Elisabet Grétarsdóttir explains Gamification at SIME 2011

The last day at SIME, Sweden’s largest digital/web conference in Stockholm, a panel of guests took to the stage to have a panel discussion about gamification.
Gamification is the latest and greatest buzz word in a long line of hype from digital marketing companies. But gamification is different because unlike social media and the like the Gamification concept is loaned from the hugely profitable games industry.

At SIME this year the panel consisted of representatives from World of Horses Online, CCP games and an associate professor from the Stockholm School of Economics. The topic was gamification and was simply introduced as the concept of using mechanics and design from the games industry to market products and services in non entertainment industries.

Elisabet, from CCP games, really gave a show with clear and consice ideas about gamification.
She started off by describing the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.
An extrinsic motivator, which are mostly used in gamification today, are external rewards given to the player for achieving certain tasks. Such as points to shoot a bird accurately or a badge to check in at a location
An intrinsic motivator is an internal reward the player experiences because he/she achieves something in the context of the game. Internal rewards are feelings based on. Social recognition or completing a challenge.

One of her most memorable quotes was saying she’d like to Gamify the games industry by moving from extrinsic to intrinsic motivators.

Another one was a sharp critique to enforced seriousness while stating a point about humans being playful creatures:

why can we hug at a soccer game but not in the board room?

Elisabet also rocked the end of the panel by giving an example of how she would revolutionize boutique shopping by gamifying a H&M shop into a “minecraft retail experience” to, in her own words, “create a platform for creativity and self expression”.

The audience and the panel alike seemed almost shocked by the simple truths laid out by Elisabet on gamification. I bet that if she has any say, gamification will be less of a buzz word and more of a business strategy from now on.
One can only hope.

PS
I’m writing this on an iPad balanced on my knee while I’m eating so if this post is in shambles, please check back in an hour or so and I’ll try to polish the turd.

Update 1
Robin from the Stockholm School of Economics mailed me an update, apparently I got both her school and her title wrong.. Sorry Robin, keep up the great work!

The death of console games and the rise of mobile games

At a panel at south by southwest Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio (Angry Birds) said that the console market is dead. Basically because people won’t want to pay $40-$50 for a game that is hard to upgrade.
I agree.

the tv game console

But Nokia’s Tero Ojanpera countered on the same panel that there is still a place for consoles and console games because people won’t want to plug their tablet devices into their TV’s.

I don’t agree. In fact, I think Tero Ojanpera is missing a major trend in user behavior:

We’ve seen a trend for many years now that people are spending more of their time in front of computer screens. Most people aren’t actively turning off their TVs yet but the trend towards being online is clear. More and more people sitting in front of their TV but with a laptop on their lap. At the same time mobile devices and tablet devices are skyrocketing in use.

iPad gaming

So why, dear Nokia, would people want to plug their tablet devices into their TVs? People are already choosing mobile screens at their primary consumption device. What Ojanpera is thinking of here is probably the block buster cinematic experiences that home consoles connected to the TV can offer. Titles such as God of War and Assasins Creed.

What he doesn’t realize is that while these titles take up most of the marketing budget for game companies they don’t sell all that well. A game of the year blockbuster hit still only sells close to 20 million copies. That’s a huge pile of money. But Angry Birds has sold over 150 million… The price makes the winnings less dramatic but the demographic implications are clear. More people are choosing mobile games.

Consoles are dead.

iPad2

The future of UX is play

In case you didn’t know; UX week is a conference in San Fransisco that, if your into UX, you wish you were at. It has great speakers on great subjects and sounds like heaven for all us UX designers spread across the planet.
Nicole Lazzaro has a presentation scheduled on the future of UX where she argues that design focusing on increasing positive emotions rather than minimizing negative experience is the future of UX development. A field where game design is leading the way.

I for one am really happy someone is bringing this up at a large conference. I studied game design for this very reason and I’m still having a hard time selling the idea to my colleagues, the notion that games are basically toys is still deeply ingrained in western culture and it’s now starting to hold us back from creating better experiences.

For anyone interested in learning from game design I recommend you start with legendary designer Raph Koster‘s excellent book A Theory of Fun.

How do you make time to play games?

Great news! Both Torchlight and Ratchet & Clank are both going coop!
Torchlight 2

A lot of games are opting for cooperative or immersive multiplayer modes to allow players to be more social and have even more fun with their products.

But there’s a problem. Sorry to be the grouch, but the first step of getting out of a trap is noticing it’s there.
Cooperative and multiplayer games are mostly synchronous. Which means you have to play them at the same time. In fact minimizing gameplay lag is on of the largest problems game developers have today.

But is that really a good thing?
It’s great for action. But it’s terrible for pick up and play gaming. Which is already the dominant form of play if we compare online games and casual platforms such as the Nintendo Wii, DS and the iPhone with more core audience devices such as the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360.

The problem with multiplayer is the same as with loading times.
If we, as developers, are trying to convince our players to spent $60 and 20 hours to play our game, the game really needs to be fun and easy to get into. Loading times subtract from the experience, but not nearly enough as waiting for friends, not having friends or worst of all; having friends that all need to cash out $60 for the game. This kind of tribal synchronisation is very probably not that usual.

We need to open up to the fact that games are a part of life and start designing for finding new friends or, if possible, playing with friends asynchronously.

Games industry killing itself over used games

One of the largest problems facing the games industry today is used games. Publishers can’t compete with the low prices and have launched campaigns trying to persuade customers that buying used games hurt developers. This is almost certainly true but the problem is, as so often with situations like this, not used games but how games as a medium are developed and sold. Let me describe why this phenomenon exists and what developers can do to change it today.
Books and movies are more rarely sold used then games

There is a market for used books and movies, and it’s pretty large, but nowhere near as large as for games. This is because the products leave a lingering thought with the consumer that they “might want to see / read it again”. In this post I’ll call this emotional impact.

I’m not saying that games don’t have emotional impact, in fact they might have more emotional impact then traditional media, but in games it works a bit differently.

Traditional media is completely based on narrative

Narrative has always been a way for humans to interpret the things happening around us, in other words; we look for patterns that might not be there. Putting stories on events to make them understandable.

Traditional media is a way to channel this interest by offering interesting stories, that have been thought out before hand and then feeding them to the audience. We’ve been doing it since long before Shakespeare

When a movie, book or any work of fiction presents us with a narrative that we particularly like we achieve a sense of satisfaction. Known in story telling as catharsis.

Games don’t work like this

Games have two sets of narrative going on at once; the story narrative that is usually fed to the player (s) in more or less sophisticated ways. The game mechanical narrative, the story that the player build by doing things in the game: “I ran around the wall and shot that guy from behind, I’m such a ninja!“.

The first narrative is directly comparable to traditional media and is the dominant narrative in games such as the Final Fantasy series or the Metal Gear series. The emotional impact of these games are usually quite high and sure enough, you’ll find a lot less of them on the used shelves at your local Gamestop.

The second narrative however, is unique to games as a medium. It is the dominant form of narrative in games such as Battlefield or Gran Turismo. These games can be resold without much emotional impact because the main experience is already experienced. Playing the game again won’t be as interesting.

Let’s compare this to a vacation trip. The pictures from said vacation are valuable, because they let the consumer remember the experience. But going back will be different, we all know this, that’s why we don’t always travel to the same spots.

Experiencing the game mechanic again can often be more interesting by playing the sequel or a similar game. A consumer will rarely play the same game again if there aren’t new goals to reach or if similar games and sequels are noticeably different. (If your game is a shooter you’ll probably not ever get consumers to do more then one play through. If that.)

So how are we going to solve this?

From this point of view, I’ve identified three key ways of making more emotional impact and staying of the used games shelf:

  1. Create games that capture the emotional impact of narrative. Create games with more traditional story that can keep the players coming back.
  2. Create games with game mechanic lock-ins. So that they are forced to keep playing your game to get the same pleasurable mechanic. Look at fighting games for example. Fighting games seem to be generally online or party experiences, with unique fighting styles they deliver experiences that you can’t interchange easily.
  3. Games that are more focused on mechanic narrative, don’t release them as boxed products. Seriously. They are easily interchangeable and after one play through they are simply not very interesting. Sell them as episodic content through direct downloads or as subscription services.

This might sound a bit crude, but the games industry is not as successful per unit as other media industries and mostly I believe this is because the industry isn’t selling games as consumers want them. The games industry is just copying other mediums and then complaining about all the problems that they run into.

If you’ve read this far I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject, comment away, I answer all comments.

Interactive art, game?

Every Day the same Dream is a short flash game that I think you should play.
It’s story of a faceless man who tries to break out of his routine of getting up, dressing, saying good bye to his emotionally detached wife and driving to a miserable job. It’s not exactly cheerful. It might even provoke dark thoughts. It’s conveys a sense of how valuable life is in a strange way. This game is provoking. It doesn’t provoke your ideals. It provokes how you live.

A fantastic interactive experiment that I can really recommend:

Every Day the Same Dream

State of the Game Industry in Sweden

Sweden has had a strong game development industry even since before the launch of the classic shooterBattlefield 1942. In the last year though, the economic downturn has cause some large studios to file for bankruptcy or sale. But the worst economic down turns usually make the most fertile grounds for new industry. Something the Swedes are proving true.
Baraboom is a small group of friends trying to make it on the iPhone. Not an original concept but not a bad one either. They’ve chosen to be inspired my Remedy’s classic car shooter Death Rally and with a unique style and control scheme their first title Auto Crisis looks awesome. Check it out when it launches in the app store around christmas.

Ludosity is another small independent studio launching their first own IP very soon. This small startup is comprised of students straight out of school into an incubator. Most impressive and looking at their really unique title Bob came in pieces you can really tell where the innovation in the industry is going on.

So don’t hesitate to innovate and stop worrying about the economy. If small companies such as these two can create high quality products like this on small funds and high spirit, we’ll pull through. 😉

Also please note that while none of these companies have dedicated resources or large budgets to create their web presence, they both have more professional sites than most larger companies…