"Since video games are designed with the primary purpose of entertainment, shouldn't they be able to make other non-game products more enjoyable?"
At Interaction12, Dustin DiTommaso, Experience Design Director of Mad*Pow, discussed this concept during his talk "Beyond Gamification: Architecting Engagement Through Game Design Thinking." DiTommaso shared his unique perspective with attendees and explained how gamification can be utilized as a tool in Interaction Design.
DiTommaso opened by giving attendees some insight into gamification and game design. But before diving in, he shared some common misconceptions of gamification and how it is currently being utilized. He mentioned a comment made by Jared Spool, principal of User Interface Engineering, which seemed to be a common theme throughout the conference. Spool said that gamification is "all that crap people are pushing because we have a generation of people who grew up on games." Now, that's not a surprising remark considering the amount of discourse around gamification. Both gamers and academics have expressed a similar response, as gamification has become a trend. DiTomasso moves forward in his discussion by identifying the "usual suspects" of gamification as badges, points, leaderboards, and awards. He then challenges designers to consider how can we get past this way of thinking. In other words, can designers take more from gaming behaviors and game design than their reward systems to conceptualize a product? DiTommaso walked the audience through the fundamentals of game design, educating attendees on what makes games engaging. He briefly discusses the concept of "fun" by bringing up Farmville, a game that gained traction through Facebook and allows players to tend to crops and animals as well as help out on their friend's farms. Unfortunately gamification isn't all fun and games, as DiTommaso explains. "Fun is too diluted of a concept and doesn't distinguish the unique psychological experience of gameplay that leads to sustained engagement." Instead, designers need to look beyond fun and turn to other components of game design as a solution, such as motivation, engagement and pleasurable interactions. Key components that were highlighted during the talk were competence, meaningful growth, autonomy, meaningful choices and relatedness, mutual dependence.
DiTommaso's presentation was also complete with "how to" tips for Interaction Designers to take on the challenge he addressed. He provided attendees with a framework for success. The seven key points of this framework are: why gamify, know your audience, goals and objectives, skills and actions, establish resistance, determine outcomes, and play-test and polish. DiTommaso uses some gaming terminology while breaking down the key points within the framework. For example, when specifying goals and objectives, he talks about the "Hero's Quest" and elaborates that "the long term goal must be compelling and fairly difficult to achieve; can be mastery of a new skill, a habit, an achievement, a title or any other pinnacle of personal growth."
These concepts are equivalent to what a gamer experiences when embarking on a quest in an RPG (role playing game). While discussing skills and actions, he translates physical, mental and social skills into real life terms such as walking, organization and conversation, instead of skills a player might gain in an RPG such as agility, strength and intellect. His framework is in-depth and can be utilized as a reference guide for designers. You can check out his full slideshow here.
Throughout the presentation, DiTommaso challenged designers to consider how these components can be useful during the research and design process. As designers, we have an opportunity to help Gamification evolve from a negative stereotype to a useful tool. Will you become a hero while embarking on this quest?
Ciara studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received a BFA with an emphasis in Designed Objects. She is a conceptual designer whose interests include user interaction and social behavior in online gaming, and how they can inform the physical world and the design of tangible objects. Her work focuses on identity, human interaction, and virtual environments, exploring the relationship that people develop with the real world and the virtual.