April 10, 2014

Changing the World Is One Big Game (Part 2 of 2)

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Jumping back in from Changing the World Is One Big Game (Part 1 of 2), Nicole tells us about the final two keys to play, or types of fun.

“People fun” is what it sounds like – it’s having fun with other people. Nicole Lazzaro, the founder of XEODesign, says during people fun emotions are the strongest. In fact, people fun elicits stronger emotions than all three other types of fun combined. Here, amusement is most important. This could be represented by the sending of a funny email, or liking someone’s post on social media—which, Nicole says, is “me electronically picking a flea off of you.” People fun builds and strengthens relationships.

She’s observed how these emotions, or feelings of amici, have been incorporated into the way we use our smartphones. The gestures we use to like, share, swipe, and navigate elicit those same positive feelings we get through interaction. When we interact in games, it’s through group mechanics.

In WoW (that’s World of Warcraft, for noobs), each player assumes a particular role, be it a warrior, or a healer, in order to contribute to the success of the group. When an objective is achieved, emotions are much stronger.

The key to play is serious fun.

According to Nicole, serious fun is what makes people want to change the world. It’s the greatest component in educational games, and it’s leading the revolution in gaming.

She and her team identified these elements over ten years ago (before Farmville or Youtube), and she’s just now seeing everything peak. Games initially had hard fun as their primary (and almost exclusive) element. Then, the Wii came along, which focused on easy fun. After that was the massively popular RockBand, which was based on people fun. Now, there’s a strong move toward serious fun.

Serious fun is the celebration, or sense of reward. Games usually achieve this, she says, by having the players acquire objects, create pleasing patterns, create order, or unlock badges—this last one, unlocking badges, is what we typically think of when discussing gamification.

App stores allowed for a huge influx of these wildly popular games, such as Candy Crush, Chuzzle, or Peggle. Peggle does serious fun especially well, with animations of fireworks or rainbows. This reinforces a sense of success, and fosters positive feelings.

The best selling games typically incorporate three out of the four keys. Many include all four, but the most commonly missing element is people fun. In successful games, users move seamlessly from one key to the next, for a continuously enjoyable experience.

Many of those successful games include hyper-realistic violence and have been met with backlash because of it. Some even call for banning these games. Nicole, though understanding of the criticisms, is adamantly against banning games.

Games are a freedom of expression, and therefore protected by the first amendment, she says.

She often finds that in this discussion, replacing the word game with “book” helps change perspective. Games are a global medium, and are therefore going to include many voices—some of the controversial. And they all, she believes, deserve protection.

Of course not all games are violent, not even all successful ones. Nicole and her team focus on unlocking human potential through play by creating wholly positive experiences. And those that share in her vision are increasing. Right now, she says, the marketplace is undergoing a huge revolution. The rapid growth of indie developers, who have the flexibility to push the creative envelope, has created new audiences.

Recently, Nicole gave a talk on the monetization of games. Because many people – she says 30 percent – remove games from their smartphones due to addiction, fostering addiction isn’t enough. Many are now adopting a model similar to Candy Crush: a free game that has in-app purchases.

But again, Nicole is most excited about the places where games are unlocking human potential. Educational games are some of the best ways to achieve this. Motion Math, which helps teach fractions, is one of her personal favorites. She also sees great potential in quest games.

She references Magic Quest, a live-action game that has players locate real-world objects and tap them with their “wand” in order to unlock points. There’s great opportunity for augmented reality in the future, bringing the virtual world and our own even closer together.

The Gamification Takeaways:

  • The four keys to play are Hard fun, Easy fun, People fun, and Serious fun
  • Incorporating these keys into the workplace can increase productivity
  • Games are a form of expression and should be offered protection under the first amendment
  • Games can change the world

While Nicole does a brilliant job explaining the Four Keys, reading her 4 keys to fun white paper resource helps bring it all together.

As I mentioned on the first part of this interview, we enjoy advising on different gamification platforms because we truly believe that gamification can make positive impact on our world. To learn more about Nicole, you can also see the article we featured her in, the Top 5 Women in Gamification.

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