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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. …

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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  • 1. Game mechanics for thinking users Pietro Polsinelli from Open Lab blog: http://pietro.open-lab.com twitter: @ppolsinelli all references of this talk: http://bit.ly/gmThink
  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. (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. 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. 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. Usage of game mechanics: “badges” Badges are more refined “levels”, as they have an internal logic. We even have negative badges.
  • 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. Usage of game mechanics: “friends, a community” For this “at work” context, you could show “most helpful friends”.
  • 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. 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. Usage of game mechanics: and more… Gift, syndacated info (booklets), customization of look and behaviour, social media components.
  • 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?