Game mechanics for thinking users


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Most software applications and web sites not commonly understood as games have some aspect that can be described in gaming terms.

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Game mechanics for thinking users

  1. 1. Game mechanics for thinking users Pietro Polsinelli from Open Lab blog: twitter: @ppolsinelli all references of this talk:
  2. 2. Game mechanics for the smart masses Most software applications and web sites not commonly understood as games have some aspect that can be described in gaming terms. My point here: A game design perspective can contribute in usability and functionality also in non gaming context. But...
  3. 3. Which game mechanics? Many game designers treat users as basically moronic conditional-reflex slaves (*). Or, if you prefer, totally controlled by their Lizard Brain. Conditioning users to trivial games is not the only possible usage of game mechanics for function and design. (*) Which the monkeys in the picture surely aren’t by nature.
  4. 4. Which game mechanics? Game mechanics is a part of design and usability - it’s a part of "understanding users". Adding game mechanics does not necessarily mean adding layers of complexity: it can be a tool to make the end experience be felt as less complex.
  5. 5. Which game mechanics? You can use game mechanics techniques to increase focus and “getting things done”, and not as something to get more distracted. If you using it in a way that interrupts “the flow”, this is simply bad design.
  6. 6. Game mechanics definitions Game mechanics are the interactions and relationships that remain [in a game] when all the esthetics, the technology, and story are stripped away The Art of Game Design, p. 130 Find a game space and its dimensions, then actors, attributes, states, transition rules (including chance), goals (end states).
  7. 7. Behavioral game mechanics This is mechanics that engages people. Amy Jo Kim in this splendid video finds 5 points: 1. Collecting 2. Points 3. Feedback 4. Exchanges 5. Customization This is what many today are talking about because of behavioral game mechanics role in social software.
  8. 8. Game mechanics for non thinking users Proposal definition. The game as a game is an end in itself, but has no skill selection apart from hyperactivity (and eventually credit card availability). A side effect often is some form of marketing by impressions.
  9. 9. Game mechanics for thinking users The idea here is to use techniques of game design in a way which is integrated in the functionality of an application which is not focused on gaming and not used by direct application of conditional reflexes. I will try to clarify what I mean by negative and positive examples.
  10. 10. Bad usage of game mechanics – two examples “As here the user may get bored, let’s add here a “launch Tetris” button, so he can have a go at it.” Read recently on Twitter: “Question: Has anyone seen game mechanics integrated with a to-do list app? Completing tasks needs to become social and competitive imh...”
  11. 11. (Hopefully) Good usage of game mechanics The aim of the application is we’ll use as an example is this: Basic, conscious, determined, motivated, reasoned, discussed aim: collecting and classifying information for doing things Licorize is a bookmarking and todo manager. This theme is not intrinsically related to game mechanics. How can game mechanics help?
  12. 12. Usage of game mechanics: “collecting” We are all familiar with this pleasure. Example: the pleasure of collecting money, expensive prostitutes, newspapers and tv’s, and so on. Collecting “gems” by having nice thumbnails f bookmarked sites, we’ve tapped into “collecting gems” which is one of the simplest and most appreciated “games” – and its an end in itself.
  13. 13. Usage of game mechanics: “scoring” Scoring and empowerment: Leaderboards (hall of fame), badges. Also empowering: magic wand, giving points to other users (social points). As done in StackOverflow and similar.
  14. 14. Usage of game mechanics: “badges” Badges are more refined “levels”, as they have an internal logic. We even have negative badges.
  15. 15. Usage of game mechanics: “leaderboards” With leaderboards you are celebrating the power users. Leaderboards may backfire, by presenting to all “unreachable” users, so we have: last week usage leaderboards, which makes them more accessible:
  16. 16. Usage of game mechanics: “friends, a community” For this “at work” context, you could show “most helpful friends”.
  17. 17. Usage of game mechanics: “cleaning” Most people love to get things clean – particularly if it is a game. The point of this page is getting clean the weekly review page, and at the same time, doing the weekly review. Doing this gives a huge amount of points -> using the “positive feedback” behavioral game mechanics. But notice that you are actually managing things better (if you don’t game the system): this is the perfect junction of thinking user and behavioral reinforcement – what many (thinking) users today seek out.
  18. 18. Usage of game mechanics: “puzzling” We’ve replaced a puzzle (a classic game intermezzo) with a simpler (but behaviorally similar) “stop and think” reminder – which actually does nothing.
  19. 19. Usage of game mechanics: and more… Gift, syndacated info (booklets), customization of look and behaviour, social media components.
  20. 20. Game design for non gaming application In playing with game mechanics you easily shift in game design. Beyond mechanics: use game design techniques to check the overall design of your applications. Tips: - Where is the fun? - Call the user -> the player - Try using social search – think of YouTube search - What do women players want? - What is the playing experience?