Adventure into Webland


The internet is a real place, but you’ve always suspected that right? No intriciate web of such imagination and creative energy could ever exist solely in the bits and bytes of code. Somewhere it warps from the layers of sites we create as portals into a land of fields and rivers, roads and castles. I think there may even be some sewers.

This is my story, my journey through this wide and wondrous place I call, Webland.

And this month. I’ll be wondering through Webland on another A to Z, as part of…

User vs Player experiences


I’ve been using the term user and player interchangeably in my A to Z of gamification series. But now we’re finally at U, let’s take a look at the differences between the user and player experience.

From Nicole Lazzaro’s chapter in the book “Game Usability“, here are the 7 differences she draws out between user experience (UX) and player experience (PX) goals and characteristics.

user vs player experience

Sebastian Deterding, User Experience Designer & Researcher depicts in his presentation on What UX can (and cannot) learn from games, an inherent conflict at the heart of the design of a user vs player experience.

User Player Conflict of Interest

Source: Slideshare “Just Add Points”

The whole point of games is to create intense emotions, and to prolong their experience as much as possible. By contrast, productivity software is all about getting your work done as efficiently and quickly as possible. How you feel is at best a secondary consideration.

Or if there is an emotional focus in user experience, it prioritises the avoidance of ‘frustration’ or even ‘anger’ in the user through poor design getting in the way of them achieving their goal. In contrast a ‘fun’ game experience, might deliberately seek to cause just enough frustration in the player for them to feel the sweet satisfaction when we finally do win.

Some argue that this isn’t a separate design discipline to user experience design at all. Usability design might be about removing the friction, but there has always been an element of psychology that looks to motivate the user to engage with a product or site more deeply. Fun is just one of those elements.

Source: UX Stack Exchange Question – Is “having fun” a quality of User Experience?

How fun, rewarding, or satisfying an experience is, can have a huge impact on the engagement and ultimate success of a site. Engaged users are far more likely to overlook friction and keep participating. Fun increases user motivation. (Reply from peteropeter)

Those in the field of gamification may not need to create new definitions or approaches to design experiences. Instead, I believe, the greater challenge ahead is how to marry up and deliver up an experience placed squarely between what a user might need to get the job done and what a player demands to make it worthwhile.

7 Principles for Testing in design


T is for Testing in my A to Z of Gamification.

Despite our attempts to define and understand the underlying drives that motivate and create fun game experiences. When it comes to creating any game, product or system for people, no amount of research and preparation is going to get you away from the need to test, test, test.

Playtesting of games uses many of the same guidelines that you will hear from other design processes from web apps to sanitation systems. With gamification bridging real world goals/problems and gamelike experiences, I’ve found it useful to draw testing practices from complimentary areas in design thinking, UX and game design.

I’ve boiled it down into 7 key principles:

#1 Test early and often; with no technology, with basic and iterated prototypes

#2 Finding unbiased testers, (eventually). Ideally testers are neither your most avid users/gamers, nor closest friends and family, but should be people who match your targeted user/player profile. The caveat being that finding the ideal test candidate should not stop you from testing early and often (Principles #1). Strangers in a pub, friends and colleagues are better than delaying testing.

#3 Observe everything; things that are said, the order things are said, body language, eye movements and even small utterances (a sigh, a hmmm). I like the approach that asks people to think out-loud as they interact with a site or app, but with a games, if its truly immersive, be aware this could actually prove distracting.

#4 Use quantitative data that can be used for future metrics; could be from using analytic tools or simply having survey questions with scaled answers.

#5 Dig deeper during interviews into the why behind statements, but be careful to…

#6 Minimise the affect of your own biases; by dampening the urge to explain the design. It might be better to follow a pre-written script or even getting someone else to ask the questions, and you observe.

#7 Testing within context. By replicating or going into the range of best to worse case scenarios where the design will be used. In playful experiences, this can also mean recreating an environment where there is also a relaxed choice of when to play or walk away. If fun is what you’re testing for, you can’t force fun.

The Implications of Keeping Score


My S in my A to Z of Gamification is for ‘Points’. Hang on, wait…

O.k. The S is really for ‘Score’, but this will form a series of posts about 3 closely related areas under the banner of points in games. It differentiates between the points that are are for keeping scoring,  to experience points (XP) and the accumulation of points that are part of virtual economies.

Each of these, I hope to show, create different types of gameplay which can be used individually or in combination to create very different game experiences.

Let’s start with the act of scoring.

If winning isn’t everything, then why do they keep score

Vince Lombardi, Coach

Scoring points in a game is about creating a way to identify a winner, either as a single crowned victor or some relative ranking. I define scores, as points used in games to support competition and comparison.

Even when there isn’t another competitor you might be playing against, the concept of beating your own score is simply provoking the competitive streak with yourself. Whether its your latest high-score in a video game or your handicap in golf.

How about a golfing video game

When putting a score into a non-game context through gamification design it signals to people that some sort of comparison is being made between them and others, or their current state, which needs to be improved upon. So gamifying by adding a score to some scenarios where comparison or competition is frowned upon is going to result in bad gamification.

Imagine, for example giving your friends each a friendliness score – Artie gets 41, but Alice’s in the lead with 49. Guess she wins that better birthday present then. Or how about rating your partner’s performance in bed, 7/10 this week? Now, maybe we all do a bit of this in our heads in the delicate subtle art of managing our relationships, but stick a big or not so big score on it and this fundamentally changes our perception of the thing being scored.

As far fetched as these may seem, there are aspects of scoring creeping into our lives, including measuring the social aspects of our online lives. Platforms such as Klout, attempt to put a score on your influence and was recently purchased for $200M. Klout and platforms like it have created controversy for the way people react to being given a social score, some choosing to ‘game’ the system whilst others feeling an uneasiness that it ultimately turns our interactions seemingly ‘less human‘.

Here’s a great article that covers some of the challenges and implications of keeping score.

When online influence becomes something that can be quantified, boiled down to a two digit number like a Klout score, it inevitably turns into a double-edged sword.

The Verge, 8-Oct-2012 Your Klout Score must be greater than 35 to read this