UX and the aesthetics of interactivity

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I’ve been try­ing to reg­u­lar­ly post some thoughts on the top­ic of play­ful IA here. Pre­vi­ous­ly I blogged about how games could be a use­ful frame for think­ing about com­plex algo­rith­mic archi­tec­tures. Last week I post­ed some thoughts on the appli­ca­tion of game mechan­ics in web apps. There, Rahul was kind enough to point me to the fas­ci­nat­ing blog of ‘Danc’ Daniel Cook, titled Lost Gar­den, where there is one post in par­tic­u­lar that res­onates with my own pre-occu­pa­tions late­ly.

In ‘Short thoughts on games and inter­ac­tion design’ (which hon­est­ly isn’t that short) Danc Cook looks at some of the ways game design tech­niques can be applied to the inter­ac­tion design of web apps. In sum­ma­ry, accord­ing to Danc Cook game design tech­niques allow you to:

  1. Cre­ate an engag­ing expe­ri­ence that goes beyond sim­ply com­plet­ing a task effi­cient­ly.
  2. Sup­port free and deep explo­ration and intro­duce and teach new inter­ac­tions that vio­late con­ven­tions.

Some things you shouldn’t bor­row from games with­out giv­ing it a lot of thought are:

  1. Spa­tial metaphors
  2. Visu­al themes

These are some of the things most peo­ple think of first as char­ac­ter­is­tic of games but real­ly, they are only sur­face, super­fi­cial, not deter­mi­nant of the actu­al inter­ac­tiv­i­ty of the sys­tem.

I think one of the great­est argu­ments for a deep­er under­stand­ing of games by inter­ac­tion design­ers, infor­ma­tion archi­tects and oth­er user expe­ri­ence spe­cial­ists is that they are the medi­um that is all about the aes­thet­ics of inter­ac­tiv­i­ty. It is true that they have no util­i­tar­i­an char­ac­ter, they aim to cre­ate a plea­sur­able expe­ri­ence through sys­tems of risks and rewards, restraints and free­doms, nest­ed feed­back loops and on and on. As a UX prac­ti­tion­er, it can nev­er hurt to have a deep appre­ci­a­tion of the aes­thet­ics of the medi­um you work in dai­ly (beyond sim­ply sup­port­ing user goals, or sell­ing prod­uct, or what­ev­er).

See me talk on mobile social play at Reboot 9.0

I got awe­some news the oth­er day: my pro­pos­al for a talk at Reboot 9.0 has been accept­ed. I’m very hon­oured (and a lit­tle ner­vous) to be pre­sent­ing at a con­fer­ence with so many smart atten­dees. Now to get my act togeth­er and cre­ate a kick-ass pre­sen­ta­tion.

If you have any­thing relat­ed to this (pret­ty broad) top­ic that you’d want me to address, please do leave a note in the com­ments.

One thing’s for sure: I’ll try to build upon what has gone before at pre­vi­ous Reboots, such as Ben Cerveny’s mind-blow­ing overview (MP3) of how play is essen­tial­ly becom­ing a new lan­guage for us to com­mu­ni­cate with and TL Taylor’s great talk on the dynam­ics of vir­tu­al worlds.

What I will be address­ing is still slight­ly unclear to me, but the direc­tion I’m head­ed is:

  1. Games can be social play, which means they can be used to forge and exper­i­ment with social rela­tions in a ‘safe’ way. This hap­pens whether you design for it or not, but can be nur­tured.
  2. When games go mobile, the bor­ders of the space and time in which a game is played are blurred. In this way, games bleed over into cul­ture in a grad­ual way.

Enough to chew on for one talk, I guess. Again, any ques­tions, com­ments and sug­ges­tions are more than wel­come. See you all at Reboot 9.0.