Adventure into Webland

Sticky

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…

7 Principles for Testing in design

Standard

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

Standard

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

The Intrinsic and Extrinsic Reward of rescuing the princess

Standard

The R in my A to Z of Gamification, looks at the the relationship between rewards and our intrinsic or extrinsic motivations to take on any challenge.

The lens of games is one of the most interesting to consider this through because by its definition games place unnecessary obstacles in the way of a voluntary goal. The opposite of what most of us try to achieve in our daily lives.

Creating an enjoyable game and increasing the commitment the player has to its outcomes isn’t about simply up-ing what’s at stake. Consider the changing story presented by these different presentations of a familiar hero’s quest.

The QuestThe thoughts of one Average JoeyThe Motivation behind accepting
The king’s edict calls on all brave heroes to retrieve the golden goose and be richly rewarded. The scroll is pinned to the door of the inn and we laugh at it with the farmers, clerks and shop keepers."We’re not heroes! Who does this king think he is, that I would risk my life. I think I’d rather stay at home, thanks."Amotivation, feeling of incompetence and no intention of doing it. Quest NOT accepted
But what if ... The king orders all able-adventurers to go forth or be thrown in prison. Return successfully and you shall have the princess’ or prince’s (if you prefer) hand in marriage and inherit the kingdom."Inheriting the kingdom sounds pretty awesome and better than getting thrown in jail. That king is a real bastard though."Extrinsic Motivation: External Regulation – Compliance through rewards and punishment
…The town’s people all step forward one-by-one. They gather up their backpacks and blunted swords. Their faces grim and resolute to face what is ahead. I take down my father’s old adventuring sword, can I follow in his footsteps?"Only the cowards would run and hide now. How can I not go? I must."Extrinsic Motivation: Introjected Regulation, somewhat externally driven. Linked to pride, shame or guilt
…The princess comes to wish the departing adventurers luck on their journey. She wipes a tear from her eye. She has no desire to see so many of us go and never return. I grip the hilt of my father’s sword, feeling the ridges of where his hand gripped."To free the princess and this land from the tyranny of the king, I must go."Extrinsic Motivation: Identified Regulation, but somewhat internal driven from valuing the goal or activity
…The night before we leave, I dream of my father. We sit in the firelight of a winter’s night as he sharpens his sword. He tells me of the sweet song the golden goose sings, a song for passing sailors to tempt them to her island in the sea. He teaches me this song and swears we will bring her back."This is my destiny! My father’s last adventure and my first one. I will bring the goose back and be the hero my father said I could be."Extrinsic Motivation: Integrated Regulation, internally driven by the goal being integrated with own values and needs

The external reward of the quest remains the same throughout the above example; riches, marriage or the kingdom. However, the motivation that is driving the player varies massively as illustrated by the points depicted along a self-determination continuum. These points move from Amotivation through to four different types of Extrinsic Motivation, which come from psychology’s Self Determination Theory.

The internal thoughts of the Average Joey in this story show that some extrinsic motivation can still be driven by internal needs and values. It is a common misunderstanding to think that anything internally driven must be intrinsic.

sdt-continuum

For the quest to be intrinsically motivated, the motivation would need to not only be internally driven, but come from the interest and inherent enjoyment of the activity. The goal leads us to a feeling of being ourselves without expectation of reward, so even had there been no princess, no goose, no kingdom.

Here therefore is the last part of the story:

…I board the ship the next day, the dream still fresh in my head. I lick my lips to the taste of the sea as it sails into those open waters. The slash of a sword across a monster guarding some secret fills me with a thrill never felt before. I pour over the maps and revel in the shouts of joy as we trace the story of another treasure to be found, to the ends of the world.