Between Bears

I recently came across, this very simple but very provocative piece that uses such simple shapes to tell a story. It really is a testament to the notion that a story doesn’t have to be artistically complex in order to be appealing.

Components to User? or Vice Versa?

I’m sure that you can agree with me that digital products are becoming increasingly common place in society today. Any child born from this day forward would not be able to fathom a time without touchscreen devices. With that said, it becomes increasingly important in this deluge of devices to stand out if a living is to be made.

I draw upon this example because a) it is easy to demonstrate my point, and b) we can learn from it.

a) It is easy to demonstrate my point

Considering the deluge of new human interaction devices like kinect, the playstation move, the Wii, multi touch devices and other devices like this that are going to keep introducing new ways in which people interact with machines and each other mediated by machines. Eventually, the one thing that is going to be the way in which we determine the success of the product is the humanity of the interaction. Consider the BBVA ATM redesign that was posted earlier on in my blog. When IDEO set out to create that system that aimed to develop a system that stemmed from the user interaction as opposed to developing the system and then thinking about the user interaction.

b) we can learn from it

In developing games these days, think about what is fun that people do in their day to day lives, the thrill of driving fast, the fun of paint ball, general sports etc., think of how those interactions can be represented and brought to digitally while retaining the joy that comes from such interactions, then build the game around that. In my experience this requires a radical shift of mind. It would mean not by starting on paper but by observation. It would mean that the first thing that is produced is not a GDD but a methodology of transforming fun human interactions that allow us to cooperate and have fun into something that can be experienced using the multitude of devices on the market today. Unfortunately all too often, publishers demand a GDD or a game idea thats fun, and then they build the interactions basically forcing humans to adopt a new different way of doing things that more often than not does not work too well.

Of course I could be completely wrong. Perhaps the next generation of people will not react the same way as we do to machines. Perhaps the definition of humanity will change… But until then… the more human a system is the easier it will be for individuals to interact with that particular system, and the more successful that system will be.

Modular Games?

I read this article and it got me thinking about modularity and incremental changes to products, and how sometimes, working out the problems with focus groups or closed population samples could be detrimental to the development process. Essentially, the focus has always been to release a fully featured game and then tag on a few DLC packs and call it a day. During this process, many features are tossed into the game which are not really fully developed or critically evaluated, as far as marketing and publishers are concerned there is a boxed product and it has to be on the shelves at a certain date.

What if we turned this model on it’s head, and instead of simply releasing a boxed product, we release a direct to consumer product which has few but polished features that are iterated and added on. A 1.0 of sorts which is polished enough to go out the door and something that we may be embarrassed about, but something that can be iterated upon and added to.

This is of course easier said than done considering that would mean developing an engine that adapts to new episodic content, or even just building a modular game engine. The interface would have to be modular as well something that doesn’t end up with having a ton of buttons on one screen in order to interact with the modular content. I haven’t even begun to consider the complexities of the product, but I believe that this model would be the most successful one, simply because it gives the developer the chance to react to public sentiment safely and with significantly less cost.

Designers Lie. That’s OK.

When I read this, I thought it had to do with something other than what the article actually was about. What a fantastic article, it summarizes exactly what I do on a daily basis and the problems that we as designers face. And the truth of the matter is, that our job is to humanize the machine.

And then, of course, you ask us how we work. We respond with confidence, bold Helvetica outlining our design process: research, ideas, prototyping, testing, iteration. We hope you approve of our rigor, and perhaps even believe it ourselves.

But the project is always more fluid. We splash between the phases, unable to separate ideas from output, problem from solution. We explore promising avenues that, days later, become dead ends. Sometimes, we solve a month’s problem in an hour. It seems unfair to charge you the same regardless, but it avoids those difficult conversations.

Try as we may, we can’t justify every decision. The birth of an idea is ineffable. Although we hope it came from our research and analysis, we can never know for sure. Intuition and experience influence our every thought.

We try to predict the effect of our work, but the truth is that design is always a gamble. We can tip the odds in your favor, but never guarantee a jackpot.

Sometimes we proclaim design to be art, sometimes science. This upsets both the artists and the scientists. Fortunately, it’s neither. We claim to understand human behavior, but are surprised by it daily. Despite what we say, there are wrong answers. The fold is a myth only when it suits us. And yes, criticism still stings.

Don’t misunderstand—we aren’t bullshitting you. People who’ve taken our advice have profited from it. But design resists minute analysis—break it into its constituent parts and it crumbles into dust.

So, reluctantly, we lie. We lie because otherwise nothing would happen. We lie because we don’t have the words. We lie because we’re human. And being human is what it’s all about.

Cennydd Bowles – 52 Weeks of  UX

The Ikea Effect and Interaction Design

I read an interesting article outlining the Ikea Effect on people, and I got to thinking about video games naturally.

The article talks about the investment of time, and how that proportionally increases the amount of care and commitment that you have for a particular product. The amount of time you spend in an Ikea show room picking the shades of colour for your new furniture, then going and picking it up, carrying it home and later assembling it requires quite the commitment. I remember when we bought a coffee table here and the Ikea was so far away from home, and we had to take a tram, and two busses to get home, and despite our tiredness from a full day we proceeded to assemble that piece of furniture because of our investment. Furthermore, we tend to keep that piece of furniture for a longer period of time because of our initial investment.

Nike started doing the customization thing with shoes, I remember friends of mine with perfectly good shoes and several pairs of such good shoes going out and customizing and buying new Nike ID pairs. The only reason they cited was the fact that they got to make it how they wanted it to be.

Now lets apply this idea of investment to interaction design. Let’s take a simple example of investment in games, Halo Reach has investment in the form of commendation progress, armour progress, and completion progress, along with the various rewards that you receive. This allows the player avenues to invest their time and effort and they can share their information online, and their investment yields different types of rewards.

What if we allowed the player to do the same with their interaction experience. What if they got to shape their experience right from the moment they put the disc into the console. I haven’t thought about the technical limitations of doing this, but lets imagine this was possible, what would result?

I believe that the player will have a product that is truly and fully theirs their ability to move pieces around and design an interface that suits them. It reminds me a little of geckoboard, where a user can set up within limitations the way that they want to view their business statistics. From emails to tweets to server data and the list goes on. Perhaps enabling the user to connect their social life into the game. I don’t mean just facebook or twitter, I mean their entire digital social experience, their instant messaging, emails etc. Allowing the users to share their experience with the game in a way that they see fit, and tailoring their game interface and interactions to something that works for them. Furthermore connecting their social experiences and making that a part of the game would result in players continuing to use the game long after its life cycle. Think of the possibilities.

In the mean time, we can just hope and dream.