Monthly Archives: March 2014

Game Design and Gamification

As we set out to design the next phase of Mightyverse development, we want to add elements of gameplay.  We believe that, for many people, learning to speak a language is intrinsically fun; however even for those people, it can also require tremendous discipline, which is not fun.  We asked ourselves… could we make a game that applies what we know from our research on effective language learning as well as what we hear from Mightyverse users to make it so all aspects of language learning are fun?

To get our whole team up to speed on the latest gamification ideas and best practices, we watched a series of videos.  For other software developers, our future team members, and our visitors who are just curious about what we’re up to, I’m posting the links and some notes.

Meaningful Play: Getting Gamification Right by Sebastian Deterding

“We are all game designers, at least we were in childhood”

– connect to personal goals and passions
– connect to a meaningful community of interest
– wrap in a visually supported story
– beware of social context meanings

“Fun is just another word for learning” —Raph Koster
“Fun is just another word for learning under optimal conditions
– Goal + rules create interesting challenges
– Provide clear goals: scaffolded, paced, varied
– Provide juicy feedback
– Bewared of gaming the system

“A sense of freedom, the ability to curiously explore opportunity”
– play is a voluntary activity (Remember Tom Sawyer?)
– Beware of curbing autonomy
– Beware of devaluing your product

Words of wisdom
Think design process not features.
Know your users: you are not your target audience.
Create a paper prototype of the rule system: play test, and iterate.
Provide a story with meaning, a rule system they can master, a free space they can play in.

Stephanie Morgan: “Gamification Sucks”

a great primer along with tips on what not to do

Cooperation and Engagement: What can board games teach us? by Matt Leacock

The talk is really only 32 minutes, so don’t be freaked out by the length on YouTube (Q&A was not particularly insightful from my perspective, so you could skip that part)

I enjoyed the talk. For me it was a great review of game design principals (which are mostly applicable to design in general), and neat to think about the analogy of board game design to software design. Also, it provides a great framework for thinking about how to prototype a software game as a physical game.

One key point that I hadn’t ever heard expressed so well was about the importance of having a clear mental model.

– Find a spark
– Keep it simple
– Keep it raw
– Find the Core Game
– Iterate, but have a clear goal.

– Make it accessible. Reduce Friction. “You can’t have a great game, if people can’t play it”
– Embody the players: :Make it feel like you are in the game.”
– “As simple as possible, but no simpler” — Einstein

What is fun?
– Accessibility + Usability != Fun
– Fun = Learning

Fun from games arises out of mastery. It arises out of comprehension. It is the act of solving puzzles that makes games fun. — Raph Koster, A Theory of Fun

There are different kinds of fun: interpersonal communication, teamwork

Design for Extensibility
Example Apples for Apples… leave opportunity for people to invent things outside of the game that augments the game or replaces parts of the game, new boards, new roles, new cards

Play test your game
When validating your game with real players…

Shut up and sit in the corner and watch. See if people who play your game are having fun and playing the way you expect, and are able to learn the rules easily.

– 1 hour of observation = countless hours of meandering refinement
– Find a core and extend outward
– Tirelessly iterate toward a measurable goal
– Observe your users
– Make it accessible

Give them enough for their brain to lock on to it, and then add complexity over time.