How to design rules that work

Rules are ever present in our daily lives. We follow social rules, company rules, and laws. We create organizations by making sets of rules, we create deals and contracts all defined by rules. But very few people learn how to create rules. Most rules, don’t work. As a former game designer, I’ve studied rules academically and tried and tested rules by the thousands. This is what I’ve learnt so far about creating rules that work.
Continue reading “How to design rules that work”

Adding the Fun

I decided to start a new project that is closer to my heart than anything for the passed three years. A blog dedicated to explore gamification and game theory for products.
Originally meant to be a short book I decided doing the research and most of the writing as a blog might help the project along. Who knows, it might actually be better for it.

You’ll find it continuously updated over on Tumblr: Adding The Fun

Why Apple is loosing money on making crappy headsets

Design is all about focus. What to focus on, what to disregard. There is limited time and no designer has the time to make anything perfect.
Apple is sublime in making the 90% mostly used parts of the user experience near perfect.
Except one thing.

You have an iPod, what do you listen with?
You have an iPhone, what do you listen and make calls from?
Apple’s headset and/or head phones.

In the 2002 article Mind your language,  by Game Developer Ben Cousins, Cousins explains what to focus on to make a successful product. In short: whatever the user spends most time with. Apple is usually great at this but seem to be missing the headsets.

It’s not that the headsets / head phones are bad per se. They just aren’t really good. And the quality is awful, I’m on my 6th pair this year and mad as a hat when the sound goes in one ear.

Apple should really look into making a better headset, ensuring that customers are using headsets with the intended functions.

What is a user interface?

A lot of people I talk to are confused about design. Not least when they hear about abstract design such as web design, UX design, game design etc. I can’t blame them. As designers we really tag ourselves with the word most appropriate for the task at hand. Even though our main work is always to solve problems by design.
But let’s make things easier
For most designers working with abstract design the term user interface is crucial. But exactly what is a UI? Sure, it’s the thing the user interacts with. But where does it start and where does it end?

User Interface
Interface is a proxy layer between a human being and a function.

But what does that mean? For a pair of scissors, the scissors themselves are the user interface between a human hand and the function of cutting.

A computer has two layers of user interfaces between the human and most functions. The keyboard/mouse or physical UI, and the graphical or text based abstract UI.

But what if the user interface is a part of the function? The iPhone for instance doesn’t really have a physical UI. There is nothing physical to interact with (excepting the home button, volume and mute controls but lets not digress from the example). But it does have a graphical abstract UI.

Why is this definition important? Because now we can all say user interface and know what we’re referring to. No more wordplay to guess what the other person is talking about.

Opera and storytelling

Last night I saw Macbeth at the Swedish royal opera house. It was stunning. My first opera and live Shakespeare. Very intriguing.
In the intermission my friend, a producer at EA DICE, said an interesting thing: While opera is clearly far behind most other media in terms of storytelling the music holds up the experience making it excel as an art form.

First I just thought he had a fair point. Then I realised the same can be said for most games, which I’m sure was a thought he shared.

So what can we use to hold up storytelling in games? Interaction is what holds games as experiences up to a level of excellence but can it be used to save storytelling?

Fearing hubris or fame

Every once in a while you get an idea that you feel will change the world because the idea is so great. Now, this might have worked in the time of ancient Greece or in early Rome. But today such an idea must be approached carefully.

Are you sure the idea really is that great? Have you tested it, through prototyping or discussion, against nay-sayers and won anyone over?

If not; shut up. The idea might not be that great…

If you have; That’s great, now comes the real work.

Try to poke holes in your idea or theory until either: a-you succeed and the idea had some flaws, or b-you can’t find any flaws and it really might change the world.
Just remember that most ideas that have changed the world (facebook, capitalism etc) have flaws, and many ideas that haven’t changed the world don’t have any real flaws.

The reason I’m getting into this is because I had an idea on the bus last week. An idea about what fun really is. A cognitive explanation to how fun works that is simple enough for designers to use as a road map in games development.

Now you understand my fear of hubris eh?

Over the next two weeks I will be fleshing out the idea and posting about it here, please, please, try to kill it. If we can’t kill the idea together I’ll just have to write a book about it.