Framing Games as ToolsSampo Karjalainen, Co-founder at Sulake / Habbo@sampok
Hello everyone. First a little bit about myself. I started Habbo Hotel together with Aapo Kyrölä back in year 2000. Nowadays Im not anymore involved indaily operations of Habbo, but Im a board member.
Lately Ive been working on some new ideas, most recently on game-like mobile app that aims to make everyday exercise more fun.
Framing Games as ToolsSampo Karjalainen, Co-founder at Sulake / HabboBut here and now Id like to use my 10 minute snapshot talk to talk about one way of looking at games. Id like to frame games as tools that people canuse to ease their lives and solve their problems. I wont be talking only about therapy games – Ill look at some of the most popular games and see what@sampoktype of role they have in peoples lives. It can be a bit hard to think about games this way, maybe vague, but I think it can be useful as one lens forlooking at games.
The view comes from my background and interest in design, especially interaction design, and its also greatly in uenced by Jane McGonigals great,optimistic book The Reality is Broken.
So the claim is: Games solve, or at least ease problems in peoples lives. The more they ease, the more valuable they are.
Lets start with the easy stuﬀ. Games are entertainment. Games are fun. So plenty of games solve the problem of being bored. For example mobilegames are good at this.
EngagingWaiting for the plane, you re up Angry Birds to be less bored. And Angry Birds delivers. It engages you fully with its tight feedback loops, tangible,juicy interaction and feedback. Every time you release the bird with the slingshot, your mind is fully engaged, waiting to see what happens and as yousee your results you are eager to go and tune your tactic. This state of focus is the total opposite of bored.Completing levels and progressing in the game feels good. This sense of progression, of getting things done is another frequently seen satisfyingelement in many casual and social games.
Satisfying workIf we look at CityVille, you need to work hard to build your city. Plenty of clicking that sums up to hours, days and weeks. Its this satisfying work thatmakes them so appealing to many people. In real life, work can be quite unsatisfying: the goals are unclear, the tasks unde ned, feedback is bad, youdont see how youre progressing. All that is diﬀerent in CityVille: Its very clear what you need to do and you get clear feedback on how youre doing. Ifonly real work were this satisfying. And satisfying work is fun. Maybe this is one reason why social games appeal to middle-aged people. Real-life workis not satisfying, but online its a diﬀerent case.
Satisfying workIts not only casual games, though. World of Warcraft has had this element of satisfying work for a long time. The grinding, doing quests have the exactsame elements: Its clear what you are supposed to do, you go and do it, get instant feedback and sense of job well done. A clear sense of progress.
Social connectionAnother thing that World of Warcraft has is the social aspect. Players play in shared social context, most of the time individually, but they also formguilds and play together. This social connection can be an important reason to come back. Theres a saying for this: "They come for the game, stay forthe people." Doing things together, sharing stories, getting new friends can be very valuable to people with a “de cit of social connections”. And evenfor people with active real-life social life the experience of connecting to others is meaningful and valuable.
SuccessWorld of Warcraft provides also experiences of success. Epic win. As players win alone or together, the feeling of success lights up players lives. Evenfailure in games can be fun. But players anyways approach the game with an optimism of being able to be successful. Sometimes they win, sometimesthey fail, but the primary mindset is optimism. "I can do it."
Social connectionLets jump to Habbo Hotel. Habbo is for teenagers. Its a social experience and not really a game, more like a playground. It’s also a place where you canmake new friends – and that can be a big thing if you are a lonely teen.
IdentityHabbo also provides other value: Teens are becoming adult and they often dont know yet who they are. They are developing their image of self andHabbo provides a safe place to experiment with their identity.
IndependenceIt also lets them practice their independence, decide of their own environment and friends – something that they may not be able to do in their reallives yet.
RespectAnd one more thing that weve learned, is that they all crave to be respected and accepted as a member of a group.When Habbo manages to deliver these experiences we get some really loyal users who are willing to pay for it and stay with us for years.
These were some examples. There are other types of value that games can deliver, too. Maybe even undiscovered ones. The best ways to understand it isto be very close to the players. Use empathy, do qualitative research, dig deeper, understand people better than they understand themselves. Or as avisionary entrepreneur, analyze your own feelings very closely when you play games.Its clear that game themes, visuals, mechanics and stories play some roles, but I think its these psychological reasons why some games become moresticky than others.
“ The value hypothesis tests whether a product or service really delivers value to customers once they are using it. ”Framing games as tools can make games more compatible with some popular startup methodologies. Eric Ries Lean Startup is about learning quickly:validating your hypotheses and assumptions as quickly as possible. Typically one of the biggest leap-of-faith hypotheses is the value assumption: whatvalue does your product bring to your customers? The whole product is built on this assumption. If youre building a game and dont really know whatvalue it brings to peoples lives, youre building on a shaky ground.
“ The goal of Customer Discovery is [...]: nding out who the customers for your product are and whether the problem you believe you are solving is important to them. ”Lean Startup derives heavily form Steve Blanks Customer Development. However its been a bit hard to apply it to games and other entertainment. Butif you look your game as a solution to a persons problem, its much easier to apply the Customer-Problem-Solution framework in Customer Discovery.
“ customers "hire" products to do speci c "jobs" [...] can help managers segment their markets to mirror the way their customers experience life. ”And one useful way of thinking about disruptive innovation and market segmentation is in Clayton Christensens Innovators Dilemma and Solution.When building disruptive innovations, you shouldnt think about existing product categories or customer segments. You should understand what typeof "job-to-be-done" people have and then relentlessly focus on delivering a solution to that.
In this context, it can be seen that we as game designers and developers are helping to x peoples problems. We are helping people be less bored,stressed, hopeless, lonely, depressed or something else. Games are the tools that can help ease these problems. Of course, having this intention is notenough. To deliver a solution, you need good practical ideas, great game mechanics with tight feedback loops and really sharp execution.But anyways, I think the value of this way of looking at games, is three-fold:
Har gam d-co e Gam re g HTM i ca ame L5 tion s Cas Mo ual bile g ame gam s Soc es ial g ame 2D s Act vs. 3 io D MM Fac OG e booDow k nlo Con ada s ole Dow ble gam gam n es Han e s Stre dhe a min ld g g ame 1. Market segmentation bys needs It helps you understand the market in other terms than industry categories, genres, platforms, technology or even demographics. It helps you see it in C terms of what people need and what parts of peoples lives can be improved, eased. Youll be building your business on a solid needs that last.
2. New types of gamesIt can be a good way to search and nd new areas where games can expand. New forms of games are being developed that expand the game industry.Gami cation or gameful design movements turn all kinds of activities into game-like experiences. What type of problems could be solved with games?This way of thinking can be used in brainstorming or strategy work to nd new blue oceans.
3. MeaningIt can help you see the bigger meaning of your company. How are your games changing this world? How do you want to change the world? Your gamewill have an eﬀect on this world, whether you want it or not. You can think about it, and actively mold it if you want to. And build long-term meaning foryour company.
1. Market segmentation by needs 2. New types of games 3. MeaningSo thats it, go and build games that matter to people. Thanks.