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

Monday, August 1st, 2011 at 2:56 pm

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.

But full credit to Ben, he gave an outstanding introduction to basic game theory. One of the more interesting parts of his presentation was how essentially all game systems are a scam: they make you think you understand the system, only to keep deluding you with that very feeling in order to perpetuate the actual game play.

After the talk, one of the first questions was about Foursquare, and how to create a gamification system as popular as that.

I’ve known about Foursquare for a few years, and while I love the idea, I’ve always resisted getting into it.

Why?

After Ben’s talk it occurred to me that from the outset of hearing about Four Square, as a long time gamer, I quickly understand all the mechanics. And that’s the reason it didn’t really appeal to me: I don’t want to get obsessed with being the mayor of my local pub because the challenge doesn’t really interest me. I know there’s more to the game than that and I understand the general appeal, but for me, I just didn’t feel it (and didn’t want to get sucked into it).

But I’ve felt the same feeling in my subconscious when thinking about playing games before: specifically, Call of Duty online. I enjoy Call of Duty single player as the visuals are amazing, even if the game play itself is a bit repetitive (and unchallenging). But I’ve never felt the compulsion to go online: I know that there are much better players out there and I’ll spend hour upon hour being cannon fodder to people who have been playing it for years. There is that incredible rush in multiplayer games when you frag a far better player than you, but for all those rushes there are innumerable humblings. It seems almost akin to gambling addiction; the big win is what keeps many addicts going through all the predictable losses. But that’s not surprising: whether it’s poker or Call of Duty, your engaged in a gaming system.

If Call of Duty and poker are of the same type of game, then perhaps coop shooters like Left 4 Dead are more like board games: a game with far less rushes but a much stronger sense of social enjoyment. Then perhaps games like LA Noire and Fallout 3/Fallout: New Vegas are like a puzzle of a game of solitaire: something you can enjoy at your own pace that rewards perseverance and commitment.

Freeside
I wonder if this bunker has a mayor yet? Maybe I’ll check in with my Pipboy…

And it might just be me, but I’d prefer exploring the incredible 1940s Los Angeles in LA Noire than trying to oust someone at my local pub just to try and get a free pint. But I’m sure sooner or later there’s an app that will tie in geolocation and check-ins that will appeal to that inner explorer inside of me. Maybe it’s about time I downloaded Gowalla?

3 Responses to “UX and Gamification: Or how I gamed Foursquare (and saved time for my PS3)”

  1. Ange says:

    Very interesting blog! I guess it’s like stories – there are only a finite number of stories in the world, told in many different ways. There’s only a finite number of games in the world, and they get reimagined and redistributed with different graphics, different plots, different weapons, etc. I completely agree with your point on the appeal of games that reward perseverance – it’s why I’m attracted to jigsaw puzzles in conjunction with games like Red Dead, Fallout, LA Noire, etc.

  2. [...] con una actitud más lúdica que nos invita a la interacción. Como los señores de Foursquare han demostrado a medio mundo, el juego es un elemento indispensable para enganchar al usuario y favorecer en él [...]

  3. [...] con una actitud más lúdica que nos invita a la interacción. Como los señores de Foursquare han demostrado a medio mundo, el juego es un elemento indispensable para enganchar al usuario y favorecer en él [...]

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