Games, business, interfaces. Part 2: Experience design tools
This article is the second part in a series about experience design in understanding wider than in interfaces, from our CEO Alexey Kulakov. It's about tools that can be used to design interactions.
The entire series of articles consists of three parts:
the first part – what a game is, what types of games exist and what are their main features – you can read it here,
the second – this – about the tools from games that can be used when designing interactions,
the third will be about the parallel between games, UX design and business.
Interaction design tools
Today we will talk about three tools that I highlight:
the structure of the game,
the structure of the role,
the types of motivation.
Let's talk about each of them in more detail.
Tool 1. The structure of the game
This is the structure of any interactive activity in general. Interactive is when:
there is an intensive interaction between the parties in the activity,
it represents a coherent concept
and is aimed at ensuring that something valuable, useful or meaningful happens to people.
The structure rests on this triad: the opening event, the exploring (the action itself), and the closing event. In our slang, this is called problematization, action and reflection.
I borrowed the picture with the "candy" scheme from the book “Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers ”. By the way, it is a very useful book. If you're looking for some simple quasi-gaming business forms, this is one of the best sources. The book will help you understand how to use small games for work situations.
We have many conclusions, similar to those in this book, which we made ourselves, but in a slightly different way. But we didn't put them in the book, as the authors did. So, the scheme itself is from the book, and the triad is our own.
Immerse in the problem
Each game is dedicated to some kind of a problem. It is not necessarily given in terms of the problem. It's just that there is what we consider important in this game, what and with what mood we propose to play, why we do it, etc.
This can be an event that is already happening in the game or happened before the game. We can tell this to the players directly, or we can put them through the questionnaire. Or we can just devote the first third of the game to this.
Problematization is needed in order for a person to understand: this is the focus of attention that I am offered to play about. Here are the goals I am asked to choose. These are the rules I must accept and with which I must agree. This is the form in which this game generally proceeds so that it can be tried.
Help understand the forms of the game
To get directly into the world of the game and feel immersed in it, the player needs to let themselves be captured. And to become a part of this world, which receives some benefit from what is happening and is useful to others.
A person must understand in advance whether he or she is ready for this. Therefore, it is advisable to let them try it. In modern games, we do this mainly through workshops. Not because we explain the rules for a long time, but because we allow players to try them.
Make sure that goals and rules are accepted
In business and in the product, as in the game, there is an artificial reality that is created by the joint ideas and coordinated actions of all participants. The norm about accepting the rules exists because if a person begins to ignore the rules, they destroy the reality around them. After all, this reality works only insofar as these rules and conventions are shared and followed by everyone.
Accepting the rules in order for everyone to get some value from the game is a contract between the game organiser and the player, or between the service owner and the user, or between the manager and the employee. It's all the same. The owner of the game space –the game master or the owner of the service/business – says something like this:
“Dear friend, if you violate the contract, you will go to hell. Remember this".
Usually, in a role-playing community, this is a rather mild norm. The person gets several warning shots into the air. The main tool here is not normative but cultural, and, by the way, in other cases too.
For example, an author comes to Rideró to publish their book. They have some agreements with us. If they start publishing something else instead of a book, for example, Wikipedia or try to abuse our service, this doesn't fit into the behaviour that we offer them. Our space is not intended for this. The offer, which is signed by the author, just sets the boundaries of what they can do in the service without doing badly to other "players".
What is more important: goals or rules?
You may have more or less rigid ways of creating the reality of the game. It is important that they are understood in the same way by all participants. So that when one makes the assumption that we behave in this way, observe such conventions or work according to such explicit rules, they could be sure that all other participants mean the same and will behave accordingly.
Why is it important in business? Because in this way we greatly save efforts on communication, well, we just directly raise the efficiency – we jointly produce more useful work per unit of time.
If we disagree about what rules we play and what defaults we have, this leads to a completely opposite effect, which I call the "tax on thinking." This, firstly, makes everything much, much slower. And the quality of the result decreases. It also makes the space unsafe and kills trust. And the speed of thinking and trust is the foundation of what makes a relationship productive while creating something useful.
It is not very important whether you are acting according to explicit rules or by default, it is important that you all have a common understanding of this.
I have an example, it is not about games, but about an experience in a close community – fencing. At the same time, this story allows me to look at another interpretation of the word "game" – sport. So, there is such a sport – Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA). There, the Russians are world champions in almost all disciplines.
At the same time, HEMA has rules, and there is also the spirit of historical sources. And it often happens that they come into conflict. For example, some of the champions of Russia are simply efficient in fencing – they only care about winning within the framework of the rules. From time to time, they are presented with a claim that the style of striking they use is not described in the historical codes, although it doesn't break the rules. Who is right is not very clear because the authors of the space need to declare why they are doing it and what comes first.
What comes first – style, goal, or rules – is the position of the owner of the space.
What's important for business here is that rules are a tougher and more reliable tool. They can be formally analysed, and we can explicitly determine who is right within them. Conventions and style are soft tools and are inseparable from subjective interpretation. Rules are great for managing competitor relationships or any other games around resources. Agreements do a much better job of creating and translating cultural norms, they are more flexible and less restricting the freedom of participants.
It's the same story in business. At JetStyle, we don't have many rules, and if you follow only them, you can make a lot of mistakes. We try to make it clear to everyone why we are doing this. For JetStyle, goals are more important than rules, but there are other organisations.
Most people who make businesses, products, or games concentrate on actions. In a game, it is the gameplay, in a product, it is service, and in business, it is the process (what we do every day). This is not the most important but the most specific (for the subject area) part.
Allow being free
In the game, this is the main task – to ensure that the player understands the boundaries within which they are interested in exercising freedom, and begins to use it. To do this, the player must understand in which zone of the game they can exercise their freedom and where this freedom is limited by rules or other means. They must understand what forms of interaction this environment generally supports: what and how can be done here, what conventions are there, what forms of activity the world is ready to answer, and what are outside the focus of the game. And they must also understand what the organisers and other participants in the game expect from them. What is it all about? What does it mean "to be a good player" in this game?
Set the form of action
If we give the players total freedom and say: “Well, do what you want, whatever your imagination is capable of,” they come up with something completely free. And the problem immediately arises. No one else has any idea how to respond to this, how the game world should react to this, how this is consistent with the rest of the concept. Every action hangs in the air. This is a problem for a lot of UGC services that give users too much freedom.
When we just say, “Well guys, this is a forum or this is a chat. Do what you want,” – and we don't set up the topic of the conversation and the formats of statements, we don't indicate what is good and what is bad here – in most cases, this idea dies. Because only the technical possibility of interaction is not enough. We also need a motive, style, occasion, example, and a lot of other "soft" things.
The game implies that any meaningful action of the players should be the focus of the concept. The convention with the gaming world they enter is that meaningful actions will receive meaningful responses. If the player doesn't receive a meaningful response from the game, then it makes no sense for them to strain for the sake of action. And they stop making meaningful efforts. And the flywheel doesn't spin.
In other words, by giving the players freedom, you need to show them the framework of the interaction format – the restrictions on their freedom, which lead to the fact that the game will give an interesting response to their actions.
Immerse into metaphor
Games, products and businesses have a structure of activity, and there is also a perspective from which we look at this structure. A metaphor. Sometimes it is obvious: for example, we are playing a Tolkien game or a Battle Royale game – it doesn't matter. There is the setting and the meaning of what is happening in the game. The meaning of the interactions the players engage in. We propose to look at them through the plot frame and endow the actions with symbols. Sometimes the metaphor is less explicit. For example, in checkers, it would seem there is no setting.
When designing any business or product, there is a level of metaphor whether we like it or not. We don't realise it every time therefore, it happens that we don't design it. But it will still be found by the participants intuitively and will seriously affect what is happening.
You can look at the organisation in different ways: like a jungle, where it's every man for himself, like an engine, where all the cogs are oiled, like an army, where everyone is subordinated to protection from the enemy, like a family, where everyone loves each other, like a temple where there is something sacred. All these frameworks have their own logic and style of interaction, their strengths and weaknesses, while the regulations behind them may be the same.
And here is an example from designing a service. One of our favourite clients has a project – a school of intelligence development for children and adults. It is quite obvious that we are working here with a classroom metaphor. Why? Because it is familiar to the participants: teachers, students, parents.
When we came up with a video messenger for them, we could look at it from some other angles. We could say, "This is a theatre, there is an actor, and everyone else is looking at them and applauding." Webinar platforms are usually implemented in this metaphor. Or we could say, "This is a sport, this is where we compete, there are winners and losers." Or: "This is a beauty contest, there is respect and a podium, and you need to be in the spotlight." But we say, "This is a small classroom in a private school, there is a teacher, and this teacher is giving feedback to the students." And this decision directly affects the scenarios of behaviour, product strategy and, through it, the business and software architecture.
And here is how the metaphor worked at different stages in the development of Rideró. At first, we thought Rideró was a text editor. The place where a person works on a book. Then we decided against it. We changed the perspective and chose a metaphor – crossing the dam: there is a large number of authors who want and cannot start selling books, something stops them, and we destroy the obstacles between them and the reader. We make the movement of the book free. Our product has been built around this idea for a long time.
Engage in action
This is a tricky story because people may not have any experience of playing at all, or of this particular game, or experience of using a service. Or it is a newcomer who has come to the company and does not yet understand how everything works here. They will likely be quite inert – they will sit on their ass and wait for someone to turn to them, and they will react to it.
At the beginning of the game, all players are in this state. And there is a risk of getting into a situation where nothing is happening, because everyone is waiting for someone else to take action, "and I will just have to react." It is necessary to somehow do so that life begins, the ecosystem begins to boil, to seethe: the bees are buzzing, the deer are running. And yes, this means that the first serve should be made by the game, the company, the product – the player makes the first action as a reaction to an external event. Because it is easier to react than to act on your own.
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 a position 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 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. And 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 without problems, it just takes a long time. And 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 the circulation 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 of themselves, and now they have this orgasmic or cathartic moment. They are now human beings in 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. This is if the store is good.
But it can be done in another way. 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 and tell everyone about it, but if at the moment when I liked it, you ask me about it and clarify how likely it is that I would tell everyone about it, I will answer – very likely. And 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. But 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, on this exact scale, the fact of the question will reduce this probability. 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 synchronisation. It is after a significant event that we have a chance to become a team – to jointly gain experience. 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. In Russia, it is Nikolay Dybowski, and in the world – Hideo Kojima. These people want the players to have an insight when something happens in the game. And 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 analyses how well they played StarCraft or some Counter-Strike so that they could play more successfully next time. But 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 it's not a fact that the creators wanted it at all. And 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. For you not to think that I deny computer games built-in reflection, here's an example. Civilization by Sid Meier. The old version of it (yes, I am a 45-year-old boomer so these are my examples). I had a favourite part there: 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.
What can go wrong?
Concentrating only on a set of features and content
You need to work with the player's position on content, not try to run the service as a set of features.
If the service has several audiences, you need to understand which of them you are playing the game with. It is worth understanding the general convention: why are you doing this with the players, what will they consider a win, what forms of play do you offer them, have they mastered them?
If the game is not voluntary, it is not a game. It is hell. If the service is used against people's will, this, of course, ruins everything and takes the product out of the game state. My philosophy of games is about the processes that people enter voluntarily, and the convention is that people get value and joy from it. This is not such a revelation. I just decided this for myself, because I like it when people are happy. I like to make people's lives better.
When we begin to abuse the definition of a game: at the very beginning we say that the game is involuntary, or we close the exit from it, we start making a concentration camp instead of a game. The prisoners don't receive value from the concentration camp. And therefore they will not love it. No matter how all the other principles of the game are observed, the compulsion to enter the game and the ban on leaving it turn what is happening into a Kafkaesian hell.
You can keep someone somewhere only by the value of the product: here are the flowers, you are bees, fly to the flowers, because you need nectar and pollen for honey. But when we just try to get the bees into a jar and close the lid, they won't be happy. There will be no game, none of this will work.
For the product to work, players need to understand what their freedom is, what they will gain, what they can refuse, and what they should act for. And most importantly, if users are successful, then how does the service show them this success?
The main thesis
In fact, problematization and reflection are more important than action. If we correctly immerse a person into an activity and then take them out, then from the activity itself, in fact, you just need it to be bright and reckless enough. And, in general, everything.
If the activity captures people, they immerse themselves into the problem and then get out of this whole story in the right way, we help them deal with the experience, then they manage to extract a lot of useful things from completely nonsense experiences.
For example, a few years ago, there was a trend for rope training, where the organisers simply forced you to perform collective exercises using ropes. Each time it required synchronous interaction and worked with the emotional base of people. This is, in fact, a very simple event, which is amazing how it works if it is deeply problematised and carefully reflected on. And “good” rope training differed from “so-so” not in what sets of tricks with ropes the organisers had. They differed in how the entrance and exit were arranged. How people were prepared to perceive it before and how they were helped to appropriate the experience after.
Another example. If you go on a bike ride together and do immersion and then reflection, I assure you, you will have a lot of different conclusions and a ton of benefits. Although you will just ride bikes.
I make such an emphasis on this because, in fact, in most cases, it is done exactly the opposite. In creating a product, people concentrate directly on the interface and not on the plot that happens to a person before and after using it. In business, they fight for ideal regulations. In games, they deal directly with the gameplay.
Gameplay without problematization and reflection is money down the drain. This is the main thesis.
Tool 2: The structure of the role
The structure of the role is like a nesting doll, a spacesuit in which a person walks around the game. This is not a canonical tool, there is a lot of debate about what actually goes into what. Here is my interpretation, it is not perfect.*
The idea is this: there is a person, they are made of meat and there is a neuro impulse in them. Around them, there is a layer of the player (the one who plays by the rules), and around it – there is a layer of the character (the one who lives in the game world).
*In general, there is also the position of “spectator”, which unexpectedly also knows how to be active. But that's another story, which I'll talk about later. So stay tuned.
Only the person exists outside the game, neither the player nor the character is outside the game. And only the person can experience emotions because only they have neurochemistry.
In a good game, the person must lose themselves in the player, and the player in the character. That is, they must dissolve in a more general layer.
It’s like in ordinary life: we don’t think that our skeleton is walking right now, here is a colony of viruses and microorganisms in the form of a person who is moving here, and archetypes and NLP models are put on all this. We think of ourselves in a more general sense: "I'm going to work," "I'm playing with my son.”
A player is someone who plays by the rules, takes risks, wins or loses. Other than the rules, they don't really care about anything. The rules give them a form of interaction, offer the possibility of winning and the risk of losing.
If the basic gameplay is set by the rules, the game is played in winning categories. Of course, in cases where the plot and role-playing components are excluded from the game. In its purest form, this is quite rare, but when it occurs, the game comes down to who won.
A character is someone who lives in the world of the game, has a background in this world and has connections with other characters. It is with them that other participants in the game interact. If everything is done carefully, they don't notice either the player or the person.
Some games don't have a character layer if they are not story-based. For example, football. If we consider it only as a game on the field, with the ball. Another thing, if we consider the game of football clubs in the purchase of stars.
In general, this is a fairly common situation when expanding the scope of the game to a super-system makes it role-playing.
Why is a role needed?
A character needs a role so that they have a context of life: the causes of conflicts, the background of situations, their personal plot and game events.
How does this relate to interfaces and business? We live in a large number of worlds, and when we get into interaction with some service, we are immersed in its context. And we need to unfold this context so that we understand what the conflict is, what we are fighting here, what plot will be played out here, what events can take place here at all.
A player needs a role so that they have a motive: forms of action, negative or positive incentives (if you don’t act, it will be bad, but if you act, it will be good), challenges (it’s like incentives, only big and complex) and difficulties that need to be overcome so that the rewards do not come for free.
A person needs a role so that they gain experience as a result of the game.
Returning to the topic of UX design, both context and motive are means of shaping the experience and getting emotions from a change in state. If a person moves on, they have questions because they are moving in the zone of proximal development. We'll talk about it later.
Tool 3. The structure of motivation
There are a large number of different classifications that tell why people play games. This is the one I use the most. It is ours, homegrown, 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. With them too, but in this game, they are interested in the answer of the model, and not other players. They are not very interested in other players themselves, but only as a means of interacting with the world model.
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? Well done to 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! For the model to say: “Yes, I admit, you are successful.”
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. And marks it, for example, with all sorts of medals.
Me – They
The opposite pole is the Politician, also a gamist. This is the same gambling dude, but they want to play not with a model, but with people. It is not very important for them what formal confirmations that they did well and other awards they will receive. 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 and that it is interesting. Or that they dominate over living bodies, and not over inanimate cardboard / iron / regulations. They appreciate that, despite the worst conditions, they got out of the deepest ass and proved to all their friends who is the king of the hill here. Then they experience a feat.
Or, 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. And that they gave pitches, and other players fought them off, accepted the value that they put into the game, and they saw how their footprint in the game lives on in other players.
A very common mutation when a person appreciates both of these joys: interaction with the model and with other players. Then their behaviour depends on who is stronger in them – Munchkin or Politician.
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. I was surprised to find that this is exactly how I play computer games. For example, in StarCraft, I'm more interested in the setting than the gameplay. Although in live games and in business, the gameplay is much more important to me.
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 insight from the fact that they suddenly experienced some kind of target sensation. From how they immersed themselves into the world. 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 behaviour and motives are different from what they are used to. Their reactions are different. And in general, the look from which they look is not the same as in ordinary life. First of all, the look at themselves. 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 such gameplay – VRIW (a very rich inner world). Such a person appreciates dramatic experiences, they study them within themselves. And the surrounding reality is just a means that causes these experiences. They appreciate when they are given a moral choice or a moral challenge. And each 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.
And 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.
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.
Art games play on all these joys, and a great game includes everything.
Sports are like applied games. In sports, they almost do nothing but interact with people.
It is important for us that, regardless of the tools, all this happens to each player. To do this, they must fall into the zone of proximal development.
The zone of proximal development
“The zone of proximal development defines functions that have not yet matured, but are in the process of maturation, which will mature tomorrow, which are now still in their infancy; 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 the Soviet 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 from what is happening the type of pleasure that they are able and love to experience. And 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 surmountable.
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.
But, in general, the market is moving professional interfaces in this direction. If I recall the difficulties I had with mastering Photoshop when it was in the old version ... although Photoshop has not improved much in this sense. But, for example, Figma has become much simpler and surpassed Photoshop in many ways 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.
Now you not only understand games but also understand their tools. I described the design model that I use myself. But there are others. For example, the big model of Bartle, GNS Theory, approaches to the three-act structure of McKee, Campbell, Propp and others. But our theory seems more instrumental because it highlights all types of joys more evenly.
In the next, final part of the cycle about games, business, 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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