This is a transcript of my presentation at The Web and Beyond 2008: Mobility in Amsterdam on 22 May. Since the majority of paying attendees were local I presented in Dutch. However, English appears to be the lingua franca of the internet, so here I offer a translation. I have uploaded the slides to SlideShare and hope to be able to share a video recording of the whole thing soon.
In 1966 a number of members of Provo took to the streets of Amsterdam carrying blank banners. Provo was a nonviolent anarchist movement. They primarily occupied themselves with provoking the authorities in a “ludic” manner. Nothing was written on their banners because the mayor of Amsterdam had banned the slogans “freedom of speech”, “democracy” and “right to demonstrate”. Regardless, the members were arrested by police, showing that the authorities did not respect their right to demonstrate.1
Good afternoon everyone, my name is Kars Alfrink, I’m a freelance interaction designer. Today I’d like to talk about play in public space. I believe that with the arrival of ubiquitous computing in the city new forms of play will be made possible. The technologies we shape will be used for play wether we want to or not. As William Gibson writes in Burning Chrome:
“…the street finds its own uses for things”
For example: Skateboarding as we now know it — with its emphasis on aerial acrobatics — started in empty pools like this one. That was done without permission, of course…
Only later half-pipes, ramps, verts (which by the way is derived from ‘vertical’) and skateparks arrived — areas where skateboarding is tolerated. Skateboarding would not be what it is today without those first few empty pools.2
This is a rough transcript of my lecture at GDC Mobile 2008. In short: I first briefly introduce the concept of experience design and systems and then show how this influences my views of mobile casual games. From there I discuss the relation of casual games with the trend Generation C. Wrapping up, I give an overview of some social design frameworks for the web that are equally applicable to mobile social gaming. As a bonus I give some thoughts on mobile game systems mobile metagames. The talk is illustrated throughout with a case study of Playyoo—a mobile games community I helped design.
I’ve included a slightly adjusted version of the original slides—several screenshot sequences of Playyoo have been taken out for file size reasons.
If you absolutely must have audio, I’m told you will be able to purchase (!) a recording from GDC Radio sometime soon.
I’d like to thank everyone who came up to me afterwards for conversation. I appreciate the feedback I got from you.
Several aspects of Playyoo that I use as examples (such as the game stream) were already in place before I was contracted. Credits for many design aspects of Playyoo go to David Mantripp, Playyoo’s chief architect.
And finally, the views expressed here are in many ways an amalgamation of work by others. Where possible I’ve given credit in the talk and otherwise linked to related resources.
That’s all the notes and disclaimers out of the way, read on for the juice (but be warned, this is pretty long).
First of all my best wishes to you for 2008. It’s been a bit quiet around here lately—the last proper post was published December 19. Shame on me. The usual apologies apply: I’ve been busy doing work, but also spend some time catching up with friends and family in the Netherlands around the holidays.
I was considering doing the traditional look back at 2007 and perhaps post some resolutions for the coming year, but I won’t. 2007 has segued into 2008. Therefore I feel it’s best to just dive in and tell you what’s been occupying my mind lately.
How exactly do the fields of game design and interaction design relate? I’ve found myself straddling the line between the two more and more often. And what I’ve been wondering: Can game design be considered a specialised sub-discipline of interaction design, or are the two equals with some overlap? (Or can interaction design perhaps even be considered part of game design?)
Here’s a diagram of how I tend to think of the relationship between the two fields:
Seen this way, interaction design and game design each have their own body of knowledge with some overlap. From this perspective you could consider my work to be brokering of some sort—passing information back and forth between the two. I tend to place myself in the interaction design circle, making the occasional foray into game design territory and bringing back interesting stuff I find.
But there’s at least one other way of looking at these two fields:
I was trained to be an interaction designer. But part of the curriculum consisted of game design. Nowadays interaction design’s emphasis on efficiency naturally makes it irreconcilable with game design. At the Utrecht School of Arts, these two were not seen as being at odds with each other. You can consider this a gross oversight, or alternatively as proof of a far-reaching vision. Whatever.
In any case, it can be argued that (digital) game design is simply a very specialised sub-discipline of interaction design. This is not to say it is in any way less valuable than ‘regular’ interaction design. However, it might help people in both fields to advance their practice if they look at each other this way. Which is more or less a summary of what I’ve been arguing ever since I went freelance last year.
The problem is of course that in reality the two fields—or to be more exact the two communities of practice—are very much separate from each other. I’ve been trying to make some change there, in my own little way.
On the other hand this might just be me trying to justify my interest in game design as an interaction designer…
But perhaps there’s something more than just professional guilt at play here. I’m not sure yet. Some observations that might support one or the other view:
Although their definition of games is very exact, Salen & Zimmerman’s definition of play is broader: “Play is free movement within a more rigid structure.” Isn’t that an apt description of what people do with anything interactive?
The Interaction Design Association defines interaction design on their site and says it concerns: “the structure and behavior of interactive products and services”. Surely that includes digital games?
I don’t have the book with me at the moment, but I seem to remember Koster mention something about game design ultimately being about putting people in touch with each other. Sounds like interaction design to me.
In any case, as long as I need 400+ words to explain why I want to do both interaction design and game design, I’ll be in trouble. Can you boil it down for me?