Articles, Blog

Playable experience design and gamification | Rachel Clancy

September 9, 2019


hello everyone my name is Rachel and see
these are all my social bits and bobs I’m at fancy Clancy on Instagram I’ve
just started a YouTube channel with my girlfriend called human vacation and my
website is Clancy4u.co.uk if you want to have a look at some of the projects that
I’m mentioning in a bit more detail so as I mentioned in the intro I was a
creative at the ad agency Wieden and Kennedy up until last year these are
some of the highly polished projects that I’ve worked on I did some work for
Honda ARLA Rough Trade Maynard’s and the project to bring dilly dilly the
Bud Light campaign from the u.s. to the UK and that is all I will say about that
so I’m currently enrolled on masters studying independent games and playable
experience design widens was kind enough to kind of facilitate me taking a year
out so I could go back into education and I was interested in studying this
particular masters because what it does is it gives me a really good overview of
what’s happening right now in creative tech some of these are taken from the
modules that I’m studying at the moment I’m looking at physical computing which
is kind of like hardware design fast prototyping using things like laser
cutting 3d printing sensors down here is a virtual reality project that I’m
working on using archivist assets our kids are like photorealistic assets for
architecture firms to visualize houses but this is audio reactive and a
peppered throughout our kind of projects that I’ve made through the core of my
module which is called ATP which stands for approaches to play and these are all
little games and the reason why I’m here to talk to you this evening is because
games I think are an amazing example of art meets meeting technology there was
an exhibition at the V&A for the end of last year start of this
year I’m called design play disrupt and the exhibition opens with this quote by
Frankland’s who is the director of the NYU game center he said making a game
combines everything that’s hard about building a bridge with everything that’s
hard about composing an opera games are basically operas made out of bridges and
so the exhibition opens with all these kinda like big title games like Journey
bloodborne Last of Us and what really impressed me going in
was the scope of the production for each of these like games taken script writing
they’d taken art direction music and then all the actual engineering side of
it like the actual programming that makes the mechanics of these worlds work
I was really impressed when I saw blood-borne that they recruited an
orchestra and a choir to like compose and record an original score The Last of
Us you could see how they used motion capture suits to record live actors to
actually put in the game and journey journey as hell dope was like the
pinnacle of like amazing user experience design for the way that it uses
nonverbal communication but one small little thing that I noticed from the
journey exhibit was the fact they sent their motion designers after the speech
in San Diego with the sheets of cloth to make them jump down sand dunes to get
the cloth mechanics looking really nice and for me I I’m a salmon studying game
she doesn’t really play games I stopped playing games when I was about 14 I
started getting into kind of computer graphics and I thought that games
weren’t really nourishing or valuable way to spend time I thought they were
just kind of pure novelty but as you progress through the exhibition you get
to this kind of like over 18s game section they have games about sex games
about violence games kind of critiquing games games about race like games
tackling social issues and then further on still there’s an arcade of indie
games this is a game I really really love called queers and love at the end
of the world by a game maker called Anna Anthropy
and in it basically it’s a text-based game you have 15 seconds to play and in
those 15 seconds you’re trying to make decisions about whether the last actions
you’re going to take with your lover at the end of the world like what is the
last word you’re going to say to them what’s the last part of their body
you’re going to hold and I think it’s just a really ingenious idea executed
really really well and for me what I’m realizing now is that these games these
experiences are as valuable as any well-written book or any well produced
movie as I’m going through this course I’m kind of taking the view of like
what’s gonna be useful for me to bring back to my work in advertising working
as a creative and this is an extract from the manifesto for a ludic century
by game theorist called Eric Zimmerman ludecke and ludus are alike game and
gameful in latin and he says that the ludecke century is an era of games when
information is put at play game like experiences replaced linear media media
and culture in the ludecke is increasingly systemic modular
customizable and participatory and I think what that speaks to now is this
idea of the end of the passive audience that we are now expecting interactivity
in our media by default and it’s my hope that to study in game design I’m going
to be better equipped to know how to build a properly engaging enjoyable
compelling interactive experiences instead of kind of guessing at them so
when I go back I’m supposed to give kind of a report about what I’ve learned and
I’m what I want to show you tonight it’s just a couple of ideas that I’ve come
across that I found really interesting there were so many things I wanted to
cover but in the interest of time I had to call it down severely but I’ll give
you a couple of nuggets so the first idea is appropriate of play
so to understand appropriate of play you need to understand its kind of core game
idea called the Magic Circle and it’s that when you enter into a game whether
you’re playing on your own whether you’re playing with a group of people
with a community that games are something called like the carnivalesque
that they subvert the rules of everyday life that’s why when you play a card
game you can lie when you play a video game violence is permissible and some
game makers really pushed this magic circle and they pushed like kind of
where the edges of the magic circle are there’s a school of games called
pervasive games and I think a progressive game that we’re all probably
quite familiar with is Pokemon go pervasive games are games that make
their Magic Circle the everyday world and I think everyone probably remembers
like the hype around like the summer of Pokemon go and everyone seems to be
playing it and I think like the fact that it was this game that overlaid your
everyday life that it could turn your commute into part of the game and that
it made weird things happen in people’s everyday lives
you heard story like you heard bad stories about like people wandering into
like swamp land and discovering dead bodies because no one had ever thought
to go there before and then you heard amazing stories about like all these
like kind of like shy pale nerdy people actually going out into the world and
socializing with each other so this is another pervasive game which I invite
you all to play it’s a non tech game and just by hearing about it you’re
unfortunately going to be brought into the game so it’s called The Shard game
and it’s very simple if you see the shard you die
and this gamers concept is a critique of what’s happening with the London skyline
but event and now because you know about this game now you are in the game space
and you are in our players in the game so this is a game on the more extreme
end of the subversive scale this is a game from Montreal cock a mover and in
the game you score points by documenting the destruction of security cameras and
again now this is a game where it’s a magic circle it crosses the line of
what’s illegal and what’s illegal it offers you no protection if you take
part and playing it but it does it is a magic circle that is a game by its
definition this is a game that I’m working on for my from my current
semesters a final project it’s called a screaming booth and I’m going to take
over a phone booth near my house and I’m going to soundproof it and kind of
create like a municipal screaming immunity for people in London to kind of
vent their frustrations but the reason why I wanted to mention appropriative
play is because I think it’s very important to understanding virality and
viral social phenomenon because when you think about the viral social phenomena
that are most popular it’s when people kind of take a creative approach to
mainly like social media and sharing and what I find is that brands want to use
like the the viral mechanic of the ice bucket challenge and they want to use it
for themselves but they’re missing the fact that this appropriation is
subversive kind of by nature and you can’t prescribe subversion so I think
that’s something kind of important to think about when we think about how we
want to create these ideas that are supposed to catch fire and be shared
gamification done badly so I think I’d say maybe as time goes on we’re all
getting more literate in this idea of dark patterns in social media and how
social media uses kind of gamification techniques to make usage more compelling
and more addictive what you’re seeing here like this is like counter it’s
something called variable reward ratios so it means that you will be getting a
reward you will be getting a notification of some kind but you don’t
know what kind of reward you’re going to be getting or when the next reward is
coming and that kind of drip-feeding reward is high
addictive but I’m not going to get too much into that because I actually want
to talk about more so is a kind of gamification with benign intent but done
badly so this is the Nike+ run app and so what they but this is the kind of
kind of standard gamification procedure what they’re doing is they’re taking the
kind of fundamental elements of a game things like leaderboards point scoring
achievements and they’re applying it to the practice of running and my critique
of something like this would be that you are boiling down a practice into data
without actually paying attention to cultivating the things that people love
about the activity itself another example of something like this would be
there is a programming platform called code Academy which similarly has
achievements badges but it doesn’t really spend much time fostering kind of
the sense of community that comes from coding the creativity that comes around
coding and when you strip away the reasons why people engage in a practice
in your game a fight system you’re not really fostering and love of that
practice in itself and there’s a limited kind of return on investment in terms of
how much you can get out of something like this so better gamified systems
should focus on the things that people actually love and enjoy about the
activity that they’re promoting or trying to encourage embodiment and mind
control so that’s a dramatic title that I’ve given for the VR slide so this is a
VR application which is supposed to help people with stage fright get better at
public speaking and I wish I had spent any amount of time in this before I came
here this evening take a drink at some stage so but
basically I think people talk about VR is this empathy engine and they talk
about the ability that it has to kind of give people these powerful embodied
experiences the empathy engine itself is a bit of a contested idea because how do
you get the people whom in which you need to engender empathy into the engine
in the first place because we are like for one thing is prohibitively expensive
but so we kind of study VR from more like a therapeutic and clinical
standpoint and we kind of dig into this whole like embodiment illusion
happens when you are in this in a virtual scenario now what happens to
your body and what happens to your mind and how easy it is to really rewire your
brain while you’re inside these experiences and one of the things that I
think about a lot with this is how we are one of the most popular applications
is for games and how many games the core mechanic is violence and what’s going to
happen in the future and pornography by the way so like what’s gonna happen when
we have these like more embodied experiences of violence and pornography
and what that’s going to do to us and I don’t know the answer I’m just going to
put that ominous question out there for you all to consider so I couldn’t talk
about games about making a quick mention about Bandersnatch I went to a talk with
the producer Bandersnatch a man call Russell McLean and I was fascinating I
really wanted to know kind of how they put together this like extremely
elaborate branch narrative and it turns out that they used something called
twine which is an open-source free piece of software it’s extremely basic it’s
basically like you click and you add your story branches in one at a time and
you tag them to keep track of where your story’s going and I thought this was
just fascinating that this extremely elaborate production was made in
something that’s like free for everyone to use and apparently Charlie Brooker
taught himself twine and it was forever breaking twine and just giving heartache
to everyone on the production team but again on the on the subject of
embodiment and one of the unique things that makes game games powerful was I
think people who played Bandersnatch that’s so implicated in the decisions
that they were making and that made it for the people who enjoyed it because
Bandersnatch was quite love-hate I think for the people who engaged with it but
for the people who enjoyed it the fact that you were the one killing
someone with an ashtray made it so much more powerful as an experience hopefully
there wasn’t a spoiler but ok so Mass the last kind of point nerds against the
machine I found the course that I’m studying through an organization called
code Liberation and I took one of their free workshops in 2016 and their
workshops trying to get women female identifying gender non-conforming people
into tech and I was I was taught for free they taught me a game software call
unity and I went back and did their course the following
year and I’ve learned a little bit of JavaScript and from there I stayed in
touch with the founder and that’s how I ended up on this course and what I’ve
encountered through being a member of these different like tech communities is
just this sort of it’s kind of like I guess like the legacy of punk in a way
because it’s all about kind of DIY open-source everything should be made
available to everyone and also like I think it’s quite important for us to all
become as literate as we can and these new technologies so we don’t end up
being subject to them so we have at least some insight into what’s happening
around us and how we’re being manipulated by these technologies in our
lives and lastly I just wanted to show you if there’s time this is a game that
I’ve made on the course it’s a it’s not necessarily a game it’s more of a
playable experience and it’s called human vacation and so it’s a booking
system for your soul for booking their next human vacation to earth and so
you’re going to choose what kind of life you want to live you’re going to decide
if you want to be like a cult leader or if you’re gonna be an enemy of the state
or a star-crossed lover and or you can choose from a master list of life events
and kind of like customize your own kind of boutique life experience and for me
this is like a game about death this is a game about death but in kind of a
friendly approachable non morbid sort of medium and I I really love the fact that
games are flexible this way and that there it’s not necessarily like a
platformer or shooting game or a sports game it says this things can be games as
well and I’m just very excited about the things
that I’m learning how to make also this is made in Dreamweaver I don’t know if
there’s any actual techies out here in the audience but apparently this is the
horribly out-of-date anything it’s just a website in a box and at the end of it you get printed out
this little ticket on a thermal receipt printer that’s your ticket for your next
visitation so I kind of wanted that whole like moose paw like are you
absolutely sure like have you signed your life away kind of a few things
people come away from the experience thank you very much she’s right

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