productive play 6Today I’m going to be talking about productive play
7We begin to play at an early age. Play allows us to learn aboutourselves, and our environment. We learn about social systems, andare able to build, construct and experiment, much like the iterativedesign process. A lot of research has been done into children andplay. But do we ever really stop playing?
playful experiences in non-playful contexts 8Most of what we do professionally does not include any form offormal play. Yet play is coming back into our lives in a big way, eventhough we may not realize it. Today I hope to uncover a lot of theseplayful experiences and explain why play is important.
visceral allure 9The play I describe today can be called a visceral allure, anemotional connection we have with an application or context. Whatdo I mean?
10I’m sure many of you are familiar with the pull-to-refresh gesture iniOS. This feature has been baked into iOS 6, and by using somesimple physics, the system feels like you’re pulling apart a waterdroplet or piece of silly putty.
animation AM 11Another example is the animation of scrolling up to the top of thepage when one taps on the status bar on iOS.
what’s so alluring? 12These are two really simple design patterns built into the mobile OS,and in and of themselves have barely anything to do with games orplay, but yet it’s hard to argue that these small details are notplayful. This is really similar to Dan’s talk on Microinteractionsyesterday. These things feel good. Why?
13Well these design patterns are a sort of wayﬁnding. They bring thesystem to life and reﬂect the real world in a virtual environment.
14It makes us feel more connected to the system, because now we feellike we can reach out and grab it. We understand context. Thesystem is approachable.
15Let’s look at another example. Siri, the now ubiquitous personalassistant. Most of the time, Siri works as a simple question-and-answer style system. You ask for information, it gives it to you.
16But sometimes, the unexpected happens. Siri talks back andbecomes playful. Siri has a personality. She’s actually pretty sassy.Why did Apple go through the trouble of baking this in? They clearlyspent a lot of time on it. They didn’t necessarily need to. Why didthey do it?
17Well, it’s because we’re human. We like to engage with the world onmany levels; the emotional level being one of them. Siri’s quipshumanizes the experience of working with this otherwise soullesssystem, and allows us to reﬂect our own humanness onto the devicewe are interacting with, ultimately bringing us closer to it. Isn’t thisa beautiful use of play,something seemingly frivolous having greatemotional utility?
self-actualization esteem love / belonging safety physiological 18We can think of this playfulness as a parallel to maslow’s hierarchyof needs, a layer-cake style approach to the things we need ashumans.
usability reliability functionality 19In the context of application design, we have a similar tieredapproach of function, reliability and usability, but what about theemotional factors of engaging with an application?
play? usability reliability functionality 20Taking from some research by Aarron Walter, perhaps play is thelevel that sits with usability, and actually lets us connect with thesystem emotionally.Aarron Walter http://blog.teamtreehouse.com/emotional-interface-design-the-gateway-to-passionate-users
21We as humans are built on these notions of affection, connection,and intimacy. Play brings these elements back into the things we do,and helps to remind us that we’re alive.
22Much like a schoolyard ball, the patterns of play are not solutions,they are simply tools to be used in a context that the humanchooses to use.
23We really never stop engaging with objects in our world in thiscontext. The Twine which was released a few months ago is aconnected object with sensors and triggers. Much like the ball, itwas left very open ended to allow it’s users to experiment and ﬁgureout the Twine’s utility.
24You might think that as we grow and develop, we lose our sense ofplay, and maybe that’s true to a certain degree. However, I arguethat we never lose the elements of play that make our lifemeaningful, like discovery, self-actualization, and social interaction.Ultimately these two images are essentially the same activity withdifferent tools. Play isn’t dead, it’s all around us and it is whatmakes us human.
Ari Zilnik firstname.lastname@example.org://ari.zilnik.com 25