January 15, 2023

Games, business, interfaces. Part 5: Experience design tools

Read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4

Tool 3. The structure of motivation

 There are different classifications that tell why people play games. This is the one I use the most. It comes from live role-playing games.

The game gives the player four main joys. In the diagram, “Me” is the player, and next to them is what makes them happy. 


Me — Model

Munchkin plays more with a model of the world around them than with other players. In this game, they are interested in interacting with the model, not with other players. 

Munchkin appreciates the victory. They consider the winner to be the one who received more model awards. Expertise. Levels. Achievements. Have I got plenty of them? Good for me! It doesn’t matter if the victory was fair or unfair, or if they just got lucky, or they cheated. It is important that there is confirmation from the system that yes, well done! You are at the top! 

Therefore, the basis of Munchkin's gameplay is leveling up. The gameplay focuses on who is better and who is worse in terms of formal and plot features. 


Me – They

The opposite pole is the Politician, also a gamist. This is similar to gambling, but Politicians want to play not with a model, but with people. Formal confirmations that they did well are not very important for them. The pure type of the Politician, in general, does not care about rewards.

It is important for them that they have live human-to-human interaction. Or that they dominate over other players, and not over inanimate regulations. They appreciate that, despite the worst conditions, they got out of the deepest downfall and proved to all their friends who is the king of the hill here. Then they experience a victory.

If it's some kind of co-creation game, to make them feel like they are doing it with others, that it's their shared experience. 

A very common mutation when a person appreciates both of these joys: interaction with the model and with other players. Then their behavior depends on which part is stronger in them – the Munchkin or the Politician one.


Me – World

The second axis is vertical. It is different, not at all about excitement and competition. It's about atmosphere, immersion and authenticity.

The Reenactor interacts with the living created world. The authenticity of the exterior, interior, costume, small details and all that stuff is important to them so that they experience immersion in the atmosphere. 

The gameplay for the Reenactor is based on the fact that the player explores the world, stumbles upon the reconstruction of everyday life and takes a lot of it. The win is when everyone understands that that person is the queen of the ball, they are the most authentic, they are wearing the most beautiful dress, everyone looks at them and admires him. Well, or, if this is a zombie game, then they are the most terrible zombie, everyone takes pictures of them, and after the game, their photos are all over Facebook.

There is another payoff when the player has suddenly experienced some kind of target sensation. This is most similar to the strong emotions that we can experience while listening to music or looking at some kind of picture: goosebumps begin to run up our necks because something resonates with the atmosphere.


Me – New Me

The Mysticist discovers that they do not play the same role in this game as in ordinary life. Their behavior and motives are different from what they are used to. Their reactions are different. They are surprised that they, it turns out, are not only what they thought. They are completely different.

They appreciate that their role set is expanding. They find themselves in angles from which they have not yet looked. They are interested in an internal challenge – something that is difficult for them psychologically or according to the plot to experience on their own.

The main enemy of this person is themselves. This is a game of becoming a hero. To be interested in such a confrontation, you have to go beyond the boundaries of psychological comfort.

They have the VRIW gameplay (a very rich inner world). Such a person appreciates dramatic experiences. The surrounding reality is just a means that causes these experiences. They appreciate it whEach choice transforms them, often somewhat traumatically. They also like to experience trance states.

Their goal is catharsis, the culminating moment when they pass through purifying suffering.

If you look at all this from above, there are two axes. The game for the Munchkin and the Politician is translated as a Game – this is a game by the rules for the sake of winning and excitement.

And for the Reenactor and the Mysticist, the game is translated in more theatrical terms – a Spectacle. This is a game between immersing yourself in the world and becoming a hero. This interpretation is usually accepted in stories related to storytelling and the experience of all sorts of dramatic things. This is the case with any narrative art.

A Play is the third translation of the word "game". It is at the intersection. This is the freedom of a player who indulges, plays, proves themselves, makes a game out of it all.

This is the key moment: no matter what mechanics or directorial techniques the game is built on, no matter what joy it is built on – if there is no free play of the player, no play – there is no game.

Hence, by the way, a direct conclusion about the tasks for which it is worth using games – for those in which it is important for us that a person acts freely, of their own free will, not (only) according to instructions.


Applied games

In applied games, we usually work with the interaction of people with each other. In order for each of them to do something with themselves. Because only those who have changed something in themselves, voluntarily, take out useful effects from the game.

Artistic games

Art games influence all these joys, and a great game includes everything.


Sports are like applied games. In sports, they almost do nothing but interact with people.

The zone of proximal development

“The zone of proximal development defines functions that have not yet matured, but are in the process of maturation; functions that can be called not the fruits of development, but the buds of development, the flowers of development, that is, that which is only maturing” Lev Vygotsky, psychologist.

According to the definition of a famous psychologist Vygotsky, ZPD (the zone of proximal development) is the level of mastery of complexity in the zone of human interest. With regard to the game and voluntary action, this means that a person experiences a pleasure that they love to experience.  They master a form of interaction that promises them pleasure, bringing more joy. Or promises to master some new types of pleasure. It is clear that the more a person plays, the more types of pleasure they can generally notice. They do it in small steps. To make it difficult, but still achievable.


The learning curve

This learning curve applies to the design of any service. Many people think that the convenience of the interface comes down to the fact that the first steps in it should always be very smooth. So that the steps in the zone of proximal development are very small, and it is very easy to master them. It doesn't always have to be this way.

For example, interfaces for professional use do not have to be that way at all. They can have a much steeper uphill curve, which can be almost a vertical wall from the very beginning, but then show miracles of efficiency.

In general, the market is moving professional interfaces in this direction. For example, Figma has become much simpler and surpassed Photoshop in many aspects because it has a smoother learning curve.

Our task is to control the height of this step so that a person has time to go further and doesn't lose interest.

The problem is that these experiences need to be given to each player, and the pace of movement through this experience is different for everyone.


In the next, final part of the cycle about games, business, and interfaces, we will draw more obvious parallels with UX design and business and draw the most important conclusions about how to create something really valuable.

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