Published on December 23, 2008
playing together In the Game 16th Dec 2008 1
3 We do social software -> now i guess called social media. We’re kind of experts in designing web services for people.
4 Some of this is pure research
5 Some insight leads to development. We design for NEEDS - we design around use cases. I *think* this is the main difference to what you guys do. You’re designing for fun.
....but not gaming 6 We don’t do gaming. We all play, to a greater or lesser extent. But we’re approaching gaming for the POV of web people. That’s the disclaimer :)
image 7 So, why did we do gaming? It’s a major phenomenon, far more people play WoW than read a quality paper. You see all the stats ... and we saw designers talking about games and narratives and interaction but we didn’t here the story from the people playing. Where are those people?
8 How cultural forms shake out of the gaming world and how gaming is becoming entrenched in our ‘everyday’ lives.
9 And this is occurring through ‘productisation’, through the physical embodiment of our gaming experiences...
10 So we have the UK console mkt increasing to a value of £34 m a yr - with an increasing proportion being handheld (DS, PSP, iPhone etc). While M&A activity increases we see diversiﬁcation in terms of games design and ‘types’ of game... shoot ‘em ups, MMOGs.
•Creating •Sharing •Consuming 11 we wanted to se how people were doing things differently in a gaming / playful environment as opposed to the web based stuff we usually do.... there is a bleeding of things between the networked web world and gaming... sometimes you can’t see the gaps.
So we asked some people 12 Now this was a small in house project we ran over the summer months... not a big thing.
So we asked around 20 people about their gaming habits, the who, what, where, when, how and why? 13 This research took place in middlesborough, bradford, sheffield and birmingham. 20 people aged 15-22 -> massive age range actually. We let them self-select - the only criteria was that they answered “yes” to the question “do you play games?”
the aim was to understand and to spark debate 14 So, we’ll be writing this up in the next few weeks and posting it on a blog, warts and all.
what follows is really a series of half baked blog posts 15 Because that’s ultimately where this research will land So, let’s treat it like that.
So, what is gaming? 16 Facile really - games are all manner of things that are playful, where you have goals and rules but 'games' like katamari damacy and okami kind of mess with that.... sure there are rules but they're implicit, learnt and quite difﬁcult to assess. What the goals are is anyone's guess But much social software has goals, rules and challenges - you could argue ebay does that, digg does that, ﬂickr groups do that. And many people are stimulated and engaged by that. Odd people.
image - pong 17 But this history is really interwoven with the people I used to play with... Coding BASIC involved getting it wrong, discussing with others where I’d gone wrong and ﬁxing it, comparing high scores, talking about which games to buy... mimicking the sounds the cassette made as you loaded the game. Silly stuff. Playing the game was important, it was enjoyable (usually) but the sociality around the game made it “live”.
18 Tracing my own route through gaming... You can tell a lot about someone through their gaming history. You can date them. I’m old.
Social ‘stuff’ 19
Social Stuff 1: Peer Groups 20
21 Teens <18 tend to have stable lives. Their peer group is drawn from school the neighbourhood etc. Consequently a lot of younger teens -> experiment with playing with others -> seek out larger gene pool. University is changes -> social explosion. Massive change. less online-> more house / team playing -> socialising gets in way of MMORG action (taken up again after uni?). technically it can also be quite hard at Uni to agree on where the console is etc.
22 However, game status only works within the game peer group you are part of. Your status in game is only validated by those who also play.... Up until Uni we found distinct gaming friends and during Uni this breaks down - more ‘mixed’ gaming takes place.
Social stuff 2: Scores 23 This is really important Scores convey *so* much, in one ﬁgure you can sum up a performance, an experience, you!! They embody a simple transferable concept. A score can be understood, veriﬁed, and communicated simply. My 8 year old son talks scores every day...
Scores enable gaming behaviour in unlikely Anplaces MMOG? 24 Tom Armitage wrote about the Obama Campaigning App... the link to the tables enabled this as a competitive game, an MMOG?
Scores enable gaming behaviour in unlikely places 25 FTSE 100 company... There's a slight digression here but I did some research for a FTSE 100 retail company a while ago. They had this system for managing their suppliers. It was a game. It was genius. The better suppliers performed in terms of meeting a set of criteria (challenges) like billing on time (and accurately), delivering on time, providing refunds all that kinda shit, they more points they got and the higher up the chart they went. The higher up the chart the more the supplier was paid over and above the agreed quota. The chart was published once a week. It was just like Top of The Pops, without Simon Mayo or whoever.... The really genius thing about this game was that it was anonymous. The buyer hid the names of all the other suppliers apart from you.
How else could you ‘do’ scores? 26 What can we learn from digg, ebay and other online social services about how they create ‘playful’ game and gaming engines? Perhaps we should look at how they present metadata back as activity. What we ‘do’ is the basis for social gaming...
Social stuff 2: Etiquette and deviance 27 When playing we adapt to the values of the community we play with... Social morals and ‘norms’ of behaviour...
quot;when you play MMORGs you do have to have loads of friends so you can do instances, so it's good to have friends and join a guildquot; 28 collaborative play is essential in many games for progression... this is particularly prevalent in MMORPGs - like WoW. what we found was that particularly with MMORPGs is that the adoption path is far more ingrained in existing peer networks. Not many people join WoW (from our exp) without knowing someone else who plays. There are good reasons for this - the rules are difficult to assess but just as importantly, the etiquette is really important to know... if you want to “get on” how do you treat people?
Being selﬁsh creates awkward social situations 29 “You know you’re exploiting people in order to progress, so you have this implicit assumption that you will be used, you know you don’t make friends with people like that” -> it’s a functional, very transaction based relationship -> like buying from a shop.
quot;I used to get annoyed about nobody caring for other people's feelings but basically it's a game and you want to play it for your own personal gainquot; (Ian, 18. WoW) 30 over time we get a sense of understanding - “oh, you can screw people”! :)
quot;they could end up hating you if you beat them lots, and if i take it over the top, they might not like you as much anymore. if you beat them and 'rip em' for it, next time you see them it might be a bit like... difﬁcult (Deborah, 19)quot; 31 However, that’s easier with strangers, with friends it has implications for the real world - this girl playing Tom Clancy online. Status in a peer group can be hard to manage - how do we make it easy for people? Should you make it easy for people?
quot;if you feel like you're on a level playing ﬁeld, you're playing co-op and you're completing something that you couldn't have done on your own then you feel like you've achieved something, but if you could have done it by yourself [...] it's not as good.quot; 32 Sometimes you have to tell people to fuck off. Politely. But doing that in game is really hard. This informal sociality in game means that the barriers to entry are quite high. And this creates a “rights of passage” dynamic:
quot;in WoW if you're one of the quot;good peoplequot; they think people below them are not worth anything...quot; 33 Moral codes develop for deviant acts and what constitutes deviance as it does for etiquette... The practice of gold farming was quite contentious in the group.
image - gold “i bought some gold. you can get loads of gold for like £15 now, and it would take you like a week to get all that, so itʼs worth it, so you get that much further in the game. itʼs not really cheating if youʼre just saving time” Adrian, 17, WoW. 34 quot;Gold farming is a general term for an MMORPG activity in which a player attempts to acquire ('farm') items of value within a game, usually by exploiting repetitive elements of the game's mechanics.quot;
glitching: “i’d only cheat once i’ve completed a game, so i can just mess around and get all the cool characters and that sort of stuff” Daren, 15 35 And it’s not MMORGs as we know. One boy, 15, talked about the idea of ‘glitching’ in Halo 3 where he logged into his friend’s account (who had got to a higher level) and loaded it up on his machine so that he could get to the higher level faster.
Social Stuff 3. Playing with strangers 36
not all your friends play the same games... 37 and it *so* depend on the platform and the game of course....
38 “K” here talks about how he plays with strangers on his own and then online with his friends after school. The process of playing online was ingrained... so playing w strangers was easier. The Xbox made that easy for him. We found younger people far more likely to treat games platforms, particularly the Xbox as a social network site (SNS). The dynamics are different. They’re simpler, you have ‘teams’. Kit here didn’t do bebo, or myspace - he did Xbox and IM and that’s it.
39 But we found that more and more people are comfortable with playing online and that generally they start by playing their friends and then this spreads to incorporate strangers. It’s rare that strangers become friends... But you get people you play a lot. Kit - actually befriended a guy who came over from the US to meet him... and the ﬁrst thing they did was go back to his house to play the game together!
Some thoughts on designing for sociality 40
1. Accommodate ‘others’ 41
sharing information sharing experience members in game challengers 42
lego star wars image 43 You have the people you challenge, the people in your guild, those that are ‘present’, those that you share the experience with that you know and then those that you share information with (cheats etc.). Currently we optimise for the challenger, the person in the ‘ﬂow’ with you... How would games look if we started to accommodate others? How would we do that?
making it easy to be involved 44 People play as part of peer groups and those peer groups esp. after 18 become more heterogeneous in terms of their gaming skill level / experience etc. We saw a big shift at University age. It’s a social watershed in many ways and gaming peer groups are blown apart. We see far more social (console) gaming in the same physical space in the 18-21 year old group and this group usually have different skill levels. How do you accommodate them?
2. Create better feedback loops 45
katamari prince 46 People are doing things to represent their gaming experience in the ‘real’ world. Our experiences are beginning to bleed into different ‘registers’ away from the console.
47 Russell Davies is great at creating ‘playful’ experiences. Lyddle End is one such project, something with a strong social ‘hook’ which is inherently playful and, crucially, which ‘propagates’ through feedback loops to many different audiences.
48 Lyddle End mainly does this through storytelling. We create stories that collectively become more than the sum of their parts: our world in 2050. Take a look on ﬂickr or on Russell’s blog.
That was some stuff about gaming. Thank you for listening. 49
playing together In the Game 16th Dec 2008 Image Credits: http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/makelessnoise/2827958609/ - kids playing wii http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/14340225@N03/2953227466/ - lego star wars http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/hybridrainstorm/387259124/ - boys playing xbox http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/beggs/2884605742/ - star wars action ﬁgures http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/elewa/132754147/ katamari prince http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/dianaschnuth/383288672/ katamari fancy dress http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/stml/3071048711/ - lyddle end house on legs http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/sheilaellen/2335755428/ - common room 2 (with stairs) http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/tao_zhyn/442965594/ - gold coins http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/f-r-a-n-k/515770697/ - common room http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/ulfklose/340922111/ - 2 girls talking http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/melindashelton/2532115119/ - scoreboard http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/iancarroll/3096601806/ - ofﬁce building 50
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