Press | Inc Magazine Review of Book
The Work of Play article in the LA Times.
The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design edited by Brenda Laurel, published by Addison-
Wesley in 1990.
Beyond Usability: Exploring Distributed Play article looks into how video game companies are
getting into XD.
What's in a game? A look at game design best practices as prime influencers of interaction design ,
an IxDA 2009 presentation by Nadya Direkova from Razorfish, San Francisco.
"Gaming Design" tags at Kotaku, including news and new game design degrees.
Check out PicasaWeb's Face tagging UI. "it's like a game that compels me to finish and process all
the photos "
Researching Video Games the UX Way (How they Researched Usability for Spore) in
An interview with Spore designer Wil Wright, on forming cohesive teams, NY Times.
Mint makes personal finance a game. April 2009 on TechCrunch and Lifehacker.
Research on Gaming, including biometric and eyetracker data, Aug 2009 90%ofEverything.com
Go to college for Game Design. RPI in NYstate is hiring 3 faculty members for its Games and
Simulation Arts and Science (GSAS) degree program. August 2009
Games = Fun so why not take mundane or boring experiences and make them fun? Thats what
TheFunTheory.com did: Get people to take the stairs (instead of escalator), pick up more
The Fitness Challenge makes losing weight into a game. Board game and mobile aspects.