These are my notes on this session from the Mobile GDC. It’s got significant overlap with the previous posting on this topic, but there’s a lot of new material too.
Amy Jo Kim and Scott Kim
Putting the Fun in Functional
Uses Zimmerman/Salen’s definition of game, but an informal definition is “a structured experience with rules and goals that’s fun.” Under that definition ebay is a game.
How do games shape behavior?
– They leverage primal response patterns — consider the slot machine, powerful behavior modifier, using schedules of reinforcement.
– They also engage us in flow, where the challenge needs to be between too high a challenge and too low a challenge.
How can game mechanics make any interactive experience better? Here’s five mechanics:
Very old, common to all cultures. An impressive collection leads to bragging rights, and this is highly social. This can then get applied to non-game entities — a reference here is Tagworld.
Habbo lets you buy coins for real money, and then you can buy stuff to collect stuff. And ytou can buy the cards with the coins at the local pharmacy., You have to collect four cards that match to turn them in, a full set. MOre toruble but more fun, and a lot of people do it. Pokemon is the most famous example.
IN mobile we are seeing collecting showin up. Brain Training/Brain Age for the DS lets you collect stuff for each day you do the exercises. Hotties (not yet out) is a match.com kind of website, lets you collect stuff based on folks you meet. eBay uses points as well, and it makes the site more compelling.
Similar to collecting, but abstract and more flexible.
Fastr, a mashup on top of Flickr, adds points, and makes a scoring system that is addictive.
What can you do with your points? Well, redeemable points — like theidea of collecting stamps to cash them in for a cash rpize. This mechanic is a fabolous one for females, because evcn though it is a stereotype, female play pattern is multitasking, they want to feel productive, the feeling that you aren’t just playig, but are earning points that are useful is a crossover technique to reasch females.
We’re seeing this with PrizePlay in Europe, play games to earn tokens to cash in tokens to buy games but also for prizes in the store. It’s a loyalty program. Frequent flier miles works this way too. Southwest, or drugstore.com dollars. Why go to the drugstore when I can earn discounts?
Points can be a social experience too. When poinmts are given by not the ga,e, but by other players. Acrophobia is an oldschool text game: a n acronym goes up, people invent satyings, and players vote on the proposals. Other players are giving you points as to whether they olike your acronym. Very similar to user-driven rating systems, such as YouTube.
What you give social points for expresses the values of your system. MySpace lets you rate profiles, which means that it rewards a hot or not behavior, which sets a tone of flirtation andshowing off flesh. Ths is why parents are up in arms about MySpace.
A different way to do ratings — consider KittenWar. It’s a two-choice rating system: you pick two things, and ask which one is more of some qualoity. In KittenWars it’s cuteness. You get an accumulatre ordinl rating over time. An interestig alternatvie to the 1-10 rating scale, and simpler for a mobile device, and simpler is better.
Hotties has both — who is hotter, as well as the rating scale.
eBay has social points for transactions. Amazon does it for rating reviewers.
Flickr has an implicit way of calculating social points based on “interestingness.” It’s a combo of many user behaviors: how many times has an image been viewed, tagged, commented on, etc. There’s no explicit rating or comparison, but it turns into an accumulated ordinal ranking again.
They aren’t always effective but they can be very effective. They also express the game’s values. On a moblogging site, leaderboards not only for best photos but for most frequent commenters, driving player behavior.
On YouTube and TextAmerica there’s these parallel leaderboards to create greater diversity, more ways for people to shine, more ways to find what you olike.
Some systems had leaderboards but removed them. They can lock up and not allow new folks on via network effects, they can drive people to game system, they can highlight the wrong things. Orkut used to have leaderboards for themost friends, and they had to take them down because the boards pushed the wrong values (friends-collecting).
Scott: Statistical ranking can be a leaderboard alternative. The daily puzzle uses statistical ranking — which scales. Based on how you did, it gives a player ranking — it doesn’t say how many other players there are.
Amazon tells you how well it is selling versus all other books. It also has leaderboards for top sellers by category.
Just this action is very powerful. It’s just shorthand for accumulated points. eBay’s star rankings are this, effectively.
Levels punctuate the game experience, giving you intermediate goals. All martial arts use this in a very mainstream setting. Levels also unlock new powers and access. The Powerselling program at eBay (which Amy Jo designed when she worked with them way back when) is an example of leveraging this: levelling up gives you better customer service, special line to call, more tools, etc.
It draws attention through movement and change, animations, etc. MySpace recently implemented MySpace Mobile, which is basically alerts via SMS for activity on your site. It’s constant feedback for what’s going on. It makes it feel more compelling and addictive.
Feedback also accelerates mastery. Karaoke Revolution does a great job of feedback — character glowing, mike leaving trails, audience cheering, etc. It makes you get better faster. Brain Age aka Brain Training in Japan gives you feedback about how “old your brain is.” It’s a form of feedback over time that drives repeated usage.
Google Maps is better than Yahoo Maps because it gives more feedback, more responsively. Scott says, it’s an example where a purely functional task becomes more fun. Feedback induces flow. A game Scott did for Stanford Engineering is a sudoku variant with letters — lots of feedback: progress meters, completed lines glowing, etc.
Feedback can make mundane tasks more fun, like Cooking Mama for the DS. It just teaches you how to cook, but it’s fun. Or there’s BIMactive, which gives feedback on physical activity, a mobile and web app that tracks your jogging route via GPS, with all sorts of feedback. It tells you calories, how far you ran, graphs of your pace and elevation over time, and an actual map of where you were.
“A structuerd social interaction.” A game of chess, each move. A gift. A conversation. Very powerful way to shape behavior. An explicit exchange is built into rules, as in chess taking turns. An implcit exchange is not built into the rules, but it’s emergent out of the system. eBay is an example of this: once you compelte a trasnaction, you immediately get a request for feedback from the seller, saying “I’ll give you feedback ater you give me feedback.”
Trading is usually explicit in games, to prevent cheating. In MogiMogi in Japan there’s also a trading mechanic: you collect objects, then you can ytrade them.
An implicit social exchange is gift-giving. After a gift, you feel you should gift back. NetMarble is an avatar chat and decoration system popular in Korea, and you can goift clothing and accessories. Habbo Hotel, same thing. Helios, newly announced, allows gifting of ringtones and other media.
MySpace has both sorts of exchanges. A lot of folks are puzzled by its success given how ugly it is. But it has a lot of features. Adding a friend is an explicit exchange. Comments are implicit — there is an expectatiuon you will comment back.
Customization icnreases investment. MetroGirl, game Amy Jo did for Digital Chocolate, lets you pick one of the four personalities to get advice from. eBay lets you build My eBay. It’s the lens you want to see the experience through. Creates barriers to exit, as in MyGoogle.
A different kind of customization is automatic. On these examples you explicitly build stuff. But Amazon and other sites do it transparently, implicitly, watching your behavior. Flickr has an even simpler form of this, showing you the last few pics you uploaded.
Character customization is especially powerful. Compare a profile in WoW to one in MySpace. Part of what makes MySpace ugly is also what makes it powerful: extreme customization for its audience.
How is MySpace like a game?
You collect friends.
You collect points and ratings.
You get alerts, and stuff.
You have both kinds of exchanges.
You have more customization than any other social network than any before it.
This DS title is a serious title designed to exercise your brain — a gym for the mind. It isn’t a gme per se.
You collect daily stamps for playing each day, and a bigger stamp for playing a lot in a day.
You unlock new games based on play.
Points are tracked over time, and graphed for you.
Feedback works at different time scales: immediate feedback for doing a given game, and slow feedback telling you the age of your brain. You choose when you want to rate your brain age.
Brain Age is structured as a conversation, so exchanges are between you and the host character, the professor. He then comments on the game after a given game, too.
Customization is done through handwriting — sign in with your handwriting, makes it feel like it is your own. As you get levels, you can design custom stamps for your day.
The game adapts to you through dialogue as well. It’s time-aware — it comments on the time of day. It knows the date, so it can comment on allergy season. It tracks usage, so it can say it missed you for four days. It knows the day of the week, so it asks what you had for dinner last Tuesday. It asked last Tuesday and remembered it.
All cheap tricks, but very effective.
All of this creates an illusion that the character on the screen is aware o fyou. For more on this, visit Jellyvision.com, because You Don’t Know Jack is a mastepiece of this sort of customization.
Brain Age is the start of a whole new trend in software. There may be a flood of games that go after your mind rather than your body. You’ll hear about e Games for Health initiate at this conference, Popcap is sponsoring some of it.
Slides will be posted at Shufflebrain.
Anyone wanna look up links for all the above, and toss ’em in the comments?