Summary of my Playful IAs argument

I thought I’d post a short sum­ma­ry of the argu­ment I made in my Euro IA Sum­mit 2007 talk, for those who weren’t there and/or are too lazy to actu­al­ly go through the notes in the slides. The pre­sen­ta­tion is basi­cal­ly bro­ken up into three parts:

  1. Future web envi­ron­ments are becom­ing so com­plex, they start to show emer­gent prop­er­ties. In this con­text a lot of tra­di­tion­al IA prac­tice doesn’t make sense any­more. Instead of direct­ly design­ing an infor­ma­tion space, you’re bet­ter off design­ing the rules that under­ly the gen­er­a­tive con­struc­tion of such spaces. In oth­er words, IA is becom­ing a sec­ond order design prob­lem.
  2. IAs tend to argue for the val­ue of their designs based sole­ly on how well they sup­port users in achiev­ing their end goals. I pro­pose sup­port­ing expe­ri­ence goals is just as impor­tant. From there I try to make the case that any pow­er­ful expe­ri­ence is a play­ful one, where the user’s fun fol­lows from the feel­ing that he or she is learn­ing new stuff, is kick­ing ass, is in flow.
  3. Game design is not black mag­ic (any­more). In recent years a lot has become under­stood about how games work. They are built up out of game mechan­ics that each fol­low a pat­tern of action, sim­u­la­tion, feed­back and mod­el­ling. Design­ing play­ful IAs means tak­ing care that you encour­age dis­cov­ery, sup­port explo­ration and pro­vide feed­back on mas­tery.

Get the the slides, and a list of sources for the talk in this ear­li­er post.

Playful IAs — slides for my Euro IA Summit 2007 talk

After a con­sid­er­able amount of fid­dling with SlideShare I’ve final­ly man­aged to upload a ver­sion of the slides that go with my Play­ful IAs pre­sen­ta­tion. This more or less as I pre­sent­ed it at the Euro IA Sum­mit 2007 and includes an approx­i­mate tran­script of my talk. I hope to get an audio/video record­ing of most of it in the near future as well. When I do I’ll update this page.

Update: I’ve post­ed a short sum­ma­ry of the cen­tral argu­ment of my talk.

Down­load a ver­sion includ­ing an approx­i­mate tran­script (14,5 MB).

I had some great reac­tions to this talk and I want to thank all the peo­ple who engaged with me in dis­cus­sions after­wards. It’s giv­en me a good pic­ture of what areas I should devel­op fur­ther in future sub­se­quent talks. I’m also pleas­ant­ly sur­prised to see that con­trary to what some peo­ple think, the IA com­mu­ni­ty (the Euro­pean one at least) is very much open to new ideas. That’s real­ly nice to expe­ri­ence first­hand.

A lot of peo­ple asked for a list of books and oth­er good sources on the top­ics I cov­ered. Here’s an incom­plete list of stuff I’ve used at some stage to inform my think­ing:

If that doesn’t keep you busy for a while, you could always have a dig through my del.icio.us links. There’s plen­ty of good stuff there. Of course of if you ever find any­thing you think would be of inter­est to me, do let me know. Just tag it for:kaeru.

Mirroring mental models — games modelling players

Will Wright demoing Spore at TED 2007

Today I sent in the slides of my Euro IA Sum­mit pre­sen­ta­tion for the pro­ceed­ings. The rough out­line of my talk is done, the most impor­tant thing now is to find the prop­er exam­ples to illus­trate all the fuzzy the­o­ret­i­cal think­ing. That means (at least for me) doing a lot of Flickr pho­to search­es. This time I’ll also be exper­i­ment­ing with using some short video-clips. Games are bet­ter seen in motion after all (and best expe­ri­enced through play of course). Chron­i­cling my think­ing on the sub­ject of play­ful IAs on this blog has been very help­ful in organ­is­ing my thoughts by the way, I’ll def­i­nite­ly try it again the next time I need to do a talk.

On mental models

One idea I man­aged to squeeze into the pre­sen­ta­tion in addi­tion to the stuff I’ve been blog­ging about so far is about men­tal mod­els. I think it was Ben Cer­ve­ny who men­tioned in his Reboot 7.0 talk (MP3) that some of the plea­sure of play­ing games is derived from the grad­ual men­tal mod­el build­ing a play­er goes through. The play­er uses the visu­al lay­er of a game to learn about the under­ly­ing struc­tures. When a play­er mas­ters a game, the visu­al lay­er more or less fades away and becomes a sym­bol­ic land­scape through which he manip­u­lates a far rich­er mod­el of the game in his mind.

From a UX per­spec­tive because usu­al­ly when design­ing web sites and apps we try to adhere to exist­ing men­tal mod­els as much as pos­si­ble to pre­vent con­fu­sion and frus­tra­tion. This is a very valid approach of course. How­ev­er, regard­less of how well done the UX design, there will always be some men­tal mod­el­ling on the user’s part. Best make this as engag­ing as pos­si­ble I guess. This, again, is where games come in.

Will Wright acknowl­edges the fact that play­ers build mod­els of a game but he pro­pos­es to take it one step fur­ther. In an old(ish) talk at Accel­er­at­ing Change 2004 he pro­posed the idea that a game can con­struct a mod­el of the play­er as well. Par­al­lels with online rec­om­men­da­tion engines are appar­ent here. As Wright points out, in games (as in web envi­ron­ments) every­thing can be mea­sured. This way, the expe­ri­ence can be tai­lored to a player/user. He’s apply­ing this prin­ci­ple in the upcom­ing Spore, where game con­tent (cre­at­ed by oth­er play­ers) is dynam­i­cal­ly includ­ed based on inferred play­er pref­er­ences.

It can be argued that cer­tain web pro­fes­sion­als are way ahead of the games indus­try in this field. Per­haps there are some inter­est­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for col­lab­o­ra­tion or career moves here?

Goodbye NL, hello DK

Welcome indeed!

Less than a week from now I’ll exchange the love­ly Nether­lands for the equal­ly love­ly Den­mark. I’m tak­ing what you could call a work­ing sab­bat­i­cal. I’ll be free­lanc­ing from Copen­hagen and have (pret­ty excit­ing) work lined up for the first three months. If you have a gig in social soft­ware, mobile or gam­ing and want to work with me from Octo­ber onwards, get in touch.

Besides Copen­hagen, you might be able to grab a hold of me in Brighton, where I’ll be attend­ing dCon­struct 2007 or Barcelona, where I’ll be speak­ing for the 3rd Euro IA Sum­mit. Per­haps I’ll see you on the road?