Game player needs and designing architectures of participation

How do you cre­ate a cor­po­rate envi­ron­ment in which peo­ple share knowl­edge out of free will?1 This is a ques­tion my good friends of Wemind2 are work­ing to answer for their clients on a dai­ly basis.3 We’ve recent­ly decid­ed to col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly devel­op meth­ods use­ful for the design of a par­tic­i­pa­to­ry con­text in the work­place. Our idea is that since knowl­edge shar­ing is essen­tial­ly about peo­ple inter­act­ing in a con­text, we’ll apply inter­ac­tion design meth­ods to the prob­lem. Of course, some meth­ods will be more suit­ed to the prob­lem than oth­ers, and all will need to be made spe­cif­ic for them to real­ly work. That’s the chal­lenge.

Nat­u­ral­ly I will be look­ing for inspi­ra­tion in game design the­o­ry. This gives me a good rea­son to blog about the PENS mod­el. I read about this in an excel­lent Gama­su­tra arti­cle titled Rethink­ing Car­rots: A New Method For Mea­sur­ing What Play­ers Find Most Reward­ing and Moti­vat­ing About Your Game. The cre­ators of this mod­el4 want­ed to bet­ter under­stand what fun­da­men­tal­ly moti­vates game play­ers as well as come up with a prac­ti­cal play test­ing mod­el. What they’ve come up with is intrigu­ing: They’ve demon­strat­ed that to offer a fun expe­ri­ence, a game has to sat­is­fy cer­tain basic human psy­cho­log­i­cal needs: com­pe­tence, auton­o­my and relat­ed­ness.5

I urge any­one inter­est­ed in what makes games work their mag­ic to read this arti­cle. It’s real­ly enlight­en­ing. The cool thing about this mod­el is that it pro­vides a deep­er vocab­u­lary for talk­ing about games.6 In the article’s con­clu­sion the authors note the same, and point out that by using this vocab­u­lary we can move beyond cre­at­ing games that are ‘mere’ enter­tain­ment. They men­tion seri­ous games as an obvi­ous area of appli­ca­tion, I can think of many more (3C prod­ucts for instance). But I plan on apply­ing this under­stand­ing of game play­er needs to the design of archi­tec­tures of par­tic­i­pa­tion. Wish me luck.

  1. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, shar­ing knowl­edge in large organ­i­sa­tions is explic­it­ly reward­ed in some way. Arguably true knowl­edge can only be shared vol­un­tar­i­ly. []
  2. Who have been so kind to offer me some free office space, Wi-Fi and cof­fee since my arrival in Copen­hagen. []
  3. They are par­tic­u­lar­ly focused on the val­ue of social soft­ware in this equa­tion. []
  4. Scott Rig­by and Richard Ryan of Immer­syve []
  5. To nuance this, the amount to which a play­er expects each need to be sat­is­fied varies from game genre to genre. []
  6. Sim­i­lar to the work of Koster and of Salen & Zim­mer­man. []

Game mechanics in web apps

A while ago there was a dis­cus­sion on the IAI mem­bers list about game mechan­ics on web sites. Andrew Hin­ton point­ed to the Google Image Label­er and LinkedIn’s ‘pro­file com­plete­ness’ sta­tus bar and asked: “Can any­one else think of a use of a game mechan­ic like this to jump-start this kind of activ­i­ty?” (Where “this kind of activ­i­ty” is basi­cal­ly defined as some­thing peo­ple wouldn’t nor­mal­ly do for its own sake, like say tag­ging images.)

I was think­ing about this for a while the past week and seem to have end­ed up at the fol­low­ing:

Profile completeness status bar on LinkedIn

On LinkedIn, hav­ing a (more or less com­plete) pro­file pre­sum­ably serves some extrin­sic goal. I mean, by doing so you maybe hope you’ll land a new job more eas­i­ly. By slap­ping a sta­tus bar onto the pro­file that gives feed­back on its com­plete­ness, the assump­tion is that this will stim­u­late you to fill it out. In oth­er words, LinkedIn seems unsure about the pres­ence of extrin­sic moti­va­tions and is intro­duc­ing an intrin­sic one: get­ting a 100% ‘com­plete’ pro­file and as such mak­ing a game (in a very loose sense of the term) out of its pro­fes­sion­al net­work ser­vice. A good idea? I’m not sure…

Screenshot of Google Image Labeler

On Google Image Label­er, the start­ing point for its design was to come up with a way to have peo­ple add meta-data to images. Google actu­al­ly ‘bought’ the game (orig­i­nal­ly called The ESP Game) from CAPTCHA inven­tor Luis von Ahn, who before that did reCAPTCHA and after went on to cre­ate Peek­a­boom and Phetch. Any­way, in the case of the Image Label­er (con­trary to LinkedIn) there was no real extrin­sic goal to begin with so a game had to be cre­at­ed. Sim­ply hav­ing fun is the only rea­son peo­ple have when labelling images.

Note that Flickr for instance has found oth­er ways to get peo­ple to tag images. What hap­pened there is (I think) a very nice way of align­ing extrin­sic goals with intrin­sic (fun, game-like) ones.

Pure’ games by their very nature have only intrin­sic goals, they are arti­fi­cial and non-util­i­tar­i­an. When you con­sid­er intro­duc­ing game-like mechan­ics into your web site or appli­ca­tion (which pre­sum­ably serves some exter­nal pur­pose, like shar­ing pho­tos) think care­ful­ly about the extrin­sic moti­va­tions your users will have and come up with game-like intrin­sic ones that rein­force these.

Update: Alper fin­ished the LinkedIn pro­file com­plete­ness game and was dis­ap­point­ed to find there is no pot of gold at the end of the rain­bow, mir­ror­ing the expe­ri­ence many play­ers of real games have when fin­ish­ing a game.