Helping users retell experiences

A frame from a Second Life machinima

I talked about the dif­fer­ence between emer­gent and embed­ded nar­ra­tive in games a while ago. I also intro­duced my Inter­ac­tion 08 talk in a pre­vi­ous post. I’d like to now fol­low up with some thoughts on the sto­ry­telling that hap­pens out­side of a user’s direct inter­ac­tion with a prod­uct or ser­vice — the sto­ry­telling she engages in when recount­ing the expe­ri­ence of use to oth­er peo­ple.

Obvi­ous­ly, sup­port­ing the retelling of expe­ri­ences is impor­tant. After all if you’re offer­ing a cool prod­uct or ser­vice, you want oth­ers to know about it. A pas­sion­ate user is prob­a­bly your best advo­cate. It only makes sense for you to cre­ate easy ways for her to share her expe­ri­ences with oth­ers. It can also deep­en a user’s own expe­ri­ence — mak­ing the prod­uct or ser­vice part of a sto­ry where­in she is kick­ing ass can cre­ate a pos­i­tive feed­back loop.

Games have picked up on this, of course. They’ve employed numer­ous ways for users to retell their play-ses­sions. In Rules of Play, Salen and Zim­mer­man list a num­ber of them:

  1. The replay — found in rac­ing games for instance — lit­er­al­ly replays the actions of the play­er after she com­pletes a track, stage or lev­el. Some­times this is done in ways that wouldn’t be prac­ti­cal in the game itself1 in all cas­es it is done in a way that fits the feel of the game, the expe­ri­ence the game aims for.
  2. Oth­er games take this one step fur­ther and allow play­ers to con­trol the view of the replay them­selves. They’ll also allow users to redis­trib­ute the record­ing of their actions. Doom did this, it was called the recam.
  3. A log­i­cal pro­gres­sion is found in the machin­i­ma phe­nom­e­non, where the play of a game takes a back-seat to the retelling of play, effec­tive­ly mak­ing the game a tool for per­son­al cre­ative expres­sion. A famous exam­ple are the many soap opera episodes pro­duced by play­ers of The Sims.
  4. Final­ly, with the advent of more embod­ied inter­ac­tions in gam­ing there’s an upsurge of online videos of game-play. Hav­ing an embod­ied inter­face makes it much eas­i­er for bystanders to ‘read’ what’s going on, effec­tive­ly open­ing the way for play to become like per­for­mance2.

How does this trans­late to the design of user expe­ri­ences in dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal prod­ucts? I think there are a few things that are impor­tant in the retelling of expe­ri­ences:

  • The pro­tag­o­nist is the user, not your prod­uct. Your prod­uct or ser­vice is the enabler for the user to look cool in a sto­ry.
  • The way in which you enable retelling should be well-inte­grat­ed with the expe­ri­ence you’re aim­ing for. The recam made sense for Doom because it allowed play­ers to boast about their achieve­ments.
  • You don’t have to cre­ate all the sto­ry­telling tools your­self. You should try to play nice with the stuff that’s already out there, such as pod-cast­ing ser­vices, video-blog­ging tools, sketch-cast­ing, pho­to-shar­ing etc.

Have good exam­ples of prod­ucts and ser­vices that help their users tell sto­ries about their expe­ri­ences? Let me know in the com­ments!

  1. For instance using dif­fer­ent cam­era angles, lens­es or fil­ters for a more dra­mat­ic look. []
  2. My favorite exam­ple being this video of a cou­ple of guys play­ing Gui­tar Hero. []

links for 2007-10-31

links for 2007-10-30

More than useful — outline of my Interaction 08 talk

Illustration from children's book

A while back I was hap­py to hear that my sub­mis­sion for Inter­ac­tion 08 is accept­ed. This will be the first con­fer­ence organ­ised by the IxDA. Obvi­ous­ly I’m proud to be part of that. I’ll prob­a­bly be build­ing my talk a post at a time on this blog, more or less like I did with the one for the Euro IA Sum­mit of this year. If you’re won­der­ing wether it’ll be worth fol­low­ing along, let me out­line the argu­ment I made in my sub­mis­sion:

There’s a gen­er­a­tion of ‘users’ expect­ing their dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal prod­ucts to be cus­tomiz­able, per­son­al­ize-able and re-com­bin­able. These users explore the poten­tial of these 3C prod­ucts through play. This is why I think it’s worth­while for inter­ac­tion design­er to get a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how to design for open-end­ed play. Obvi­ous­ly, it makes sense to do some shop­ping around in the the­o­ries of our col­leagues in game design. Why should design­ers both­er? Play­ful prod­ucts have deeply engaged users that can’t stop telling sto­ries about their expe­ri­ences with them.

The focus of this talk is firm­ly on design­ing sto­ries that emerge through play and enabling the retelling of those play expe­ri­ences.

Like I said, I’ll dive deep­er into these top­ics in the com­ing peri­od. If you have any views of your own on this — or use­ful resources that you think I should check out — do let me know.

Update: Today the full con­fer­ence pro­gram was announced and my name is actu­al­ly on there. The pro­gram looks real­ly cool, and I’m real­ly hap­py to see some talks relat­ed to mine in there as well. See you in Savan­nah!

links for 2007-10-27

links for 2007-10-26

links for 2007-10-23

links for 2007-10-21