Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

Potluck: social networks as an endless game

Friday, June 28th, 2013

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of “endless games” and how they apply to content. From SCVNGR’s game dynamics playdeck:

Endless games: Games that do not have an explicit end. Most applicable to casual games that can refresh their content or games where a static (but positive) state is a reward of its own.

This same mechanic is at work within almost all social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and even Quora. It’s a simple concept: every time you return to any of these social networks, there’s something new for you. Something to read, something to discuss, a funny animated GIF, a link to explore — and on and on. The fact you’re getting something new and unknown whenever you return to a social network is one reason they have become such a powerful part of digital life.

And that’s why I was quite excited about Potluck — a social network dedicated to sharing links. As a link junky this sounded like a wonderful proposition. From their homepage:

Discover new things your friends think are cool (that you wouldn’t find otherwise!).

Sounded pretty good. I signed up and even sent it to work colleagues and tweeted it out. I connected to around a dozen people on the first day. Found some nice new links. A good start. But since yesterday afternoon?

Zip. Nothing is happening. Just tumbleweeds rolling by.

What motivation do I have to return to Potluck?

Zero. There’s nothing new there.

Critically, because it’s only very new and I only have a few connections, of course there’s likely to be little there. Where are the link suggestions? Trending links? Popular links? There is literlaly no reason for me to bother ever signing in again. Am I missing some part of the site? Or is it really just meant to be like this?

Potluck has failed at creating a sense of an endless game, and for me that means it’s failed entirely as a social network concept.

It’s incredible that a product with such an impressive team behind it (Evan Williams and Biz Stone to name just two) could be launched like this. This isn’t even beta.

Potluck describes itself as The best house party you’ve ever been to. On the internet.

Alas, this seems more accurate…

Forever alone

Hollow: an interactive documentary

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

If you’ve got a spare ten to fifteen minutes, I really recommend checking out Hollow Documentary. It’s a genuinely interesting look at the rise and fall of small town America (brought to life through Kickstarter).


In amongst the beautiful visuals and mind-boggling amounts of parallax interaction, there’s a particularly interesting design choice: “locked” content that is only available after watching other parts of content. A legitimate piece of gamification at work within a far larger, complex narrative. This might not be that new, but the execution in Hollow’s documentary is really well done: I think because it does present such a strong and compelling story that discovering more is a reward in itself.

The parallax scrolling ties in with however patient you’re feeling: there’s a huge amount of content, and you can either skim through quite quickly enjoying the visuals and the odd sound clip or take your time and soak up every little detail.

My only criticism of the website? A poor choice of target platform: desktop only.

Alas, desktop only...

This type of content experience is where tablets really excel. It’s a shame it wasn’t developed with that in mind — not only are they excluding a large market, they’re also denying them a great experience.

Play & engage: practical ways to gamify your content

Thursday, June 13th, 2013
This is a preview of a talk I’m giving at UX Scotland on June 20, 2013. If you’re heading up to Edinburgh, please come and listen to me speak!

While I’ve worked under various job titles over the years, much of my work has consisted of creating and maintaining the best possible experiences related to content-rich websites across a broad-range of areas — including arts, news, sport and even transport.

A lot of this experience design has to do with navigation and information architecture. But beyond this, what happens to a user once they’ve found their content? A good experience shouldn’t end there. But even if your content is superbly written, edited and laid-out, sometimes there’s a limit to the impact you can have just with the written word. Sometimes we can do more with far less – and this is where we can look to the world of gaming for assistance.

Yes, I’m suggesting we can gamify content for the better. But perhaps not in the way you’re thinking (and possibly dreading).


Why Draw Something is great practice for UX and Interaction Design

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Draw Something is great. I’m addicted to it, and it’s probably the best game I’ve ever been addicted too. Why?

What Travolta movie can I draw the best, and what one would Ben be most likely to get? I went with Pulp Fiction — and he got it. Although I’m a bit concerned Samuel L. Jackson looks a little more like Richard Ayoade from The IT Crowd…

  1. It gets you thinking about your users — i.e., your drawings are based on what you know about your co-player. Drawing Skyrim would be great fun for my partner — I could draw scenes from the game I know she would recognize. However it wouldn’t work for other friends who don’t play games. But that’s the beauty of Draw Something — you have three usually diverse drawing subjects to choose from. Even drawing something as simple as ‘Russia’ or a band would depend on who you’re drawing it for.
  2. Watching someone guess your drawing is not so different from watching user testing. As they fumble around with letters (or do nothing with letters, showing they’re absolutely stumped) you get great feedback on your artistic rendition of a particular subject. It really hones your design and interpretation skills.
  3. It encourages humour. Watching stroke by stroke a drawing come together let’s you have a lot of fun with drawings. I have a handful of friends who take painstaking detail in creating over-the-top scenes of simple words. But you don’t have to spend 15 minutes creating a drawing: in five seconds you can do just a good job and humorous takes on words really add to the fun.

I think the last point is perhaps the most important here. The fun of interaction can so often be overlooked in favour of dry and rigid interactions that must be proven to be 100% effective. And this is why Draw Something is so fantastic: as it encourages interaction through play — and fun.

PS: Fancy a game? My username is joffley!

Apple, iOS and how screenshots help build experiences

Monday, November 28th, 2011

I’m an Android user. My HTC Hero is looking a bit worse for wear these days and I’ll probably upgrade it soon. The iPhone is a great phone and all, but rarely do I feel Apple envy: except for when I was try to take screenshots on my Android for a previous blog post. In fact, I resurrected my old iPod touch from the depths of my ‘gadget box’ — and it performed the task splendidly.

Apart from this being inconvenient, it struck me that being able to take screenshots — and more importantly sharing them — really adds a lot to the experience of a device.

Damn You Autocorrect! is a perfect example of this: people collecting examples of the iPhone’s quirky autocorrect and sharing them.

On Facebook many of my friends share screenshots. I often do as well when I see something worth sharing. For instance, last week I saw this bizarre image on the Malaysian Airways website and put it up on Facebook:

Oh, men! Yes we’re so trying, but you women still love us!

Had I not been on my desktop, I would not have been able to share this given the capabilities of my Android phone.

Gmail Zombie Feedback pop up: personal annoyance or nagware?

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Gmail launched a new look a few weeks ago. In my mind it was nothing particuarly revolutionary, just a general tightening of the design. Still, in essence, the same old Gmail.

Since this launch, I’ve noticed that Google is keen to hear my feedback on the new design.

Really keen.

At first I just hit the close button. The second, third and possibly fourth time I did the same. Possibly the fifth time it appeared, I actually gave them feedback, telling them not to worry — the new design was fine, but please stop pestering me with the pop up.

Gmail feedback

Yet it kept coming back. It’s like a zombie: it won’t die unless you shoot it in the head. But the problem is, I don’t know where the head is.

Resident Gmail

London 2.8 Hours Later: the closest to a zombie apocalypse you’ll probably want to get

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Last night I participated in the third and final London installment of 2.8 Hours Later: a ‘zombie chase game’ where you and fellow survivors must move around parts of a city, interacting with characters, finding locations and most importantly — running from zombies.

Hen Party Zombies
The Hen Party zombies: everyone’s favourites!

If touched by a zombie, you must stop and be ‘marked’ with a pen as infected. I survived most of the game, but succumbed during the finale of the evening. My reward: getting made up in full zombie gore after finding the final checkpoint.

I don’t want to give too much away about how the game works, but I have possibly never been so terrified in my life. When I say running from zombies, this isn’t just the odd sprint: your heart is in your mouth and your lungs are burning. I’m a bit of a zombie purist and prefer the Romero-style shuffling as opposed to the ones that run, but for sheer terror you can’t beat zombies that can keep right up with you.

The event was quite an experience. The true genius of the concept is that you are let loose with other survivors right into the public sphere: avoiding zombies is one thing, but on a Saturday night in Southwark before Halloween working out the difference between fellow survivors, the general public, the odd vagrant and of course the zombies is quite a challenge.

Throughout the night you switch between game mode and public mode: in game mode, if you see a zombie, your basal instincts kick in: you run, shove, push to get away — and probably run faster then you’ve ever run before. But minutes later you revert back to normal behaviour: like checking both ways before crossing the road.

While moments of sheer terror were very short, a very tense (yet ultimately fun) atmosphere of suspense was in the air: partially because of this duality of thinking and having to switch between different mentalities very quickly, but also because you don’t know when that change is going to take place. Every corner, wall and bush was a potential ambush location for a cunning zombie.

By far the most positive part of the game was the camaraderie between the survivors. Everyone was playing the game together, slightly terrified yet all helping each other and having a great time overall.

Next year 2.8 Hours Later is planning to run again in more cities across the UK: if you want to do something different and be absolutely terrified, definitely give it a shot.

FIFA 12 reviewed (if FIFA 12 was actually a game about FIFA)

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Everyone’s talking about the new FIFA 12… but what if FIFA 12 was actually just about FIFA?

Imagine that together with some of the controversy that’s surrounded FIFA over the past twelve months…

Game review: FIFA 12 — the real FIFA!

Jack Warner, Sepp Blatter and Mohamed bin Hammam feature on the cover: but will they be friends by the end of the game?


Gaming Sequels: Broken lineages, little point?

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Not so long ago I had the great pleasure of watching one of the ‘best worst movies’ ever made: Troll 2. A classic so-bad-its-good horror film, it turns out the distributors of the film renamed it Troll 2 in order to try and ‘cash in’ on an earlier film called Troll, even though there was no connection between the films (and no actual trolls in Troll 2 either).

But obviously, upon seeing Troll 2, one might ask: ‘what about the original Troll? Do I need to see that?’ Given how awful the film is, even if the films were connected, I would still doubt you would need to see the first. But look at more successful sequels: The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, Godfather 2. You probably could watch them standalone, but they are part of a larger story best enjoyed if you do watch them sequentially.

This isn’t true for gaming: you can usually jump into most games without needing to know the back story. But often I think — as with films — wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy an entire series in sequence? But this, in reality, is almost impossible.


UX and Gamification: Or how I gamed Foursquare (and saved time for my PS3)

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Last Thursday, on a beautiful summer evening in London, myself and some other die hard designers (amongst others) resisted the temptation to soak up the balmy weather to listen to Ben Gonshaw give an introduction to gamification.

I ownz this game
Ben’s talk involved multiple kitten references, so thought I’d add one in too.

Aimed mostly at UX designers (although the title of the talk also stipulated ‘everyone else’), I wasn’t sure how much this would talk about game theory as opposed to general ‘gamification’, which has become one of the biggest buzzwords of 2011. Hearing other people at the talk chatting before the presentation, I got the impression I wasn’t alone in that concern.