Mischief Theatre and the Contract of Play

TT Mischief Theatre and the Contract of Play

The last year or so has been pants to say the least. Personally it has taken a huge toll on my already dubious at times mental health! However, there has been one shining light since the later stages of 2020 – Mischief Movie Night In from Mischief Theatre.

Mischief Theatre is a group of very talented actors who are incredible improvisation performers. In the Movie Night In shows they take ideas from the internet and audience (Zoom and live when available) and create an improvised one hour movie. The story, characters, direction and even the music is all made up as the go along. I’ll be honest, I have never laughed as much in my life as I have at some of these shows! Read More ...

Relationships Between HEXAD Types

It’s been a while since I wrote about the HEXAD user types, but the world does not stand still and I keep seeing them turning up in academic papers – which is amazing, so I thought it time to say a few words on things that have repeatedly come up!

I was inspired by a recent paper by Ana Cláudia Guimarães Santos, Wilk Oliveiraa, Juho Hamari and Seiji Isotani called “Do people’s user types change over time? An exploratory study ” You can grab a copy here.

Without spoiling too much, they come to many conclusions about the types, but one that stuck out for me was Read More ...

Final Fight and Relative Progress Bars

Progress bars

During lockdown and thanks to our newish dog, I’ve been playing a lot of Xbox in the early mornings. I try to play games when I can, but until recently have not really had time to invest much of my life into them. But, I’ve always maintained that to understand what makes games work, you need to play them!

Anyway, I decided to have my annual play through of Final Fight, one of the greatest games of all time (I’m my opinion anyway!). As I was playing, I was analysing what was making it enjoyable (the curse of a gamification designer) and realised one small but key element. The health bars of the bad guys. Rather than just the main boss fights having a health bars every baddie has one, no matter how weak. Read More ...

The Engagement Channel Model

In gamification, you will hear a lot about Flow. I myself have spoken about it many times. In games and gamification, we use it as a way to describe the moment that you get the challenge of a task exactly balanced with the skill of the person involved, leading to a state of absolute focus and possibly flow.

I have also written about how we in gamification especially get our description and understanding of Flow very wrong. But that is another story!

Anyway, I have been rethinking this a lot and have decided to stop talking as much about flow and more about the Engagement Channel.

Yes, the image is almost identical to the Flow image that I have used in the past. It focuses on the idea that if you can get the challenge and skill balanced just right – people will be more engaged and get the best experience. If the challenge is too much for them, they get frustrated, too little they get bored.

Rewards and Challenges

Over lockdown, I have started to play video games more than I have in a few years. One that has been especially enjoyable is Star Wars: Battlefront 2. It’s a simple enough shooter, but it has made me think a bit about how I understand the balance of challenge and skill in a game.

I have been mostly playing Co-Op mode. This sees you and 3 other players taking on various waves of enemy soldiers in an attempt to capture the map.

By our usual description of how challenge and skill need to balance, you would expect the challenge to increase constantly as you play the game. But the reality is, it doesn’t seem to change much. My skill constantly increases, but the waves of bad guys stay the same, the objectives stay the same – but yet I still enjoy every game as much as the last.

But why? Should I not be getting bored? My skill has increased, but the system created challenge is the same.   It took me a while to work it out, but I think I have it. Whilst the system designed challenges – the levels, the bad guys the objectives – don’t change, my character and my personal challenges do.  New weapons, skills and upgrades are unlocked allowing me to do more and achieve new heights.

The game doesn’t change, I do. I get new skills, creating my own personal challenges to overcome. Initially, I wanted to upskill my sniper but soon realised I enjoyed playing as the heavy weapon specialist, so began to challenge myself to unlock all the weapons available, to get all the news skills and to get all of the various trophies and awards related to killstreaks and the like. The game allowed me to do this, encouraged it even, providing rewards for my efforts and keeping me interested in achieving more.

So, my concept of the Skill vs Challenge model has had to change. New dynamics have entered into my mental model.  Personal Challenges and Meaningful Rewards. To prevent boredom as system challenges remain the same, provide opportunities for the emergence of personal challenges to keep players engaged. On the flip side, to prevent frustration, provide meaningful rewards to give players hope and a reason to be resilient and continue playing, even if their skills are not quite up to it, encouraging them with congratulations, empowering them with new tools.

So, I present my new Engagement Channel Model! Let me know your thoughts 😊


Animal Farm the Game OR How to use games to introduce the classics to new audiences

Well, happy new year everyone.

I wanted to start 2021 off by talking about an incredibly satisfying gaming experience I had over Christmas. Playing Animal Farm on my phone.

For those that don’t know, Animal Farm is a very stark book written by George Orwell in the 1940s that uses power struggles between farm animals as an allegory for the rise of Stalin and Communism in the early 1900s. It is a classic, but may not be on many peoples radars these days – unless it is a school text! Like his other classic 1984, it is a story that feels a bit too close to our current political climate – with plenty of warnings about what can happen when people choose power over people.

At the end of last year, The Dairymen Ltd. published a game based on the book. Developed by Nerial, Animal Farm is a clever and deeply engrossing retelling of the original story. Playing like a mix of choose your own adventure style storytelling and a resource management game, you get to decide the fate of Animal Farm.

Depending on your choices throughout, the game swings from following the core narrative of the original, to forging its own path into new stories that feel as if they had been written by Orwell himself. It is so seamless that you never really feel you are straying from the original story, even though you obviously are!

As a game, it is not all that complicated. Read text, make a choice, repeat. There are plenty of secrets, medals, easter eggs and endings to be found, but the gameplay is not what makes this shine. It is the way the story is told and how important your role as the storyteller feels.  I’ve played the game through five or six times, and whilst there is repetition, the choices I make each time make the story feel fresh and new.

It proves that you don’t need to make a big flashy game to make a game that is engrossing and enjoyable. It shows that storytelling is really key. It also works as a master class in how to bring classic literature to life for a new generation.

If you are into serious games, gamification or any other related topic, I put this up with games like Home, Edith Finch, 80 Days and Fire Watch as an essential game to play to get a deeper understanding of how to tell non-linear stories with style and expertise.

Go to https://animalfarmgame.com/ to find out how to get a copy. Off you go, treat yourself!!