Gamified UK – #Gamification Expert https://www.gamified.uk Gamification Blog and Thought Leadership Wed, 21 Jun 2017 15:54:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 https://www.gamified.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/cropped-logo-100x100.png Gamified UK – #Gamification Expert https://www.gamified.uk 32 32 User Type HEXAD Lenses https://www.gamified.uk/2017/06/20/user-type-hexad-lenses/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/06/20/user-type-hexad-lenses/#comments Tue, 20 Jun 2017 12:39:18 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5348 One of the cool things about working at Motivait, is having access to some very cool and very intelligent people! One of those is a chap by the name of Carl Eacott. We met...

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One of the cool things about working at Motivait, is having access to some very cool and very intelligent people! One of those is a chap by the name of Carl Eacott. We met on Twitter some time ago and then months later discovered we lived on the same street. Since then, I have ended up working in the same company and to save the planet, we car share. The awesome thing about this is I get 2 hours a day to speak to a genuine work psychologist. It has been hugely interesting and has led to many “Ah-Hah!” moments. One of those was the idea of using my User Types HEXAD as a series of lenses rather than specific set in stone types.

Lenses

The idea of lenses is nothing new. The basic idea is to put yourself in a different position to view a problem from a different perspective. Jesse Schell created an amazing deck of lenses to go with his seminal game design bible “The Art of Game Design“. Each one challenges you to ask certain questions about your game to try and get a new perspective on it.

What I offer you here is a simple set of six lenses based on my User Types HEXAD. Each one asks three or four questions to help you get into the mind of each type as you design. When I finally release the new version of my Inspiration Deck of cards, these will replace the current type description cards and I may add a few more for fun.

 

Philanthropist Free Spirit Disruptor Achiever Socialiser Player

Let me know if you feel any of these ask the wrong questions, or if the questions could be better.

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4 Simple Questions To Transform Your Gamification Implementation https://www.gamified.uk/2017/06/19/4-simple-questions-transform-gamification-implementation/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/06/19/4-simple-questions-transform-gamification-implementation/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 10:54:11 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5343 It is simple to jump to solutioneering as soon as you feel you have a problem that needs fixing. However, taking a step back and asking 4 simple questions can save you time and...

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It is simple to jump to solutioneering as soon as you feel you have a problem that needs fixing. However, taking a step back and asking 4 simple questions can save you time and money in the long run.

  1.  “What is the problem”
  2.   “Why do we need to fix it”
  3.   “What needs to change to fix it”
  4.   “How do we do that”

What is the problem?

First, you need to explore What you are wanting to change. This is the easy bit and is likely to change, but it is a start. Be as specific as you can, but be open minded as you explore further!

Most people already have this in mind when they first go to someone asking for gamification.

Why do we need to fix it?

I have spoken about this in the past, but it is so important that I like to bring it up from time to time.

Many gamification projects happen with the best of intentions, but are doomed to fail because no one stops to as the question “Why?”

Any behaviour focused intervention needs to have a clear focus, otherwise, you have no hope of solving your problems. You need to have a clear understanding of why you need to make a change. Is there an issue with people using a system? Are people not doing what you expected day to day. Are people not donating to your charity site when you thought they would?

Very often the answer to the initial what is “We want to improve engagement”. However, that still begs the question “why?” Not just that, it also creates the new question “What is engagement?”

What needs to change to fix it?

To be successful you must identify what the root problems are, and what needs to change to fix them. If you have decided that people are not using your system because it is too complex, you must ask the question “what needs to change”

What may have looked like a behaviour issue, people were not using the system properly, may be a usability issue. That requires a totally different solution.

You will cycle between What and Why for a while until you have solid answers to the questions. You can also talk yourself in circles, so need to be pragmatic and occasionally start from scratch!

How do we do that?

Once you have got your solid answers to

  •  “What is the problem”
  •   “Why do we need to fix it”
  •   “What needs to change to fix it”

 you can start to look at how to make those changes and gamification may form part of that. Then you can move onto the next phase. There are many frameworks, such as my own Gamification Design Framework and Toolkit, that can help from there.

 

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A couple of short stories https://www.gamified.uk/2017/06/09/couple-short-stories/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/06/09/couple-short-stories/#respond Fri, 09 Jun 2017 09:17:36 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5317 I thought I would share a couple of “Near Future” short stories I have written recently with you. Hope you enjoy them 🙂

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I thought I would share a couple of “Near Future” short stories I have written recently with you. Hope you enjoy them 🙂

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Review: Eating Robots by Stephen Oram https://www.gamified.uk/2017/06/08/review-eating-robots-stephen-oram/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/06/08/review-eating-robots-stephen-oram/#comments Thu, 08 Jun 2017 10:40:32 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5309 For openness, I was sent a copy of the book to review. A rare book review from me. Every now and again, thanks to previously running a review site, I get asked to review...

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For openness, I was sent a copy of the book to review.

A rare book review from me. Every now and again, thanks to previously running a review site, I get asked to review stuff. In this case, it was a book of short stories titled  Eating Robots and other stories, by the author Stephen Oram.


I love dystopian stories, having even written several myself in the past. For me the future is anything but bright, depending on how you look at it.  One of the best representations of using this dystopian “lens” has always been the T.V. series Black Mirror from the brilliant Charlie Brooker.

Now, however, I may have a new go-to writer to satisfy my need to understand how technology is going to eventually ruin us, Stephen Oram!

Eating Robots and Other Stories is a dark and twisted, but ever so plausible look at how technology and the evolution of our species could take a turn for the worse, covering topics that are especially close to home in many cases. Predictions of homicidal self-driving cars, black market antibiotic snake oil showmen, social credit taken to a horrific conclusion and much more are all covered.

What Stephen does so expertly is to choose topics that are eerily familiar, producing numerous moments where you find yourself saying “Oh Christ, I hadn’t thought of it like that!” It almost made me long for the days before technology!

Each story can be between a paragraph and a couple of pages long, making it the perfect read for busy people, or those who prefer to consume their entertainment in bite-sized chunks like myself. That said, picking up the book for a five minute read quickly becomes twenty minutes as you are whisked away to terrifying futures.

If you are interested in technology, social media, AI, robotics, shows such as Black Mirror or just in understanding the future, I can’t recommend Eating Robots and Other Stories enough. It is a fantastic read from start to finish and one that will leave you just a little scared of the future!

If you are interested, you can get the book now from Amazon (and yes, this is an affiliate link!)


More about Stephen

Stephen OramStephen Oram is one of the leading lights of British sci-fi tech culture, as 2016 Author in Residence at Virtual Futures Stephen Oram was one of the masterminds behind the new Near-Future Fiction series and continues to be a lead curator. Often collaborating with scientists, the title story, ‘Eating Robots’, came from working with the Human Brain Project and Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

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Her Story, Gone Home and Narrative Atoms https://www.gamified.uk/2017/06/05/story-gone-home-narrative-atoms/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/06/05/story-gone-home-narrative-atoms/#respond Mon, 05 Jun 2017 19:24:22 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5303 Last week I wrote about Narrative Atoms in some details. They are basically small nuggets of narrative that can stand on their own but together build the bigger story. Two obvious examples that I...

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Last week I wrote about Narrative Atoms in some details. They are basically small nuggets of narrative that can stand on their own but together build the bigger story.

Two obvious examples that I totally forgot about are the game / narrative experiences of Her Story and Gone Home.

Her Story is the fabulous creation of Sam Barlow. You take the role of investigator, reviewing a police archive of video footage of a British woman accused of murder. You can access the footage in any order you like, gleaning more clues and information with every video you watch. Sometimes the videos will not make sense until you find the video that came before it, others give you all you need in just a few seconds of footage. The joy is discovering how the story fits together, jumping back and forward through the timeline. New snippets of information give you new ideas on what to search in the archive, leading to many “Ahahaa” moments.

The second is a well-loved game, Gone Home from The Fullbright Company. I will be honest and say that I was never the biggest fan of Home, but that does not take away from the fact that it is a brilliant lesson in narrative design. Similar to Her Story, Gone Home tells the story in small atoms – fragments of what happened in the house you are exploring. Each scrap of paper, audio recording or newspaper clipping adds something to the story.

Both of these experiences, whilst seemingly disjointed, eventually build up a deep and fascinating narrative. Each atom may not seem to be relevant but may combine with another atom to unlock a key plot element or answer to a puzzle. In each case, you do not necessarily have to see everything to complete the game,  but to fully understand everything it does help! You also don’t have to see everything in chronological order, but it can help 😉

The lesson is that using narrative atoms can help you create incredibly deep narrative experiences that don’t have to follow any particular path, giving people that opportunity to discover the whole picture in their own unique way!

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Narrative Atoms and The Soap Hero’s Journey https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/30/narrative-atoms-and-the-soap-heros-journey/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/30/narrative-atoms-and-the-soap-heros-journey/#comments Tue, 30 May 2017 16:12:15 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5270 Narrative atoms are small units of narrative or story that can, within the context of the overall narrative, stand alone. That does not mean they need to be completely self-explanatory, just sit comfortably on...

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A Narrative Atom

Narrative atoms are small units of narrative or story that can, within the context of the overall narrative, stand alone. That does not mean they need to be completely self-explanatory, just sit comfortably on their own.

 

In a standard linear story, each atom would be placed sequentially, so their ability to stand alone is less important. However, in many games narrative bends and twists and turns in a non-linear way. For that to work, for a story to makes sense as it jumps from A to C to G to B and back again, each section, each narrative atom must be able to hold its own without the need every other atom to support it.

Take a scenario where a game has more than one option for what you can do after the first scene. You have a choice of going left or right.

After that, you have more choices and more, but all the while the narrative needs to keep making sense. More than that, it all needs to conclude and not leave the player wondering what the hell has happened!

Basic Narrative Structure

At their most basic, stories have just three parts. A start, a middle and an end. In traditional media that is straightforward. There are many ideas out there on how to write stories, Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey / Monomyth 1 gets a lot of attention. I also rather like Kurt Vonnegut concept of Story Shapes 2.

For my purposes when designing simple stories in gamification scenarios I use two simple (and I do mean simple) variations of what I call the Soap Hero’s Journey.

The simplest version has four phases. The Calling, The Challenge, The Transformation and The Resolution. The second version adds The Twist after The Transformation. I’ll go into more detail later, but suffice to say these are not much different from the simple concept of a story having a start a middle and an end!

Bonding Narrative Atoms

Back to narrative atoms. Each atom should have a start a middle and an end in its own right. This is how they are able to stand on their own if needed. As I say, in a linear story this is less important, however, if you are creating a branching narrative it is essential.

The first thing you need to know in a non-linear narrative is obvious, how it will begin. This sounds simple, but you could have multiple starting points for your game’s character or characters. After that, you will certainly have many parts to the middle, some the player will see and some the player might not on the first play through. Finally, there may well be multiple places for the story to end.

As the player will be able to navigate through the story in multiple ways, you have to know how each branch fits together and how each choice the player makes can affect the outcome of their story.

This is where considering narrative atoms can help. If each atom has its own start, middle and end it is easier to jump in and out of them at will. As you knit the story together, you can pass events from each atom onto the next one, ensuring that character and plot progression or alteration is kept consistent, without having to create vast quantities of alternative narrative to account for every choice.

For Example

  • Start
    • You are in the woods. Ahead of you, there is a fork in the road. You can go left or right. What do you want to do?
    • Go Left
      • At the fork in the forest, you take the left turn. Ahead of you is a giant monster. It reminds you of ones you used to read about as a child. This is what you had prepared for and you know what you must do. As the beast charges at you, you remember that there is a weak spot on its back, just between its shoulders. All you have to do is get your sword in there.
      • You win
        • The fight with the monster will go down in history and the scar that it has left on your cheek will only add to the legend. You are able to get behind the beast, finding higher ground to attack the weak spot between its shoulders. Once you are sure it was dead, you take its giant teeth as a trophy and continue on the path towards home.
      • You lose
        • The fight with the monster will go down in history, but sadly you will be but a footnote. You are able to get behind the beast, finding higher ground to attack the weak spot between its shoulders, you lunch just a moment too late and are caught by the beast. The last thing you hear is the snap of your neck.
    • Go Right
      • At the fork in the forest, you take the right turn. The sun is shining and the birds are singing in the trees. As you walk, you pick flowers from the path and collect them in your bag. After several hours of blissful and uneventful travel, you reach home.
  • Home
    • After your journey, you are elated to be home. Your family are waiting to see you, your children eager to see what you have bought them from your travels.
    • If you fought the beast
      • The fight with the monster has taken its toll and your wife is concerned about your cheek, but before she can speak about it, you produce the monster’s teeth from your bag and proudly hand them to the children.
    • If you didn’t fight the beast
      • You turn to your wife and offer her the flowers from your bag, now tied into a beautiful bouquet. For the children, you sit them down to tell them a wonderful story of a hero who must fight a monster in the forest.
    • With your children happy and your wife just pleased to have you home, you settle in by the fire and sleep peacefully.
Boy Meets Monster, Boy Kills Monster

Boy Meets Monster, Boy Kills Monster

Each section of the story can stand up on its own, given the context. Each atom explains itself and resolves itself whilst being able to bond with the next part. Of course, this is very simple and most non-linear narratives will require each atom to have multiple bonding points, where the story can link to other atoms whilst still making sense, passing on critical information to change key parts of the next atom.

For instance, in our little story, if you fight the monster, you could choose to allow the player to then turn back and take the path where they pick flowers. This would add an extra bond to the monster fight, and also allow the player to experience both parts of the potential endings – giving the wife flowers and the children the teeth.

Simple Branching Narrative 2

Boy Meets Monster, Boy Kills Monster Again

The key is to make sure that each atom can be as self-sufficient in the narrative as possible and that you only have to pass essential information to the next atom to make the story continue to be coherent.

The Soap Hero’s Journey

I mentioned the simple narrative model I often use, the soap hero’s journey. I use this because it is easy to remember and is also the core of most short storytelling arcs – such as soap operas.

The Soap Hero's Journey

The Soap Hero’s Journey

  • The Call
    • The event that triggers the characters to start the journey
    • Plot
  • The Challenge
    • Conflicts, difficulties, tasks that the characters must overcome.
  • The Transformation
    • The change that happens to the characters as they learn to overcome the obstacles
  • The Twist (optional)
    • Often before the full resolution, there is a twist that forces the hero to practice their new skills or re-evaluate something they have learned during the transformation.
  • The Resolution
    • How all of the characters finally overcome or rationalise the challenges.
    • Uses all of their new knowledge.

This is nice and simple and works well with the concept of narrative atoms, keeping each atom of the story simple in its own right. This is how soaps like EastEnders do it, keeping each episode a short, self-contained story, whilst still having character progression and plot progression that can feed into the next episode. That way, those who have not seen the soap before can pick it up easily, whilst those that have been watching for years can enjoy at a deeper level.

Below is a silly example of an EastEnders plot put into the Soap Hero’s Journey.

  • The Call
    • Cat Moon has run away, but Alfie doesn’t know why.
    • He has to find her.
  • The Challenge
    • First, he has to find out where she has gone.
    • Then He has to find her
    • He has to find out why she left
    • Finally, he must bring her home
  • The Transformation
    • He finds out from her friend that she ran away to Spain, because he was too controlling
    • Realizes he has to change how he feels about her past and grow up about it
  • The Twist
    • Gets to Spain and discovers it was all a lie, she was still in Walford!
  • The Resolution / Redemption
    • Finds Cat
    • Apologizes to her and tells her he loves her
    • Convinces her he has changed
    • Brings her home and discovers she is pregnant
    • Duff Duffs….

As you can see from the ending there, this narrative atom can neatly bond onto the next episode!

Combining the concepts of Narrative Atoms and a simple story structure like the Soap Hero’s Journey, you can build strong narratives that can bend and twist to your hearts content. Just keep on top of character and plot development between atoms, and you will be fine!

Citations

  1. Luomala, K. & Campbell, J. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. J. Am. Folk. 63, 121 (1950).
  2. Comberg, D. Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories. YouTube (2010). at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP3c1h8v2ZQ>

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School Grades Are The Wrong Way Around https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/26/school-grades-wrong-way-around/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/26/school-grades-wrong-way-around/#comments Fri, 26 May 2017 11:16:59 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5237 I often hear people say that school is just a badly designed game. I have to agree. I also hear a lot that part of the problems is people chasing grades rather than mastery...

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I often hear people say that school is just a badly designed game. I have to agree. I also hear a lot that part of the problems is people chasing grades rather than mastery and that grades should be dropped. I have to partially disagree.

I totally agree that school should be about master, not grade chasing, but I don’t agree we should get rid of grades, just redesign them. For me, grades are the wrong way around. The assumption is that we start at an A* and we either maintain that or the grade can fluctuate wildly assignment to assignment. If we were to follow a more game-like approach, we would consider progress and experience points rather than ever changing grades.

Each challenge that is set for the students would be assigned a maximum number of experience points that can be earned. These points would accumulate over the term, creating the equivalent of a final grade at the end of the year. For example:

XP Grade
1000 or More A*
800 A
600 B
500 C
400 D
300 E
200 or Less F

There are a number of reasons that I would suggest this. The first is that it makes it easier for students to track their progress over time. They know how much each assignment is worth and how many points they need to get to achieve certain grades (assuming you have to convert back to them). This means they can more easily set themselves goals. To make this easier still, at the start of the year you give them a level map or progress chart that shows when each

To make this easier still, at the start of the year you give them a level map or progress chart that shows when each assignment

will be set and how many points they are worth. This way they can tick them off as they go. They are then able to tell where they are and where they are going. To add to the fun (learning should be fun after all), you can add side quests to earn bonus points or special unlocks (like earn a week off homework if you unlock the secrets etc).

The Epic User Journey

 

I am not talking about creating a whole fantasy world, just a different approach to mapping out how you grade the work of students. You don’t even need to change the need for a final A,B,C grade, if you create a conversion matrix. Obviously creating full fantasy experience would be cool and, as it is beginning to appear, beneficial.

The key is to give them a sense that they are working towards something and are always able to see where they are and where they are going. Transparency also is important. Grades are not very transparent, but seeing you got 80 out of 100 possible points for an assignment is much easier to understand. Knowing that you need 1000 to get an A for the term adds another level of clarity.

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Gamification Design Framework Toolkit https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/23/gamification-design-framework-workbook/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/23/gamification-design-framework-workbook/#respond Tue, 23 May 2017 14:06:06 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5116 Gamification Design Framework toolkit has been created as a way to help you design better gamified solutions. It is based on my Gamification Design Framework, a systematic way of building solutions that I have developed over the years.

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Following on from the success of the Gamification Journey Planner, I wanted to add more value. Based on my Gamification Design Framework (GDF)

Payment is via PayPal, so all currency conversion will be done there.

This toolkit has been created as a way to help you design better gamified solutions. It is based on my Gamification Design Framework, a systematic way of building solutions that I have developed over the years.

You will find worksheets, tools and advice on going through the process step by step.

Worksheets are made to be printed on A3 paper ideally, giving you plenty of space to write on or attach sticky notes to.

If you have any gamification cards (such as my inspiration cards), they can help you when considering the game elements that might be used.

This is first and foremost a tool, one I have used successfully over the years in various forms. I want you to use it, adapt it and make amazing products with it.

The kit includes the following printables:

  • GDF Canvas
  • User Journey Planner (2 versions)
  • User Journey Adventure (a bit of fun)
  • Action / Feedback Loops Planner (2 versions)
  • Periodic Table of Gamification Elements
  • Emotions, Feelings and Fun Checklist
Gamification Design Canvas

Gamification Design Canvas

If you purchased the original planner, you will be getting a copy of this free via email, so no need to buy it again.

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Emotions and Gamification https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/22/emotions-and-gamification/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/22/emotions-and-gamification/#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 10:42:31 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5102 You may have noticed in my newest design framework that I mention emotions for the first time (I think) as a full consideration in my design process. I am by no means the first...

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You may have noticed in my newest design framework that I mention emotions for the first time (I think) as a full consideration in my design process. I am by no means the first to think about it in a design framework. If you look at the MDA framework the authors describe the aesthetics as:

the desirable emotional responses evoked in the player, when she interacts with the game system.

Later a more gamification focused framework, the MDE framework 2, dropped aesthetics and replaced them directly with emotions.

There are many theories and papers written about emotions and what core emotions are etc. I did some research and it is pretty diverse! Aristotle’s De Anima is credited as one of the first sources to mention some sort of formalised core emotions of human beings. Since then many other formalisations have been created 4,5,6,7 with differing views of what form these core emotions. I have chosen a few that I have personally worked with in gamification design, as well as their opposites, which I will come to. But first, what did I choose?

Some Emotions and their Opposites

Some Emotions and their Opposites

The Emotions

On the positive side of the emotional scale, I went with Hope, Gratitude, Joy, Pride, Suprise, Love and Desire. Their negative counterparts are Fear, Anger, Sadness, Shame, Alarm, Hate and Disgust.

These all sound rather extreme and they are, but they are hand for us from a design perspective.

For instance, you would hope that a gamification solution that relied on a reciprocal economy, elicited feelings of gratitude. However, if you get it wrong, it is handy to know what the opposite could be, anger. People may be angry that there is limited value to them on their side of the deal, for instance.

You would hope that people felt a desire to be involved in the system, but if they don’t they may feel some level of disgust at the thought of being manipulated by it.

People fear the unknown, but with good on-boarding, they may begin to experience hope that the experience will be a good one and they will benefit from it.

Play and games often give players moments of great joy and happiness, gamification should be no different. However, sadness here may not always be negative. If you play a game such as That Dragon Cancer, sadness is part of the experience.

Pride and Shame are both very strong emotions and also key motivators in many gamified experiences. Often, shame is used to push people to act. This can be done in a positive way, if I have not done my steps that day I may feel a stab of shame! However, if I achieve my steps that day or better still, break my record – I will feel great pride in my achievements The key is to not use shame as a weapon – shameification is not cool!

Surprise is something I have spoken about here at some depth in the form of random rewards, easter eggs and the like. Surprises are often nice little bonuses that just make a player smile and feel a little bit of joy as well. However, get things wrong and they can feel alarmed by things happening that they don’t have control over. Unexpected events that have no explanation and no obvious benefits can be unsettling.

Love and hate are fairly self-explanatory and are both extremes of the emotions people are likely to have around your gamified experience. You are more likely to see like and dislike. Either way, it is best o aim for them loving your system over hating it!

In Your Design

In the design process, I put emotions in the BMEM section; Behaviours, Motivations, Emotions and Mechanics. The idea is to understand what behaviours you are seeking from the user, what their motivations might be to behave that way (or not) and then what emotions you want them to experience. This is easier in a game as you are creating true virtual worlds for them to play in. In gamification, you are often limited by how you can communicate your vision to the user, but this should not stop you considering emotions anyway! Well worded messages, meaningful rewards, narrative streams and mini games can all go to build strong emotional responses.

Gamification Design Framework Overview

Gamification Design Framework Overview

We trade in Human-Centric design, so we have to treat the users of our systems as people. People have feelings and emotions, so we should include them in our designs!

Citations

  1. Hunicke, R., LeBlanc, M. & Zubek, R. MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research. Work. Challenges Game AI 1–4 (2004). doi:10.1.1.79.4561
  2. Robson, K., Plangger, K., Kietzmann, J. H., Mccarthy, I. & Pitt, L. Is it all a game? Understanding the principles of gamification. Bus. Horiz. 58, 411–420 (2015).
  3. Aristotle On the Soul c.350 B.C.E, translation: J. A. Smith, The Internet Classics Archive, MIT, Retrieved 2 February 2016
  4. Izard, C. E., Libero, D. Z., Putnam, P. & Haynes, O. M. Stability of emotion experiences and their relations to traits of personality. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 64, 847–860 (1993).
  5. Ekman, P. An argument for basic emotions. Cogn. Emot. 6, 169–200 (1992).
  6. Nathanson, D. L. Shame and pride : affect, sex, and the birth of the self. (Norton, 1992).
  7. Robinson, D. L. Brain function, emotional experience and personality. Neth. J. Psychol. 64, 152–168 (2008).

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The Paradox of Play https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/10/the-play-paradox/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/10/the-play-paradox/#comments Wed, 10 May 2017 02:30:44 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5070 Play from the Start When we are born, we don’t have a set of predefined rules imprinted on us about what we should and shouldn’t do or how we should and shouldn’t do it!...

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Play from the Start

When we are born, we don’t have a set of predefined rules imprinted on us about what we should and shouldn’t do or how we should and shouldn’t do it! Babies have a totally open and clear mind.

They spend their time learning everything they can, using all their senses. They learn the sound of their mother’s voice, the feel of her touch, the scent of her hair, all before they even open their eyes to learn what she looks like.

From that moment on, they are exploring their environment and learning. Everything is new to them, it’s exciting and probably terrifying in equal measure. Strange faces, strange smells, and tastes. People playing peekaboo, talking in strange voices and making odd sounds that should probably mean something, but don’t. They get bounced on knees, thrown in the air, passed around and cuddled like a toy. The experience new things called emotions; love, fear, joy, sadness and more.

As soon as they can, they start to interact with their environment, turning from a passive to an active learner. Picking up new things, learning what they feel like, what they taste like and what they do when you throw them at Dad. They start to play. I refer to this form of learning without deliberately setting out to learn in a structured way as ambient learning.

Defining Play

Play is an odd word in the English language that has several meanings. If you look for a definition in the dictionary you may be surprised at how many ways we use the word. Consider the following sentences.

  • We are going to play a game of rugby
  • We are going out to play
  • There is a little bit of play in the winding mechanism of this watch
  • It was just a play on words
  • There were greater forces at play than they were aware of
  • You can’t just play at being a politician
  • I love to play the guitar
  • You shouldn’t play with people’s emotions
  • He was back in play

Each instance of the word play has a slightly different meaning and intention – I have not even included one that represents a show put on by actors!

However, for me, there are some common threads. Each use of the word play feels slightly abstract as if it does not totally define a fixed point in time and space. Also, they are often associated with something either trivial  (by grown up adult standards) and/or creative.

  • We are going to play a game of rugby
    • We are involved in an activity called rugby, and whilst we are all working towards the same goal, our personal motives and activities at any time may well be different from each other’s.
  • We are going out to play
    • We are going out to be involved in various activities that may or may not have defined rules and objectives, but that we will all hopefully enjoy and get something from.
  • There is a little bit of play in the winding mechanism of this watch
    • The winding mechanism sits in a space within which it can move without affecting the watch.
  • It was just a play on words
    • The phrase was an amusing use of a word or words that could have another meaning.
  • There were greater forces at play than they were aware of
    • There were greater forces in somewhat active that they were not aware of.
  • You can’t just play at being a politician
    • You can’t be silly and non-committed about being a politician
  • I love to play the guitar
    • I love to create music with my guitar
  • You shouldn’t play with people’s emotions
    • You should not trivialise people’s emotions for your own amusement or benefits.
  • She was back in play
    • She was brought back into the activity which she had previously been excluded from for some reason.

What I take from that is that play is as much a feeling or even an emotion as it is a finite activity. I have said in the past that play, for me, sits in a space between chaos on control! 1

For our purposes here, I want to focus on pure play as it can be associated with ambient learning and games. If we were to derive a definition of pure play in that context, I would go for;

“Activities participated in voluntary for pleasure, with no purposefully designed system rules or objectives”

As a lovely aside, according to the Oxford Dictionary, play is derived in the following way;

Old English pleg(i)an ‘to exercise’, plega ‘brisk movement’, related to Middle Dutch pleien ‘leap for joy, dance’.

The Affordances of Play

When we engage in play or when we play a game we must accept certain ideas, affordances.

  • We accept the rules, be they implicit rules and meta-rules 2 in the case of pure play or the system rules in games. We approach the activity with a playful or lusory attitude 3 (derived from the Latin word for play – Ludos). These rules can cover a broad range, from social norms to personal ideals.
  • We accept that play and the space within in which play takes place, be it physical or fantasy, is “safe”. By safe, I mean that the fantasy world in which play exists is perceived as safe from controllable real world consequences. This is referred to as the Magic Circle 4, which can be thought of as a kind of shield from reality. For example, if you are playing a game of ‘cops and robbers’, shooting the robber is not going to get you sent to jail! This is a fairly black and white description, it is in fact much more permeable than a shield, the real world and the fantasy world can affect each other greatly during play. Also, this doesn’t mean that the players are actually protected from the real world, but to maintain the fantasy they have to feel that they are. Falling out of a tree can still result in a broken arm!

Without these affordances and mindset, play can’t take place.

Learning to be less playful

The open, playful, lusory attitude that is required to fully engage in play is something that is battered out of us as trivial and unimportant as we get older. “Games are for kids.” “We are too busy to play.” “What is play anyway except for a childish waste of valuable time?”

Until we hit formalised education, everything important that we need to know, we learn through varying degrees of play and experimentation.

Once we are a certain age, this all changes. Learning is much more structured, in many ways becoming more game-like than play-like. This in itself is not an issue, the issue is how the “game” is designed. The Magic Circle is often broken, with people not feeling that they are safe from consequences. The lusory attitude is missing and also the affordances of play are ignored. The whole affair becomes less voluntary and more stressful for the child. You can’t measure play very easily, but you can measure test results and other check box related methods of assessment. There is no room for the flexibility to teach students based solely on their abilities and needs rather than their age. Memory and presenteeism are often seen as more important than talent.

It is easy to assert that the most complex things we learn in life happen in a playful way and how important play is to childhood and adult development 5–9. “But wait you crazy man, there was not much play in my Astrophysics PhD and that was bloody complex!!” True, but there are two things to consider there;

  1. Is that because the PhD was badly designed?
  2. Was it as complex as learning motor skills, language skills, cognitive skills or social skills as a developing child?

Astrophysics is indeed very complex, but it still relies on skills and process that you had to learn for yourself through play as a child with no concept of what anything was.

However, even though we know this or at least accept that play can be important to development and learning, we still don’t want to let it cross over into our perceived serious world. We want to do everything the hard and un-fun way. Read the book, do the test, read the book, do the test, do the bigger test, read another book…

This only gets worse as they enter higher education and then work, be it workplace based training or actual day to day business. All thoughts of play within the context of “real and important” life are put to one side, reserved only for moments of relaxation or entertainment or the golf course. Play is a dirty word, one that does not directly translate into profit.

The Paradox!

This finally brings us to the Paradox of Play.

Life becomes much less playful as we become adults because we are seemingly unable to hold the concept of seriousness and playfulness in our minds at the same time. Our core, primal being is aware of how important play is, but society has made us believe that play is trivial and wasteful. This cognitive dissonance is eased by us creating justifications around how seriousness is what earns us the money, being serious pays the bills and gets us better jobs so is more important than play.

However, it is my belief that we all still have that inner child that loves to play, we just need to feel safe letting it out!

In fact, you can see this inner child being released when play is introduced into workshops that they feel are designed to achieve important goals. These important and busy types become children, often to the point of being disruptive due to all the desires to have fun being so repressed and suddenly having a release! It’s like watching a room full of people who have needed a fart for 20 years finally letting go! But as soon as they go back to the office, 99% will go back to their usual ways.

The Solution?

My question is, can we undo this? Is there a way to change the way we look at play. We almost need a great PR company to start making it look cool again!

This is starting to happen. There are teachers out there who know how important play is and they are doing amazing things, integrating play and games into education. Games based learning is trending all over the world now, which is fantastic.

As with all things, this is slower in the world of business. The popularity of gamification has helped a little as people are seeing some results, but it is showing the huge and unrealistic increases the hype had promised 5 years ago. The new generations of employees coming up the ranks are also helping, but there is still a while before they hit the lofty heights of directors in the older – larger companies.

However, we can all try to make play more accessible and seem less childish by changing some of the ways we speak about play-like activities. We can talk about it is a way that helps the less interested understand. Rather that talking about playfulness, speak of open-mindedness. Freedom to experiment becomes autonomy, less system defined rules becomes trust. Speak of innovation and prototyping, and 80/20 rules on development work (20% of your time in a month can be on projects if you’re choosing as long as they are of benefit to the company). Games based training becomes scenario based training. All these things have an element of play about them and don’t seem to be all that frivolous.

Anyone can see play anywhere if they are willing to look hard enough, open their minds and free their inner child from time to time!

Citations

  1. Marczewski, A. Play in Context. (2016). at <https://www.gamified.uk/2016/09/26/play-in-context/>
  2. Marczewski, A. Exploring the Meta-Rules of Play. (2016). at <https://www.gamified.uk/2016/12/09/exploring-meta-rules-play/>
  3. Suits, B. What Is a Game? Philosophy of Science 34, 148 (1967).
  4. Huizinga, J. Homo Ludens: A study of the play -­ element in culture. a study of the element of play in culture (1950). doi:10.1177/0907568202009004005
  5. Ginsburg, K. R. The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. Pediatrics 119, 182–191 (2007).
  6. Whitebread, D. D. The Importance of Play. Univ. Cambridge 1–55 (2012). doi:10.5455/msm.2015.27.438-441
  7. Bjorklund, D. F. & Pellegrini, A. D. in The origins of human nature: Evolutionary developmental psychology 297–331 (2001).
  8. Campbell, G. Why play is essential to brain health with Dr. Stuart Brown (BSP 60). Brain Science Podcast (2009). at <http://www.brainsciencepodcast.com/bsp/why-play-is-essential-to-brain-health-with-dr-stuart-brown-b.html>
  9. Sutton-Smith, B. The opposite of play is not work — it is depression. Stanford Neurosciences Institute (2015). at <https://neuroscience.stanford.edu/news/opposite-play-not-work-—-it-depression>

 

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Gamification Element: Investment https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/04/gamification-element-investment/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/04/gamification-element-investment/#comments Thu, 04 May 2017 13:48:45 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5054 I have just added a new element to the gamification periodic table, investment. Whilst I have Loss Aversion and a few other things that may seem similar, I have felt for some time that...

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I have just added a new element to the gamification periodic table, investment.

Whilst I have Loss Aversion and a few other things that may seem similar, I have felt for some time that there was still an ingredient missing. It turns out, it was investment (I think…).

Now, you may instantly think of investment as a financial affair, in fact, the icon I have chosen deliberately induces that though. However, investment comes in several flavours;

  1. Financial: Money, virtual currency, possessions
  2. Emotional: When you get into a good book or film, you are emotionally invested. The same is true of any relationship.
  3. Time: When you spend time doing something, you are investing in it. So time spent getting your stats as high as possible in-game, that’s a significant investment.
  4. Effort: Whether it is mental or physical, expending effort is an investment in an activity.

A great example of all of these being in play is higher education. Students have to spend money on tuition fees (or at least be aware they will be paying them back for some time). They have to invest emotionally, not just in the subject and the process of learning for higher education, but also in the relationships they form whilst in higher education. They have to invest a significant amount of their time, years in fact. Finally, there is a huge amount of mental effort required to succeed.

When someone invests anything into a task, they are more likely to assign an intrinsic value to it. As I have said repeatedly, rewards are only meaningful if they require some level of effort or investment to achieve.

Here is the latest version of the Periodic Table (Available as a poster from here)

Periodic Table of Gamification Elements

Periodic Table of Gamification Elements

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New Job, New Challenges, New fun! https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/03/new-job-new-challenges-new-fun/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/03/new-job-new-challenges-new-fun/#respond Wed, 03 May 2017 14:43:59 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5048 In August 2016, I started as a freelance consultant, contracting largely for Gamification Nation. An Coppens (CEO of Gamification Nation) and I had been friends in the industry for a number of years and...

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In August 2016, I started as a freelance consultant, contracting largely for Gamification Nation. An Coppens (CEO of Gamification Nation) and I had been friends in the industry for a number of years and almost as soon as I was made redundant from G2G3 and announced I was available for contracting, was there wanting to make use of my skills.

Over the past 8 months, we have worked on some amazing projects and proved to be a solid team. However, the life of a contractor is not an easy or a stable one. With a young family and old parents to consider, I have decided to move on to a new adventure. From today, you will find me at engagement specialists Motivait, working in gamification still, as a Senior Solution Consultant. Some of you may recognise that name, especially if you were at Gamification World Congress 2016. They were one of the sponsors and ran the sticker game throughout the event.

I wanted to thank An for her support over the last few months and wish her continuing success in the gamification world. I also look forward to sticking around as an Advisor within the Gamification Nation Alumni!

Exciting times ahead, but potentially less blog activity here for a while, as I get my head around the new challenges that this role will be throwing my way. Rest assured though, I am always on Twitter and am not going to stop boring you all to death with my gamification obsession any time soon!

Andrzej receiving the 2016 Contribution to the Industry award.

Andrzej receiving the 2016 Contribution to the Industry award.

 

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4 Tips to Balance Your Gamification https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/01/4-tips-to-balance-your-gamification/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/05/01/4-tips-to-balance-your-gamification/#comments Mon, 01 May 2017 15:11:29 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5045 There is nothing worse than playing against people who are miles ahead of you in terms of either ability or equipment. It is very demoralising to lose time and time again when in reality...

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There is nothing worse than playing against people who are miles ahead of you in terms of either ability or equipment. It is very demoralising to lose time and time again when in reality you never have a chance. Take leaderboards as a good example. Very often the people at the top are always the same few names, over and over again. For most companies, this does not seem to get addressed for some reason. It’s a bit like pitting your local Sunday Dad’s league against Chelsea every week. There is no opportunity for the Sunday players to ever be as good as Chelsea, they will get destroyed week after week until they give up playing. It is totally unfair and unbalanced. This is why in organised sports, you have divisions and leagues. You only play against people that you have a fair(ish) chance of beating.

Divisions

So the first tip is if you find this happening, create leagues. Let the best of the best fight it out and let the others prove themselves against people they stand a chance with. If they get to top frequently, give them the opportunity to take on the next division and maybe get promoted. This has an added benefit of creating a pool of people you know are the best at something and (if you take into account the user journey) have become the masters. At this point, you should be trying to get them to give back, to train up those in the lower division.

Of course, this all relies on transparency and everyone understanding the rules. It is hard to get good at a game when you don’t know the rules!

Handicaps

The second tip is to create balanced or relative scores, a bit like a golf handicap. A modifier can be applied to scores to either handicap those who are significantly better, or power up those who are newer or don’t yet have all the required skills. So for instance, the expert may get 50 points a day, whereas the lower skilled worker gets 30. However, because of the handicap modifier, you could have it set that every 1 point is worth 1.5 to the lower end player, giving them a slight boost (to 45 rather than 30) and helping push them a little higher in the tables.  This does run the risk of better players screaming about it being unfair on them though.

Levels

You could also balance the game so that early on it is much easier to get points, so new players can quickly gain points, where hardened players need to work harder and demonstrate more skills to get the same number of points. This is a little like divisions as lower level players are more likely playing “against” other lower player levels, but their points can also begin to look similar to those of the higher level players. This relies on keeping the “flow” of challenge and skill well balanced. Always keeping a challenge, but never pushing the player too far out of their comfort zone or letting them get bored.

Team Balancing / Score Normalisation

Finally, team balancing. This is something I have come across a few times, especially in enterprise gamification. I have yet to find the perfect solution! The problem, the company wants departments to compete against each other, however, no department is the same size! So what you can end up with is a team of 6 competing with a team of 30. If your system is collecting points for various activities, it becomes very tough for the smaller team to compete with the larger team, To demonstrate the same activity, a team of 30 only needs 20% of their members to be active!

The first solution is to measure quality over quantity of activity. However, this still has the same issue. In a team of 30, you only need 20% to produce quality compared to 100% of the team of 6.

Another solution that I have considered, but is complicated to really achieve well (I have tried and it was ok in my tests) is creating normalised scores based on the average team size.

For example. If you have 4 teams of different sizes.

The average team size is calculated as 12. The score modifier for a team is calculated as your team size / the average team size.

Points are them multiplied by the modifier.

Team Size Team Score Modifier Normalised Score
10 30 1.2 36
5 30 2.4 72
20 30 0.6 18
12 30 1.0 30
Average Team Size 12

This requires great transparency and great communication of the rules to everyone, but it can work.

Those are just a few ideas, there are loads more. What have you done to fix this in your gamification efforts?

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Some Gamification Videos and a bit of Fun https://www.gamified.uk/2017/04/20/gamification-videos-bit-fun/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/04/20/gamification-videos-bit-fun/#respond Thu, 20 Apr 2017 08:56:14 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5038 I’ve been busy making videos of late, here are the last few. Some tutorials, a few rants and a bit of fun 🙂 Player Types and User Types in Gamification Ethics in Gamification Failure...

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I’ve been busy making videos of late, here are the last few. Some tutorials, a few rants and a bit of fun 🙂

Player Types and User Types in Gamification

Ethics in Gamification

Failure and Consequences in Gamification

Stop Perpetuating Bad Gamification Design

The Games Invasion: Why It’s a Good Thing

Parenting and Gamification

The Little Cog

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The Games Invasion: Why it is Good! https://www.gamified.uk/2017/04/14/games-invasion-good/ https://www.gamified.uk/2017/04/14/games-invasion-good/#comments Fri, 14 Apr 2017 06:17:31 +0000 https://www.gamified.uk/?p=5026 In 2010, game designer Jesse Schell spoke at the DICE summit about the impending invasion of games into everyday life. Many people felt the talk had a semi-apocalyptic feel, but I came away with...

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In 2010, game designer Jesse Schell spoke at the DICE summit about the impending invasion of games into everyday life. Many people felt the talk had a semi-apocalyptic feel, but I came away with a different opinion. His final words were words of potential positivity – if we took the correct actions. Here I talk a little bit about that and what it could mean to us all.

Here is a short (well 12 minute) video I recorded discussing some of my thoughts on it all. Enjoy and don’t forget to comment on YouTube if you have questions 🙂

Jesse Schell’s talk, When Games Invade Real Life https://www.ted.com/talks/jesse_schell_when_games_invade_real_life

 

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