Nicole Lazzaro, Amy Jo Kim, Susan Wu are on a panel about games ‘n’ fun, especially when it comes to people being social. (What follows are random ideas that struck me as interesting for whatever reason. It’s wildly incomplete, and lacks all of the connective tissue. But this was a terrific panel that generated a fascinating discussion.)
Nicole mentions that she doesn’t like the term “social capital.” Instead, she considers the emotions, and prefers to think of it in terms of social fabric and bonds.
Amy Jo says that almost any event can become fun if you draw a “magic circle” that announces that you are now in a play space.
Susan: Her company is trying to build games that blur the boundary between games and your social network. Your game’s avatar is directly linked to your FB and Twitter persona. Our games are more like Alternate Reality Games. E.g., Foursquare [a “game” I totally don’t get]: Your game character is you and is sent on mission. Most are set in the real world. The whole world is your “magic circle.”
Amy Jo: Live Action Role Playing: LARPing is playing a game in the real world. You view your entire world as your playground. “There’s no reason why I couldn’t turn a meeting in my boss into a game and come out with points.”
Q: [me] What do points in a game like FourSquare signify to the players?
It gives us something to talk about. And becoming a mayor of a place is a competitive activity. Plus, by gaining points you put yourself on your friends’ maps.
Amy Jo: The metagame is a reward and feed back system on top of another system to drive behavior. Points make it feel like a game. But it’s not a game until there are rewards and incentives.
Nicole: Twitter followers is a type of points. eBay reputation levels are points. [But those points have meaning outside the “game,” and they are not games. So what makes something into a game?]
Q: The line between fun and addiction?
Nicole: Addiction = repetitive behavior with intermittent rewards. Farmville, etc., are about social interactions and nurturing. They generate emotions between friends.
AmyJo: Farmville players generally wouldn’t classify themselves as gamers. But that definition is changing radical.
Susan: It can be difficult to balance an iterative approach to game design and keeping players unfrustrated.
Amy Jo: You need to do that within a vision. “If you totally respond to what people want, you’ll get gambling and porn.” PopCap throws away 90% of the games they develop. They do very little spec’ing. You build a draft, you test on office mates, on your family. Prototype and test and repeat. If it’s not fun, they throw it out.
Nicole: It’s usually best to test person to person, watching players play, looking at the expressions on their faces so you can see the emotion…
Q: [kevinw] Are there any areas of life that shouldn’t be fun?
Susan: Every single thing should be fun. We should always look to find ways to make things more engaging.
Charles Hudson (the moderator): A friend says Mint.com is fun. Who would think managing your money is fun?
Q: Is Google fun?
Susan: It gives you a sense of mastery.
Nicole: And they play with their logo, etc.
Q: [jeanne logozzo] Fun takes on different meaning depending on your context.
Q: [peter merholz] This is a cultural change in which we’re providing more carrot than stick.
Amy Jo: A generation has grown up with computer games. The notion of leveling up and earning badges is second nature. The changes on the Net — more pervasive broadband, more people online — now there’s both familiarity and the ability to deliver the basics of game mechanics.
[Audience] The WWII generation had a different sense. You didn’t do things because it was fun.
Peterme: Do we have a generation that isn’t motivated by intrinsic rewards?
[audience] Not everything in life is fun or should be fun.
Susan: Everything should be fun.
[audience] Not dying in a war.
Nicole: Not fun, but engaged.
Amy Jo: Some things are not fun. I just cared for my mother dying.
[me] Going back to Peter’s point about the meta-meaning of the infusion of games/fun into everything. We’ve gone in this discussion from games to fun to engagement. Climbing rocks is fun. The fun is intrinsic to the climbing. It becomes a game when points are added, because points are an extrinsic reward. So, are we actually creating less engagement by providing extrinsic rewards for so much more of life?
Amy Jo: I’m a parent and I worry about motivating through extrinsic rewards. The intrinsic fun can be lost. Extrinsic rewards can (but not necessarily) drive out the intrinsic rewards and the fun.
Susan: And keep in mind that we’re only talking within western culture. Fun is very subjective. Our job as game designers is to provide ways for people to find the fun they want.