Speaking, lots and lots of speaking

First, the bad news: I won’t be able to make it to Inter­ac­tion 08. Which sucks, because it looks like it’s going to be a won­der­ful con­fer­ence with a smart crowd attend­ing. I would have loved to meet up with friends there. And of course I was look­ing for­ward to shar­ing my ideas on play­ful prod­ucts.

There’s plen­ty of oth­er events in the pipeline for me though, both big and small. Here’s a run­down:

Next week on Tues­day 16 Jan­u­ary I’ll be fly­ing to Oslo on invi­ta­tion of Are Hal­land at Netlife Research. I’ll do a short pre­sen­ta­tion at the UXnet meet­up, focused on the appli­ca­tion of game design to UX for the web.

Short­ly after that, I’ll be par­tic­i­pat­ing in Bar­Cam­p­Copen­hagen. I’ll prob­a­bly do a ses­sion about my thoughts in mobile social gam­ing. Oth­er than that I’m look­ing for­ward to just hang­ing out with the Dan­ish geek crowd.

In Feb­ru­ary it’s time to cross the Atlantic to San Fran­cis­co for the Game Devel­op­ers Con­fer­ence. I’m speak­ing at GDC Mobile about design­ing casu­al gam­ing expe­ri­ences for Gen­er­a­tion C. I’m going to make good use of my com­pli­men­ta­ry all access pass. You’ll most like­ly find me play­ing weird stuff at the Inde­pen­dent Games Fes­ti­val.

One final engage­ment tak­ing place in June that I can already announce is From Busi­ness To But­tons, organ­ised by my friends at InUse. Here I’ll get a chance to talk about the stuff that I had planned for Inter­ac­tion 08: play, sto­ry­telling and com­plex sys­tems. Look­ing for­ward to it.

If you’re read­ing this, and hap­pen to be attend­ing any of these events. Do drop by and say hi. I’d love to meet and chat!

My GDC Mobile 2008 proposal: accepted!

Mobile gaming by Kokeshi on Flickr

It doesn’t say so on the site yet, but I am on the pro­gram for next year’s GDC Mobile.1 Yes­ter­day I got the email that my talk — titled Design­ing a Casu­al Social Gam­ing Expe­ri­ence for Gen­er­a­tion C — has been accept­ed. To be hon­est I was quite sur­prised. I work in the blur­ry over­lap of the inter­ac­tion design and game design fields, have no actu­al game titles under my belt and pro­posed a weird sub­ject to boot. Who in their right mind would invite me to speak? Of course I am also real­ly excit­ed about this. GDC is the pro­fes­sion­al event for the games indus­try so I’m hon­ored to be part of it.2

My talk will be close­ly relat­ed to the things I’ve been work­ing on for Playy­oo. I’ll dis­cuss how short-ses­sion mobile games and a web based meta-game can inter­con­nect to cre­ate a social game expe­ri­ence that allows dif­fer­ent lev­els of play­er engage­ment. I’ll look at the ways you can align your game design with the expec­ta­tions of Gen­er­a­tion C: cus­tomiza­tion & per­son­al­iza­tion, recom­bi­na­tion and con­nect­ed­ness. I might post the extend­ed abstract some­time in the future, for now I’m just won­der­ing: Who else is going to GDC? What would you like to see me dis­cuss?

Update: The con­fer­ence site has been updat­ed, here’s the descrip­tion of my ses­sion.

  1. Don’t be scared by the big Orc in the head­er of their site. []
  2. Now I just need to fig­ure out whether trav­el­ing to the US twice in one month is a fea­si­ble under­tak­ing. []

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!

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?

Slides and video of my Reboot 9.0 talk

So I’ve been busy upload­ing stuff. The slides to my Reboot 9.0 talk are up at SlideShare. I uploaded a video record­ed by Iskan­der with his N70 to Vimeo. Final­ly, since SlideShare still doesn’t import the notes that go with the slides in Pow­er­Point, I’ve also put up a big PDF (almost 50 MB). Please refer to the notes in the PDF for all the Flickr pho­to cred­its too.

Slides

Video

Mobile Social Play @ Reboot 9.0 from Kaeru on Vimeo

Notes

  • There’s a bit too much um-ing and ah-ing for my tastes. I need to do more prac­tice, prac­tice, prac­tice before these things!
  • This will be the last time I use Darth Vad­er as the open­ing slide, I promise.
  • It’s too bad I didn’t have more time to go into the exam­ples that go with the last part. Next time: less stage set­ting, more meat.
  • Still, I had fun. :-) Thanks again to Thomas for hav­ing me, and all the cool peo­ple at Reboot for going easy on me.

Reboot notes

It’s been qui­et here late­ly. Even the del.icio.us links have dried up. The rea­son: I have been fran­ti­cal­ly prepar­ing my talk for Reboot. It’s near­ing com­ple­tion, and I’m pret­ty sat­is­fied. Look­ing for­ward to deliv­er­ing it to the cool peo­ple in Copen­hagen.

Some notes:

  • My slot has been announced. It’s on thurs­day the 31st, start­ing 12:20 in ‘the box’ (inter­est­ing name for a room, hope­ful­ly it’s not too descrip­tive).
  • Nicole Simon has inter­viewed me as part of her pod­cast series for Reboot. It should be up any time now. Hear me bab­ble inco­her­ent­ly about why I think games & play are such inter­est­ing areas for design­ers. Update: the inter­view is now online!
  • Guy Dick­in­son has been so kind to invite me for his micro-pre­sen­ta­tion ses­sion. I’ll be in the one dur­ing the evening ‘hap­pen­ing’, so you can all drink and talk while look­ing at the pret­ty pic­tures in my slides.

It’s going to be an amaz­ing two days. See you all there!

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.

Mobile Social Play — my Reboot 9.0 proposal

Vadr

I’ve just sub­mit­ted my pro­pos­al for a talk at Reboot 9.0. It’s on the three areas I am most fas­ci­nat­ed with at the moment: mobile, social soft­ware and gaming/play. After attend­ing this great con­fer­ence twice it’d be real­ly cool to get the oppor­tu­ni­ty to present there.1

Take a look at it and let me know what you think2, I’d love to get some feed­back up-front so I can maybe work that in there. What do you want to know about this top­ic?

Curi­ous what this might be like? Take a look at the Pecha Kucha I deliv­ered on mobile gam­ing for a taste of what’s to come.

  1. If it doesn’t work out I can always turn it into a micro pre­sen­ta­tion.
  2. If you like it, vote it up!