当提及通过富有吸引力的体验影响人们的行为时，影响游戏社群的新兴社交行为是在理论和实践中最为重要的方法。为吸引这个社区，我参加了Games for Change节日和研讨会。这个盛会是为那些想通过游戏来引发外界对某件事情关注的人而准备的。这些人通过自己的工作经历都了解到，参与富有吸引力的游戏是种改变人们思考和行动的强大方法，因而富有吸引力的用户体验也是种影响人们行为的强大方法。
我在讨论会上学到的一种方法是Grow-A-Game Cards，由Values at Play发明。卡片分为4个种类：挑战（社会问题）、游戏（游戏样例）、价值（人权）和动作。尽管卡片中有一套知道和建议行为，我们在讨论会中绘制了一个挑战和一个游戏卡片，然后集思广益构思游戏想法。我们绘制的是《Sustainability》和《Scrabble》。这种方法是我们在Adaptive Path中使用以构思游戏设计创意的方法。
趣味性的设计没有标准方法。根据我交谈过的每个游戏设计师的说法，你要的只是构建游戏原型并且看看它有多有趣。原型构建花费的时间越短，你就能够越快地重复修改富有吸引力的设计。我采访过的一名游戏开发者说道：“趣味性很难设计。你需要先做出些东西，然后不断改变直到其真正变得有趣。”游戏设计师Eric Zimmerman和Tracy Fullerton认为，游戏设计没有捷径，你所要做的就是不断迭代。
构建原型有许多资源的技巧（游戏邦注：比如Flash之类的数字化工具），但是实体原型这种方法却时常被人所忽略。这包括与一群人进行角色扮演，设置模拟游戏环境和通过对话以及动作来演示游戏。Games for Change盛会中最耀眼的版块便是Iron Chef式的竞争，三个游戏设计师团队领取任务设计游戏。观看这些团队执行想法的做法便能看到整个游戏设计过程。每个团队集思广益数分钟之后，便马上开始构建原型。有些团队让观众上台来扮演角色，有个团队让受众通过邮件发送游戏建议。重复的效果马上就显现出来了，团队会尝试某个想法，这个想法或许很乏味。然后他们就会添加或改变规则，想法就变得有趣一些。1小时过后，你会看到这些有趣的游戏机制转变成某些真正有趣的东西。回顾这个版块时，Ian Bogost解释称在游戏设计过程中，先期的几个重复行为会让游戏变得更加有趣。随后设计师认真地回顾整个游戏设计，包括需要进行交流的问题和信息。不断进行迭代，直到取得平衡。在设计富有吸引力的类游戏互动中，这种做法同样有效。
Designing Fun: Games Design Lessons for User Experience
As an interaction designer I’m sometimes asked to create interactions that influence people to change their day-to-day behavior in some way. Whether the topic is saving money, building community or learning a language, these design problems often include an additional challenge – make it compelling, make it fun, make it “game-like”. The idea is that when something is fun, people engage with the system in deeper and richer ways. Well-designed systems can use this engagement to influence people’s thinking and behavior.
So what, exactly, makes something motivating or compelling? How does one design fun? To find answers and techniques that address these challenges, I investigated the methods and philosophy of Game Design.
When it comes to influencing people’s behavior through engaging experiences, the emerging social impact game community is the foremost in both theory and practice. In order to engage with this community, I attended the Games for Change festival and workshop. It was an event for people who aim to make games that create awareness around an issue – social, political, global, environmental, anything. These were people who know from experience that engaging with a compelling game is a powerful way to change the way a person thinks and acts – the same way engaging with a compelling user experience is a powerful way to affect a person’s behavior.
Game Design Lessons for Compelling Interactions
The difference between designing a game and a game-like interaction is that the interaction should work as a piece of the whole. A game can be a stand-alone experience, but incorporating compelling interactions into a larger website or application is an exercise in balance. Based on my conversations with Game Designers and my experience as an Interaction Designer, these are the three important steps to creating a game-like interaction as part of your design.
1. Decide what piece of your system will work well as a game-like interaction
2. Brainstorm game mechanics
3. Prototype and iterate until it’s fun
Decide What Piece of your Design can be a Game
Many applications that we spend time using have game-like elements. These elements are rarely the main activity in the application, but they’re often the part with which people spend much of their time. Let’s take Facebook as an example. I go to Facebook to stay up-to-date with my friends’ lives and the site makes it easy for me to find the person I want, read their info, and see pictures of them. Where the site becomes compelling and fun is discovering all the activity and side-conversations in my News Feed. There’s an important distinction between my foremost, efficiency-oriented task and what I do after that. These two pieces work best as separate task flows. Efficiency and fun are opposing goals, but they can coexist well in a larger website or application.
Brainstorm Game Mechanics
Game mechanics are the basic design elements of a game. They’re the gears that are assembled together to create the complex working machine that we call a game. Some examples of game mechanics are the ability to navigate through 3D space, the ability to create and manipulate an avatar, or the ability to rotate and place a series of blocks descending from the top of the screen.
The starting place for understanding what makes something fun is your own experience. What games have you played that you love? I don’t know a single game designer who is not also an avid player of games. I also don’t know a single interaction designer who is not also an avid browser of interesting websites or services. Just as Interaction Designers collect interaction patterns (in a literal collection or not), Game Designers collect game mechanics. In both cases we analyze and deconstruct what we find.
An example: Pac-Man. The mechanics of this game include navigating 2D space, finite resources to collect, pursuit by enemies, navigation of a maze and items that change the rules of pursuit, with a time limit to their effect. Even a simple arcade game has a useful set of mechanics to reuse for your own designs. The Game Designers I spoke to found game mechanic inspiration in mathematical theory, evolutionary theory, science fiction, soccer strategy and internet memes.
One method that I learned about at the workshop is the Grow-A-Game Cards, developed by Values at Play. The cards come in four categories: Challenges (social issues), Games (examples of games), Values (human rights) and Verbs. While the cards come with a set of instructions and suggested activities, in our workshop we drew one Challenge card and one Game card, then brainstormed game ideas that attempted to bring awareness to the challenge. Our group drew Sustainability and Scrabble. Our brainstorming ranged from the mechanic of limited letters to using the board with its challenges of bonuses and placement. This sort of word mash-up technique is one we use at Adaptive Path to brainstorm design ideas by pairing interaction patterns together.
Building on proven mechanics is one way to design a system which is likely to be fun. Commercial games use this technique all the time – that’s how genres like 2D Side-Scroller or First Person Shooters have evolved. They’re essentially collections of game mechanics and conventions that have proven to be fun for many people.
Prototype and Iterate
There is no formula for designing fun. According to every game designer I talked to, you just have to prototype your game and see how fun it is. The sooner you get to something that works, the sooner you can iterate towards a compelling design. One game developer I interviewed said, “Fun is really hard to design. You make something, then you tweak it until you hit that sweet spot.” Game Designers Eric Zimmerman and Tracy Fullerton say that there is no secret method to game design; you just “iterate, iterate, iterate”.
There are many resources and tips for prototyping (especially with digital tools like Flash), but one method that’s sometimes overlooked is physical prototyping. This includes role-playing with a group of people, setting up a mock game environment and generally playing the game through dialogue and action. One of the most illuminating sessions at the Games for Change festival was an Iron Chef-style competition between three teams of game designers who each were given the task of designing a game from scratch right then and there. Watching the teams work through their ideas was a glimpse into the game design process. Each team brainstormed for a few minutes, then immediately started play-prototyping. Some teams brought audience members up to the stage to role-play, while one team asked the audience to send game directives via email. The effect of iteration was immediately noticeable; a team would try an idea, and it would be boring. Then they would add to or tweak the rules, and it would become a bit more interesting. By the end of the hour, you could see that there were seeds of some interesting game mechanics evolving into something that might actually be fun. To recap the session, Ian Bogost explained that in designing a game for change, the first few iterations help design what’s fun – the compelling part. Then the designer brings it back towards seriousness – the issue or message that needs to be communicated. The iterations swing back and forth until an effective balance is found. The same process is effective in designing a compelling, game-like interaction.
I hope these steps clarify the process of incorporating compelling, motivating and fun interactions within a larger system. There’s a wealth of existing research around designing fun and designing games.
For more thinking around the difference between gameplay and interaction, I suggest reading Jesper Juul and Marleigh Norton’s recent paper, “Easy to Use and Incredibly Difficult: On the Mythical Border between Interface and Gameplay”. (Source: Adaptive Path)