How to Design a Game Experience: 5 Tips to Get Started

My name is Sergio. I am one of the Octalysis Prime members who took part in Food Heroes Challenge 2. This challenge made the Octalysis Prime community want to contribute to making the Food Heroes user experience more and more engaging for many kids who, together with their parents and teachers, discover and develop better eating habits and at the same time make the world a better place.

Gamification or Game Design?

One of the goals of this challenge was to plan a game experience that could have been replayed in different contexts (dining table, canteens, classroom) and able to guarantee long term engagement. The aspect that I found to be more stimulating was surely the necessity to plan the experiences according to both the logic of gamification and the rules of game design.

Regarding the first of these two points, “5-Step Design Process” by Yu-Kai Chou has been the most useful and complete guideline to approach the process with a “human-focused design”. For the latter, I found it useful to refer to inspirations very close to me: the Octalysis framework, the elemental tetrad by Jesse Schell and my own gaming experience.

The fourth element is my son. He is 7 years old and he -unknowingly- helped me through the analysis of the gamers and gaming tests (bearing patiently and bravely with the sudden changes in rules and supporting my work with his encouraging “Dad, when are we going to play your game again?”).

Gamification and Game Design

In this article, I would like to share with you five tips that have been useful to me in the design and realization of FoodVentures, a card game, similar to “dungeon crawler” in which the players explore dungeons, facing challenges and hazards while looking out for seeds and keeping them. FoodVentures was planned, taking into consideration the four aspects listed by Jesse Schell as basic elements of every gaming experience: aesthetics, story, mechanics and technology. The card game FoodVentures is thought of as a component of a bigger project, including activities and player experiences not just practically but also digitally, through an app for mobile devices.

5 Useful Tips to Design Your Game Prototype

#1 – Work on The Aesthetics (as Much as You Can)

Visual design has a key role in any gaming experience and it is constituted by the visual stimulus used to evoke specific sensations in the player. Colours shapes and materials used for the components, fonts, style of the illustrations contribute to project the player in the game’s setting, being it historical, futuristic or abstract.

FoodVentures aims to put the player in the same atmosphere of the entire Food Heroes project, using illustrated cards with elements ascribable to learning goals (types of healthy foods, colour, season, food’s typical environment); the fastest way to develop a “playable” prototype was to start from a white deck of cards and a set of markers. I looked up online for graphic elements to sketch the white side of the cards, to make it “kids proof”(extremely hard task if you’re using a symbolic -and not evocative- language). A good alternative to drawing could be printing the images in good quality on adhesive paper and put the cards in protective card sleeves to shuffle them easily.

FoodVentures prototype playtesting

#2 – Write Your Story

A Game Loop is one of the fundamental elements for a good outcome of the game. A linear experience with no boosters (Game Technique #31) does not benefit the long term engagement of the player (boosters allow players to design game strategy). Through the correct use of boosters, you can stimulate the player to form his own strategy and plan ahead, pushing them to discover many different means of interaction with the various elements of the game, resulting in a different gaming experience every time. The first question I asked myself when beginning to write a storyline for FoodVentures was: “Is there in the project any legends, mysterious places, fun facts or bizarre character to inspire me?” The answers were many, but I decided to start from the fascinating and special place: Seed Vault, an existing place in Norway where the genetic heritage of original seeds is kept and preserved. This place was the baseline for the following story, framing the FoodVentures game.

FoodVentures Story part 1
FoodVentures Story part 2

The story was then helpful for choosing a suggestive name for each and every element of the game, like the virtual value, powerups, hurdles, and eventually villains, levels, experience points and so on. Obviously there are many other ways to give a sparkle to your creativity and write a good story for your new game, one of my favourites is Fabula, a card deck that allows you to always have all the elements to build your own stories or analyse someone else’s, from the easiest to the most complex.

#3 – Define the Mechanics

The first game I ever designed was a bad copy of Monopoly. As most of the games designed by somebody who has only ever played Monopoly has and will always be. Once, during an interview with a game designer, I asked him what he thought of my game. He said, “it depends”. “If it is a game for classrooms, it is fine. If you want to sell it, there’s a long way to go”.

Confronting with him was really interesting, and the biggest lesson I got out of it was “if you want to design good games you have to play, play, play”. Since then, I started discovering and experimenting with new games, and I started seeing the point he was trying to make. I tried many games, some of them just once, some of them I bought and some of them I‘ll never be able to try. Luckily for me, on YouTube, there’s a whole army of enthusiasts who show through video materials previews, and mechanics of games that would have otherwise been inaccessible to me. I discovered that watching tutorials is the best way to learn more about games and get inspired.

#4 – Choose the Technology

The technology is represented by materials used (cardboard, wood, plastic, augmented reality software, cards…) that are needed for the gaming experience. For my project I chose a practical gaming experience based on a card deck, mainly for four reasons:

  • Scalability, the development of new elements and expansions can guarantee a good level of re-playing
  • Portability, the fact that the whole game consists of two decks of cards makes it easy to use in a classroom as well as a restaurant, or at home
  • Collectability, the cards can be used for the gaming experience, both competitive or collaborative, or just be collected
  • Personalisation, the deck representing events regarding dungeons or places to explore can be set in a new way every time, allowing the player to choose a setting that will go well with the hurdles, treasures and event cards

#5 – Try it With People, Take Notes, Improve It, Repeat

Once that the first prototype is ready, you just have to try it. Friends, family and acquaintances can be amazing playtestesters. Grab pen and paper and note down any adjustments needed to improve the gaming experience altogether.

This phase is probably the hardest, but so worth it. A good gaming experience normally takes a long trial before being ready for the market.

Ultimately, a fun game that you won’t get enough of is a game in which the aesthetic, story, mechanics, technology elements are used with balance and in the right way.

These five tips can set you off to a great start if you’re moving the first steps in the fascinating art of game design.

Are you ready to play it your way?

About the author

Sergio Ligato is a proud Octalysis Primer since January 2019. Works in a Vocational and Educational Training center in Italy since 2001, writes and speaks about edtech in live events and on the internet. Loves gamification, game design, free software, learning and teaching technology.

How to use Gamification to Influence Your Friends

Friends

How to use Gamification to Influence Your Friends

First, let’s get it out of your head that your friends don’t want to be influenced.

Think about yourself. Don’t you WANT to be influenced and persuaded to do things you want to do? It feels good to be included in interesting, unusual, or fun events or gatherings. It piques your curiosity when a friend who knows you well sends you information or a book or a gift that makes your life better. And when your friends forget to invite you, you get upset.

So, if you care about being influenced, then your friends do too. It’s part of our makeup as humans. We are nodes in social spheres of influence: individual to family to friends and society. And you are a node across many of these networks.

Understanding what Gamification is in the Context of Influence

Yu-kai likes to talk about human-focused design. Your friends are very likely humans like you, so keep empathy toward your fallible friends forefront in your mind.

Many of you have read Robert Cialdini’s ‘Influence’ so you’re likely familiar with his six principles:

-Reciprocity
-Commitment and consistency
-Social Prod
-Authority
-Liking
-Scarcity

Many of you are also familiar with the Octalysis Framework, and can see how these concepts map onto the Octalysis octagon.

-Reciprocity — Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness
-Commitment and consistency — Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment
-Social Prod — Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness
-Authority — Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness
-Liking — Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness
-Scarcity — Core Drive 6: Impatience & Scarcity

That’s a lot of Core Drive 5! Though not exclusively.

Now, notice how I’ve written this post so far: I did not start this discussion (in the introduction) with detailed list of why persuasion and influence work, or the benefits you’re likely to get. I simply started with a true example (how we all are and want to be persuaded to do things that are good for us). Once you were comfortable, I moved into well-understood theory, as written clearly about by an author you likely already know. Again, your cognitive effort in absorbing the 6 principles was probably quite low (especially since you act out those 6 principles every day even if you don’t name them). Then I connected these principles to the Octalysis framework, which you ALSO already have seen before. But now you’re starting to get creative and see possibilities.

So it’s time to mention a few of the possibilities I saw. I’m going to approach an application of influencing my friends in the context of the Octalysis Framework with specific tactics we’re calling “Game Techniques” (called as such because Yu-kai first noticed these in various games he played growing up or in researching how they were getting players’ attention).

Here is the moment where I’m testing my authority (which I attempted to increase by writing the above words and transferring ideas I hope were relevant to you in the context of persuasion).

Game Technique #45: Thank-You Economy

Thank-You Economy is an environment of generosity and reciprocation.

If you’re trying to have more influence in your friend group, you could try to be more generous and demonstrate increased reciprocation. Remember, people’s memories are strange. Sometimes we can’t let go of certain parts of ourselves or dark parts of the past. So if you’ve wronged someone, a single display of generosity won’t get them to trust you.

Since reciprocation is a two-way street, you sometimes will need to ask a favor of your friends, so that YOU can reciprocate something they’ve done for you. Get it?

Game Technique #22: Group Quest

A Group Quest is an activity or series of activities that can only be completed in a group. Ideally, it will require consistency and commitment from all members. If you notice a Group Quest brewing among friends, why don’t you step up and lead it? If there is already a leader, why don’t you be the most helpful member of the party? Examples could be birthday party planning, side hustles, and college reunions.

Pro tip: Remember to use Quest Lists and MiniQuests to keep all members of the party engaged.

Game Technique #62: Social Prod

Social prods are quick casual actions that establish a low commitment social engagement. Whether on social or via email or text or a quick word at a party (in person, smile, ask a good question and show interest), social prods work. Why? Because they demonstrate empathy and that you were thinking of the person. If you can use Social Prods when your friends aren’t expecting it, they will be more impactful and memorable.

One thing I’m experimenting with soon is sending hand-written letters to my best friends and people who have influenced me. It’s true that a text is faster and can still show love. Even a short phone call can do the same. But I’ve had one of my letters be posted on my friend’s refrigerator for a few months. That means EVERY time he and his wife went to their fridge they had a chance to be reminded of the words I wrote them.

Notice a pattern?

Now, look again at those techniques. Notice something about them (that relates to the post above)? If you do, let me know in the comments, and give yourself a high five for reading carefully and artfully.

The Great Delhi Run–How FITology used an Alternate Reality Game to Break the Ice

Adventures @ FITology | #1 – The Great Delhi Run | Alternate Reality Game

This article was written by Saamir Gupta, Founder of FITology. (See bottom of article for full bio.)

Day 1: 7:00 pm, Hotel ITC, Delhi

Imagine, you have taken a long flight to India. This is your first evening in Delhi and you are having dinner with your colleagues from all round the world. You are part of this pool of 20 senior management handpicked to start a new business model for your company. And your discussions with them, as a team start tomorrow. But instead of the work agenda for the next day, at the dinner table, you are handed this brief –

Continue reading The Great Delhi Run–How FITology used an Alternate Reality Game to Break the Ice

Where to Start Your Gamification Journey

This post is written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen. 

Gamification has evolved

As Yu-kai discusses in Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards, gamification has been around and has evolved to the point that many professionals have heard about or even engaged with at least elementary gamification material.

Some people immediately see the advantages of human-focused design in the creation of products, particularly web or mobile apps. But we know gamification as defined by human-focused design (thanks for this distinction, Yu-kai!) is applicable to so many other areas, like:

  • marketing gamification
  • lifestyle gamification
  • workplace gamification

We’re also seeing gamification taught in universities and online programs. With so many courses and books to choose from, it’s hard to choose what will be right for you.

Right for you might mean most applicable to achieving your goals of improving your lifestyle, whether your health or relationship with your kids. If this was your aim setting out, you might have fallen into the trap of a self-help book about fitness or parenting, so good for you for checking out gamification instead!
It’s so important to know yourself and know what you’re looking for.

In this post, I’ll start with my learning journey, then discuss a few options to starting or continuing your gamification journey. Who knows, it might last a lifetime!

Continue reading Where to Start Your Gamification Journey

5 Reasons why Gary Vaynerchuk has an “Addictive” Brand

Gary Vaynerchuck Gamification

Guest Post on Gary Vaynerchuk’s Engagement Design

Are you following Gary on Facebook or Snapchat? Are you watching the #askgaryvee show or Dailyvee? Getting increasingly popular with entrepreneurs, Gary has found a winning formula to hook us to his content. It goes beyond simply being ‘good content’. What makes his stuff so addictive?

In this article, we analyze the emotions and feelings Gary triggers with his readers through Yu-kai Chou’s cognitive framework Octalysis. The framework identifies several factors with potential to drive engagement (called Core Drives) that can be applied across industries.

So, what makes Gary’s content so addictive?

Continue reading 5 Reasons why Gary Vaynerchuk has an “Addictive” Brand

[Octalysis Guest Post] The Alchemy of Ingress

Ingress Gamification

“Ingress is an acceptable lifestyle choice”  – @Hosette, R1

How Ingress uses gamification and the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis to engage users

(Below is a guest post by Anne Miles. Email yukai[at]yukaichou[dot]com if you have would like to guest post about gamification/Octalysis/Behavioral Design)

For the past three years I’ve been immersed in a global gaming subculture that thrives around the augmented reality game, Ingress. Then I read Yukai’s book and was immediately struck by the Core Drives and how applicable they are to problem-solving in general.  As a User Experience professional, I’ve taken a lot from what I have learned playing the game. My clients and colleagues are always surprised when I say that. They see games as merely entertainment. (One in particular can’t finish a sentence without saying “Roll Tide,” yet he isn’t connecting how deeply games can impact people. Seriously.)

What I know, and what many Ingress players know, is that while games can indeed serve as nothing but escapism or entertainment, they also have the potential to be a shortcut to personal and professional growth. They inspire, motivate, teach and yes, turn into obsessions. I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about that through the game Ingress in Octalysis parlance. You can read more about Octalysis here. Then I’d like to explain how I’m using what I’ve learned in my own business. To do that, let me set the scene. You need to understand how Ingress works to understand how the Core Drives apply.

You can download an app on your Android or iOS phone that lets you track places in the world that have XM, or exotic matter, bubbling through them. These places all have certain things in common. There are breathtaking public sculptures or murals, important historic sites, natural wonders. Continue reading [Octalysis Guest Post] The Alchemy of Ingress

[Guest Post] When online brands meet social engagement – a match made in heaven

Engaged User

How behavioral economics has turned online brands into emotionally rewarding user experiences – offering a whole new engaging ecosystem within their online assets.

(Below is a guest post by the Gamification and Engagement Platform Captain Up. They are a tool that easily allows any website to implement game design elements to motivate behavior. If you notice, the little widget on the right side of my side is from Captain Up.)

Behavioral economics is a fascinating scientific field. It revolves around the way in which we make decisions and what drives us to do what we do. This is a new bonanza for prominent online brands – a better understanding of their followers and clients, more accurate compliance to their needs. There is no doubt that viewing user engagement as a revenue enhancer is an innovative concept for online brands and a noteworthy trend.

What was once only part of hugely popular social games like “Candy Crush” and “Clash of Clans” is now driving new and exciting engagement features for leading online brands.

Turning motivations into actions

It’s no secret that user acquisition and online marketing are an endless challenge, and that’s even before we get started on user loyalty. It is a Sisyphic struggle, constantly seeking to get new clients on board while also preserving the existing ones. However, the modern online marketer’s arsenal hasn’t really evolved over the past couple of years. User acquisition tools have mainly focused on more-of-the-same marketing methodologies generating more-of-the-same results. But there’s a wind of change blowing.

“Total immersion” – the essence of successful brands

In this day and age, maintaining a great brand is much more than advertising or marketing. It is not all about the quality of your product or service but about the adrenaline rush created by a flawless and exciting user experience, driving users in and getting them to come back for more.

This user experience is driven by what is called “total immersion”. The whole brand scenery surrounds the user, creating a unique atmosphere and a special vibe people get hooked on.

But what creates this atmosphere? Well… everything. From the big picture to the smallest details, every aspect of the user’s journey is pre-calculated and designed to support their decision making process.

Spot the right motivations and provide solutions

The basic assumptions for boosting user involvement and loyalty through engagement are:

  • People are looking for a sense of belonging – belonging to a community is a valid and powerful incentive to act upon. (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness in the Octalysis Framework)
  • The right reward for the right action – customizing and offering the right rewards for preferred actions drives excellent engagement from users.
  • Good design has super-powers – getting a message through to users and driving them to action is a form of art combined with psychology. Great and carefully planned design can do magic to online user engagement.
  • People want to be engaged – they are just looking for a good enough reason to engage with your particular experience.
  • Content is king – it won’t do you any good trying to motivate and incentivize your users if your basic offering – your content, service, or product – isn’t good enough. Offer great content and start from there.

Captain Up – The new generation of user engagement solutions for super brands

Today’s brands realize that in order to attain a new level of brand loyalty and engagement with their fans they have to act differently and enhance the user experience dramatically. To do so, the startup Captain Up has developed a platform that aims directly to the heart of these needs.

Captain Up has developed a SaaS platform to provide a new generation of retention and loyalty, based on insights from behavioral economics. The user engagement platform enables online businesses and brands to add social and gaming mechanics, turning visitors into active loyal users.

The outcome is an immediate impact on user loyalty and behavioral patterns once exposed to the exciting features. Most users are drawn to the the new sensation of belonging and involvement, turning a lot of them into brand ambassadors.