To right a wrong: my dissertation

It’s funny. I promised myself i would expand and add stuff for this project and i kinda did. But suddenly, I was working so much that i just didn’t have the time to keep updating this space.

But there is a very interesting thing in keeping this blog: the historical value.

I started the research in the winter of 2008, and finished it in the summer of 2009. It was submitted in the end of august of that year. So, the words “gamification” and “funware” are not in the paper. It’s odd.

To my knowledge, Jane McGonigal had already done her seminal presentation on GDC but, for some reason, I didn’t find anything about in time for the paper. Too bad. I am happy I found Jesse Schell and interviewed him. Even though I tried hard, I couldn’t interview two guys I thought did amazing work: Clay Shirky and Henry Jenkins. Too bad.

The point was to get different minds to help me reflect on media and its untapped potential to use game design to make it more engaging. Simple as that. Easier said than done. Even now that Gamification is in the cover of magazines.

So, to correct a wrong, i am putting up my paper: The Play Factor: Engaging the Audience in the Age of Social Media.

Exactly as it was, flaws, misspelling and all. It’s old now, only two years after. But it has its merits. Actualy, I graduated with distinction, so it must have something interesting. I hope you find it good. :)

People of Interest: Heather Kelley

What Fast Company wrote about her:

“If you were to read Heather Kelley’s profile at her website Moboid, you’d see she calls herself a “Game Designer with a diverse background in both casual and hardcore game development,” noting her “deep interest in experimental and non-traditional game design” and expertise in “non-standard controllers.” But here Kelley’s only telling half the story.”

Read more on the magazine´s website and on her site

The keynotes from the Gamification Summit

I have to admit. I did my research, went back to Brazil and made myself a promise to go further, extend my research, write a book about it.

But, well, I came back to work and the whole thing piled up. My company had a huge uphill battle of, after reinventing its websites, make the whole stuff available on cell phones. Aaaand, there was that little thing called the iPad. I saw it as a valuable mission and took it. And it was such a huge task that hijacked my whole life completely.

The other thing that happened was the sickness and death of my two dogs. And believe me, when you are a couple in your thirties with no kids, dogs are a HUGE deal. So i lost my maltese, Carl Sagan, and my lab, Charles Darwin, in a space of a few months.

So, while all this drama was evolving, the Play Factor became “funware” and then “gamification”. While I was doing my research, there was no book addressing the subject. None. Zit.

After I finished it in august 2009, three relevant books came out. And boy, were they interesting. The first one cama out in november 2009 and is called Total Engagemen, by Byron Reeves and J. Leighton Read. The other came out at the end of march 2010 and is more right to the point: Game-Based Marketing, by Gabe Zicherman and Joselin Linder. The third is the coolest one in my opinion, because it comes from the fast talking gamificator übbermaster Jane Mcgonigal: Reality is Broken. It came out this last january and is an expanded version of the ideas Mcgonigal suggested on her popular TED keynote.

Gabe Zicherman ended up being the curator of the Gamificaton Summit, the event that really shaped the idea as a whole new industry.

Because of a tight work schedule, I couldn’t attend to the event, but Fora.TV came on my rescue. I paid U$ 150 and had access to all keynotes. Today I finally finished watching everything. It’s good stuff, although we are still in the first stages of a gamification process. But what we can see is that it is really evolving and getting momentum. There are startups, legal issues, fresh ideas and developments all the time. The summit shows it perfectly. Kudos for Mr. Zicherman. I just wish I had focused on the subject to help it evolve more. Anyway, seeing the summit gave me new reasons to keep my head on the subject.

If you are interested in the subject i strongly encourage you to pay the fee for Fora.TV (it’s more expensive, now, after the event, but still worth every cent) and watch every keynote. This is serious stuff that will change every industry it touches in the next few years.

People of Interest: Kati London

Technology Review says:

“Kati London is blending the virtual and physical worlds to entertain–and to shape the real-life behavior of players. London, a vice president and senior producer at New York-based game company Area/Code, makes games that incorporate real-world data ranging from the mundane (the locations of players) to the exotic (signals from tracking devices attached to sharks in the Pacific). Many of her games are just for fun, but others are more serious.”

Read more on their site.

Update 01/01/2011: I like this video from Fast Company:

Play Factor integrated on any site

It is not new nor brilliant. Badges have been in games for a long time. They suddenly jumped to real life through startups like Four Square and Get Glue.

The concept is simple. Someone tracks your habits (somethings that has a TON of value) and grants you badges for whatever you do. Comments, ratings, clicks, rants, messages, everything that can be tracked can be badged.

So here comes Badgeville trying to commoditize the concept and create a central place where you can find the whole framework to apply in your product. That´s a nice way to put the Play Factor into your company´s products.

Remember. Badges are an easy and simple way to make your visitors play with your content. But it is just one feature. You will eventually need to go deeper. As with everything else, the concept will evolve and ask more, creatively speaking, from your team.

Epic Win puts Play Factor in your life (and in your iPhone)

Apps that help you control your life with tasks are common. There are dozens of them on the App Store and Cydia.

But they are boring as hell (well, i love EverNote anyway). So two guys called Tak Funk and Rex Crowle created an application that added a layer of fun over task managing. It’s aptly named Epic Win and using it, for a nerd like me, is a blast.

You can use the apps tasks and create new ones. There are feasts of Strength, Stamina, Intellect, Spirit or Social. The whole interface is delliciously designed and it has many cute animations and movements.

The first tasks are cleverly designed to make you navigate in the app and understand it’s concepts and functionalities. And everything gives you some kind of reward. Let’s see if, over time, the whole concept is balanced enough to go further and become a hit.

On Edge magazine, there is a story about the app and a review.

Games shaping behavior

It´s no accident that game designers are looking with lusty eyes to social and behavioral shaping. They have been developing and refining clever techniques to manipulate us for decades now. If you look at some of the most intriguing games from the last few years, they make a huge effort to drive you in some way without you noticing that your are being influenced in doing exactly that specific action. You think that the decision is your own. But if you replay a game and try different things the design emerges and the magic, sometimes, is gone.

Too bad.

Fast Company has a story about how game designers are creating titles that try to influence you in doing good things for you and for the world. It is not new, let´s be clear. But they are getting better at it and more people are turning their attention to this subject. So we will clearly see this trend getting stronger in the next months and years.

An interface to manage your life

It is a matter of perspective. Life is not a game per se, but if you apply the right metaphor, look from a specific angle, you could make it look more like one, and have some good results from thar.

Imagine, for a second, that you ask yourself a series of questions about your life and establish a series of goals completed and to be completed. College? Check. First million dollars? Working on it. How far are you to that objective. Oh, 43%. Nice.

With the right framework of questions, you could in a first attempt, visualize your life in terms of the stats of a game character. Your age against the general life expectancy. Your income and savings against the first million. Your health status against what a person at your age, in your country.

The tricky part could be how to update all these stats. Some of them could be perfectly automatic. Some would rely on your ability to update, only. Think about it as FourSquare or Goall meets real life and go deeper that just location. And it is kinda happening now. If you have a look at Get Glue’s App for iPhone, you will see that they are trying to make you check in in media products like books, TV shows and such.

You could manage your life in a whole different way. You could establish financial and even emotional goals and look how far or close you are to them. And you could visualize everything in an interesting and exciting way. I am working on how to do that…

Getting back

Last year, I finished my dissertation and got back to work one week later in Brazil. It made it almost impossible to go back to my work, unfinished and unpolished as it was at that point, regardless (or because) of the deadline.

This is how it works. At some point you just let it go, and send the work to the university. But if you really have something good in your hands, should go back and revise, expand, evolve your work. That is the point here. I am coming back, revising it point by point, questioning it, and getting ready to release it in digital and open form.

I am working right now with the mobile operations of the company i work for, Editora Globo. I can´t disclose some projects for obvious reasons. But i can assure that some of the concepts i believe in will guide how some of my projects will end up looking like.

The last one is open to the public now, the iPad project for Época, the weekly news magazine from Globo in Brazil. We released the first version of the app and our plan is to evolve for a full fledged digital magazine that will change over time.

It will have more and more Play Factors added as it gets new features and the journalists, deisgners and advertising agencies create content for the platform. Our goal is to make it as flexible as possible.

Anyway, the point is: I am back. Check back here or just subscribe to the RSS feed and we will talk about how game design concepts can help the world to make better media. Before the breakfast.

People of Interest: Sara de Freitas

Fast Company wrote about Sara de Freitas:

“Sara de Freitas doesn’t play around. As director of research at the Serious Games Institute (SGI) in Coventry, England, she’s a driving force behind the serious games movement, which leverages gaming tech and techniques for non-entertainment purposes, such as education, defense, and health care.”

More on the magazine´s website and on her company´s site.