Playing for Good: a heart of passion that smashes through the noise.

If you’ve read a few of the posts here you’ll already know that I’m big on games. I’m really interested in design particularly from the point-of-view of applying good design to the creation of games both virtual and analogue. While doing my undergrad degree I always looked for ways to apply a game perspective to any of the assignments. Whenever a project enabled us to explore a chosen topic, I took every possible opportunity to bend boundaries of the requirements towards games. 

In particular during my second and third year two research assignments gave me free reign on the research questions. Doing these assignments was really fascinating and I found myself exploring completely new areas. For example I now have a really healthy interest in economics, although almost zero understanding at this point. Anyway these two papers encapsulate my broader personal views on games, their potential beyond entertainment into daily activity, service and application design. In these papers I tried to put across the transformative power of games as succinctly as possible. Games and game mechanics, the way they are designed have the ability to make life enjoyable. Everyday activities or tasks don’t have to be boring and indeed research shows when things are made to be fun peoples’ motivation and well-being rise. Game mechanics and the associated theories can be implemented into almost anything. 

Below are the abstracts from the papers along with links to the PDFs. If you do read them I’d really appreciate any comments.

Playing by Heart: Play as an Ecological Design Perspective

In our current societal state, we find ourselves descending down an accelerating spiral that will end in the utter destruction of our climate leaving humans unable to live as we comfortably do now. But it is not a problem easily solved nor is one that can be completely reverses instantaneously. 

There are attempts to reverse the mistakes our industrialised mantra has set us on over the past hundred years but they are not nearly effective or coordinated enough to motivate the general populace to drastic change. We are too comfortable with our current state of living or feel powerless to do anything about our predicament.

Play can change this. How? It is in our nature. In this half opinion piece, half research paper, I investigate how play is an essential evolutionary practice in the survival of the human race that has enabled us to become who we are today as species. In recent times however, play has been seen as a worthless pastime only for children in the eyes of industrialised society.

It is this mentality that stagnates and stalls the progression of our species and is what will be our undoing. Only by using methods of play and gradually integrating them into our way of life will we be able to steer the course of our species back to a level of sustainability. Companies such as Valve, Google and Pixar already use play as an integral part of their philosophy to resounding success. 

Global communities are already forming over the internet to establish practices already more viable than our current industrialised society. Change as monumental as that of changing the way we go about our lives must be subtle, gradual and all encompassing and play provides the mentality that can establish such change. 


Designing New Institutional Dynamics: Applying Game Mechanics for Social Good.

With the advent of new technologies and the widespread connectivity that is now ubiquitous in the information age, our current societal institutions have failed to parallel the progress of technology. Following this, our current interactions lack incentive for a fair governance over commonly held resources as tendencies in the individual have the potential to unbalance the structure as a whole. 

With this research I argue that through the use of game mechanics, improved institutions can be implemented with the benefit of progressing society for the better and make daily life more enjoyable.

By looking at current trends in popular social games to examining what is possible with examples into the foray of augmented reality gaming, I will explain what it is that compels people to partake in these games. Examples from Jane McGonigal’s investigations and Volkswagen’s “The Fun Theory” advertising campaign will show what is possible in terms of augmented games and games that aim to change people’s behaviour for the better.

In an age of limitless information at our disposal, joining the prospect of influencing behaviours with game mechanics with the overall goal of societal prosperity becomes possible. With the help of Mihaly Csiksczentmihalyi’s insight into the dynamics of flow and Elinor Ostroms eight design principles for stable common pool resource management I can confirm that by using game mechanics, a system where peoples behaviour changes are accustomed to better societal practices can be created.