Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Art of Lean Game Design

One of my favorite books on game design is The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell.  As I was re-reading this week, I was struck by how similar Schell's game design tenants are to the principles of The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

In the forward to Game Design, Schell posits that the only way to become a game designer is to design games that people really like and that some people may view this statement as a Catch-22:  "If only game designers can design games, and you can only become a game designer by designing games, how can anyone get started?"  Fortunately, Schell also gives us a way out.  Be a game designer, and create a game.  Any game.  Act like a game design and become one.

"[But] simply jotting down your game idea isn't enough," writes Schell.  "You must build your game, play it yourself, and let others play it.  When it doesn't satisfy (and it won't), you must change it.  And change it.  And change it again, dozens of times, until you've created a game that people actually enjoy playing."

If you change the words "game" to "product", "game designer" to "entrepreneur" and "play" to "use", you have the essence of how a lean startup should go about validating their product hypothesis though continuous iterative learning and customer testing.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Build a Better Business with Games

Earlier this year, famed game designer Will Wright proclaimed that "we are in a Gambrian Explosion".  Like the Cambrian Explosion, which witnessed the rapid acceleration of biological evolution, we are now seeing the rapid evolution of games.  Games are showing up everywhere and everyone is becoming a gamer.

This rapid introduction of game thinking into every day life (aka. gamification) provides companies of all types with the opportunity to build a better business with gaming in mind.  Gamification can help companies improve their bottom lines by increasing user activation, engagement and retention.
  1. Activation:  The best games make it easy for Newbies to get up to speed quickly.  Tutorials introduce key elements and goals without requiring users to digest lengthy instructions and documentation.  Novices are also give clear, easy-to-earn rewards.  In the parlance of user experience design, games a great at on-boarding users.
  2. Engagement:  Games sustain user engagement by matching challenges and quests to a players current level of mastery.  As players enter the flow of a game, the level of difficulty increases and the player increases their skills.  Regular players also gain more power tools, status and personalization.
  3. Retention:  Epic meaning and story arcs add interest and motivation and retains users over the long-term.  Master players can also be given exclusive access, activities, and unlocks.  And ultimately, players should be given an increasing sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose.