dConstruct 2008: Aleks Krotowksi: Playing the Web

The web industry and the games industry DO NOT MEET. Strange, given that web people don't talk about games.

Games are sticky. Some people die playing games; many people lose their lives playing them. Stickiness is important because of advertising. (Shows a Wordle of business plans from Seedcamp to demonstrate the important of advertising to business models).

What do game designers do to create this social web and stickiness?

Graphics? Games have great graphics, but some games (e.g. VIb Ribbon) have deliberately poor graphics and are still compelling. So it can't be graphics.

Story? Many games have strong stories. But traditionally the story is the last thing to be stuck onto a game system.

No, it's the stickiness of play. "The experience economy": a very boring term for the word "fun".

Games designers and developers use three systems to bring social elements into games:

  1. Controlled systems: what designers explicitly build, deliberately giving reward and encouraging repeat play. The web does this - encouraging an investment of personal data in order to see more value. Also consider openness: creating spaces to play in, or sandboxes. Look at Grand Theft Auto world. Sometimes this backfires, in games which are too open and too large (e.g. Tomb Raider 3). But the web is enormously open, vast space. The challenge is to create a funnel that feels wide enough that you have freedom, whilst directing them towards an "ending goal"

  2. Enabling systems: social phenomena emerge based on the design decisions made by developers. On the web we have community; in games there may have been some, but not a great deal until games met the web (with Everquest, WoW, etc.) (Not sure I agree with this: what about LambdaMOO etc?). Look at real-money transfers on ebay arising from virtual goods in online games: a community rallying around a virtual object with real social value. Game walkthroughs or FAQs might fit into this category. There's no need to create an economic model around your site to do this: look at PacManhattan, amillionpenguins.com, PerplexCity, or ludic visualisations.

  3. Psychological systems: e.g. the relationship between avatar and reality (shows lovely slide of people photographed next to their avatars). But yet most of the web is personalised: MySpace, Facebook, but even before that pseudonyms/tags/avatar photos. Web developers see points-earning systems as a means of bringing gaming principles to the web. Look at PMOG as a game where you earn points for on-web behaviour (e.g. "don't use google for a week"). Game developers create beautifully efficient feedback systems to encourage repeat play, should they not engage with these types of things? Games developers and designers don't tend to use formal HCI, they tend to be instinctual by nature - and by and large do a good job of it, partially because games developers are making games for people like themselves. In contrast, the web industry tends to be applying their skils to create things for other audiences.

Why is there such little games representation at web events?

Ends with a call for a group hug between games and web industry, then questions.

Online games involving community in the form of MUDs/MOOs predated the web by quite a long time. How has the arrival of the web (as opposed to the improvements in graphics and UI) changed the way these communities operate