January 13, 2023

Games, business, interfaces. Part 3: Experience design tools

Read parts 1, 2.

Allow taking a position

So we have achieved the involvement, we have people who have mastered the forms of interaction, freely act and are immersed into metaphor. Now, in order for the game to take place for them, they must have an opinion regarding what is happening. The player must look at themselves in a new way. In the game, this means that a reflection has occurred with them after an important event. In the product, this means that they have taken advantage of the value of the product and are aware of it.

For example, I bought trainers on AliExpress and feel like I'm a very thrifty dude and really saved money. Or I bought a reprint of a publication from Rideró that was sold out a long time ago, and I feel the joy of a collector. Or I published a book, and now I feel that I am a real author, my work has taken on a finished form. Each time this is a connection from action and awareness of oneself in a new quality. Quantum of life change.


Bring it to a climax

The climax is when a player goes through a significant upheaval, through a series of risky or unpleasant situations in order to reach a contrasting peak of overcoming oneself or a moment of maximum tension. For their personal scenario, this is the turning point that changes everything.

The climax does not happen to every player. If you have a game for 300 people, you can't provide that for everyone. Among other things, a person themselves must do a lot for this. In computer games, where there is much less freedom for the player and everything is ok with storytelling, the climax comes in more predictable places. But not always.

There is a rather stupid moment when the final boss comes out somewhere, for example, in Zelda. He is very strong, but by this time, you kill him almost effortlessly, it just takes a long time. Quite often, the experience with the final boss is not as vivid as with the third boss, for example. You don't experience the emotion that should be happening to you at this moment because you know that somewhere earlier in the game, it was much more difficult for you, and you spent a lot more energy, and for you, the climax was there. That is, the storyline is not the same as the experience you are going through. This is a problem.

From a product point of view, I know exactly when the climax happens at Rideró. This is when the first book is published and the author holds it in their hands, especially if this has not happened to them before. This is precisely the climax, because for the first time in their life the person goes through a very important personal experience for them, and they are very much involved in this situation. They invested a lot to make it happen, and now they have this orgasmic or cathartic moment. They are now human beings with a new capacity. The book has changed them a lot, and it is out now.

Unfortunately, not every business can afford the climax. It is difficult to achieve the cathartic moment when you buy something in a regular online store. You are happy when you open the package, but more often – not really. Simply because this is not your first purchase. Nothing "out of the ordinary" happened. There were no surprises – everything was predictably not bad; if the store was fine, of course. 

It can be done in another way, though. There is a book, "Delivering Happiness", about an entrepreneur named Tony Hsieh, who built a shoe store. It is about how to create such emotion in people in retail. Or, for example, the book by Seth Godin, "Free Prize Inside: The Next Big Marketing Idea" – about the same thing.

In e-commerce, the climax usually occurs when we have exceeded the expectations of the player. That is, we involved them into action, they invested themselves and then got something amazing in a good sense for themselves. They get shocked: "Could it really be so cool/extreme/non-trivial/ sincere/whatever?"

When I hear the words "created value", "the work that the product does", and so on, for me, it means "bringing the player to a climax."



That's it, the peak has passed. The masters said, "End of the game." Or the project ended. Or a client has received a service, and we need to make sure that this experience becomes their personal value. The player must understand what happened. Because in most cases, if this is not done, the person will simply pass by their experience and forget it.

Reflection is a magnifying glass that will make everything that happened to us before, big and meaningful, but very often, we just don't use it.

Here's how it works: players figure out what happened to them, receive feedback on their actions, give feedback to others. The goal is to understand what is happening and make sure that the useful and meaningful things that happen in the game are appropriated by the person.

Surely all of you as users have come across the net promoter score (NPS) survey. This is when you are asked how likely you are to recommend a product to other people (from 1 to 10 - I will never recommend it / I will definitely recommend it to everyone). Usually, it is done stupidly.

It is believed that NPS is conducted to understand how satisfied people are with the service. This is a rather controversial and pretty discredited metric because it is often used haphazardly. But if you do it correctly and insert it into the right place of communication, then its main meaning will be for the person to say to themselves how pleased they were with this experience.

For example, I use one food delivery service. Not that I run around and tell everyone about it, but if at the moment when I liked it you ask me about it and clarify how likely I will tell everyone about it, I will say – yes, very likely. After I say this, the likelihood that I will do so will greatly increase. Because I said it to myself.

To ask a question "What do you think?" is better than nothing. In order to answer it, a person must understand what will happen with this answer later. I will answer the question only if I understand who I am answering to and why I care about them. Another thing is if you ask me NOT at the moment when I am grateful – most likely it will make me angrier. Because "everything was not great already, and now they decided to bother me!"

Another important part is the collective reflection of our shared experience. For an applied game or for understanding the evolution of a team, it is especially important to have common mythology: an idea of ​​how the world is built, where the person belongs in this world, what to strive for, what is good and what is bad. After the world is built, the game is over, we need to look at these memories and in some form tell them to each other. I call this hallucination synchronization. It is after a significant event that we have a chance to become a team, to gain experience together. Then it becomes a shared experience and turns individuals into “us".

There is no reflection in most computer games.

Except for the rare individuals who treat the game more like an art than a business. Hideo Kojima is one example;  he wants the players to have an insight when something happens in the game. In other cases, a computer game often tries to say: “Dear friend, please sit and don't think. Here's the next round of the dopamine loop.”

There is also a reflection in computer sports, for example. There, a person plays in order to win, and the coach, relatively speaking, does the reflection for them. He or she analyzes how well they played StarCraft or some Counter-Strike so that they could play more successfully next time. This is done not by means of a platform, but by a social institution. Reflection arises when a person's experience outside the system acts as a value.

In computer games, there is also a similar reflection, for example, in the form of discussions on the Internet. But there, it just broke free and we’re not sure the creators wanted it at all. If reflection were built into a work of art, then it would be in the space created by the authors, and it would be subordinated to their goal. It's funny that in many ways Let's play performs the task of reflection – simply by being a secondary creative product in relation to the game.

Of course, there must be exceptions to the rule. If you think that I deny computer games built-in reflection, here's an example: the old-school civilization by Sid Meier. When you finish the game, they show you the statistics of everything you played. They give a chronology of all the events that happened to you, you can revise it. What I liked the most is that it makes you reflect on what happened just now. It lasts three minutes: you stare at this graph and do nothing else, but you understand what you did wrong and where the turning point was.

In general, reflection occurs at the moment when a person has time to think about what happened. They are given time and a reason. Therefore, throughout my life, I have had many ideas about transferring the metaphors of Civilization into our real life.

Part 4 coming soon.

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