Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Think of Social Games as Video Arcades: You Gotta Pay to Play

Last night, game design rock stars John Romero and Brenda Brathwaite held a Q&A session in front of a packed house at the Cogswell Polytechic's Dragons Den in Sunnyvale, California.  Romero is a game designer, self-taught programmer and artist who has published 97 games and is the father of the modern first person shoot genre.

Brathwaite is another game industry veteran with dozens of games to her credit including the Wizardry series and Dungeons & Dragons.  In November 2010 Romero and Brathwaite co-founded social game company Loot Drop.

Here are some of the tidbits that they revealed:
  • The energy game mechanic in many social games is simply another version of arcade games that require players to drop quarters to continue playing.  
  • Since gaming is an industry and not an art form, all game successful designers need find ways to get their players to pay them.  If you don't like a monetization mechanic, design a different one.
  • Sound design is an important aspect of overall game design.  Sound designers and composers should attempt to make the sounds in their games distinctive.  Sounds and music can lend a unique signature to a game.
  • The core second-to-second game mechanics are the most important elements of a game to get right.  Once this part of the game is solid, then other mechanics and longer story arcs can be layered on top.
  • Mechanics are the message.  Distilled to their essence, games are defined by a structured set of rules. 
  • Tidiness theory.  The natural human design to keep things tidy and organized can be expressed in a variety of game mechanics.  For example, PacMan can be seen as a game about cleaning dot from a maze.  Other games encourage players to clear each level.

If you'd like to find out more about Romero and Brathwaite you can check out Planet Romero and Brathwaite's Applied Game Design blog.

[The sponsors of the event said that they'd post a video of the entire session.  I'll post a link to it once it's available.]

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Gamification Consulting Boom of 2012

     Most of the buzz these days is around the raft new gamification start-ups and a smaller number of established players. These companies are the ones who are raising capital and building the products and platforms that will sustain this fast growing market (see my previous post on Enterprise Gamification Going Mainstream).  But professional services is one of the overlooked parts of the gamification ecosystem, and as the industry heats up, we should expect consulting to be the next big growth area.

     We've seen this all before in the enterprise space. Take a look any out-of-the-box product built over the last 20 years (ERP systems, document management solutions, SaaS CRM applications, or the current crop of cloud-based services). While the companies behind these products aspired to provide world-class self-service platforms, inevitably only the smallest companies with the most vanilla implementations have been successful on their own.

     There is no reason to think that Gamification will be any different. As Kris Duggan, CEO of gamification company Badgeville, recently told the Wall Street Journal, "adding gamification to the workplace drives performance but it doesn't make up for bad management. If you are a bad manager, gamification won't help you."

     The Journal article went on to say, "Companies need to make sure that the games are designed to actually reward desired behaviors and are not just doling out meaningless awards or badges.  Firms also need to make sure that friendly competition doesn't get out of hand, fostering animosity among employees."

     In other words, there's a right way to do gamification and there's a wrong way.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Enterprise Gamification Goes Mainstream

Gamification of the enterprise has officially gone mainstream with the October 10, 2011 coverage of the industry in the Wall Street Journal.  This spring Forbes Magazine featured an article on how enterprise application giant SAP is applying game thinking to their offerings in order to create a more engaging experience for their users.
SAP's Lead-in-One iPad App
Companies from IBM and Agilent to Goodrich and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu are introducing game mechanics into the workplace to make everyday tasks like training, data entry, and brainstorming more fun.  Employees boost their egos by earning badges and engage in friendly competitions with their colleagues.  Companies can improve employee health and wellness and drive down healthcare costs by implementing fitness competitions or spur new product development with innovation tournaments.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Job Slayer Rules: How to Gamify Job Hunting

     In my last post, I wrote about how the time was right for gamifying job hunting and how two fellow bloggers, Brooke Allen and Jon Loomer, had recent written about the subject in separate posts.  Even before I wrote that post, I had been thinking a lot about what the essence of a Job Slaying game should be.

    My goal is to create a game that is both supportive and transformative.  The game would need to support the job hunting process as well as transform the way people think about jobs and work.  (Note that the game I've designed is heavily influenced by the rules for Jane McGonigal's game SuperBetter as published in her blog and Brooke Allen's No Shortage of Work philosophy.  I have also gotten valuable insights from Job Slayers, Jon Loomer, Dylan Holmes among others.)  With that said, here we go.

     At its core, the game should emphasize the following five game mechanics:

     1.) Recruiting allies.  Having a strong social support network will help bolster Job Slayers as they pursue their quest and face inevitable set backs.  Therefore, folks who are out of work first and foremost need to identify a go-to team of people who can help then track their progress and keep on track, boost morale, and think outside the box about what they want out of their next jobs and how to get it.