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FEATURE13 September 2013

Engaging design

Features

What’s the secret to creating an engaging experience? We R Interactive’s David Rose shares some tips from the game design rulebook.

David Rose is a games industry veteran who has steered the development of well-known titles including Wipeout, Hitman and Championship Manager. He’s now CEO of We R Interactive, which he describes as a technology and entertainment company. “We formed to bring together the worlds of gaming, film and wider digital content production,” Rose explains.

“Competition is at the heart of many games but equally collaboration is a very powerful mechanic”

But what about bringing together the worlds of videogames and market research, as gamification seeks to do? Rose is giving the keynote talk at next week’s MRS Creativity Lab exploring the power of design. So we asked him: as someone who has spent 20 years in games design, how does he feel about the gamification trend?

“I think if gamification, in a pure sense, is the addition of game mechanics to existing services as a value-add then I’m sure that’s got relevance and it’s fun,” he says. “But I don’t think that’s truly taking forward the type of user experience you can deliver when you consider game mechanics in parallel to other forms of content.”

He offers the example of I Am Playr, one of We R Interactive’s three core ‘products’. I Am Playr puts the user in the shoes of a professional footballer and mixes 3D gameplay with video content, all presented from a first-person perspective.

“We don’t break the user out of that point-of-view,” says Rose. “Whether it’s film narrative or dropping you on to the pitch to score the winning goal – it’s all about believing that it’s you in those shoes. And it’s from that setup that comes the opportunity for brands to weave themselves into the story.”

I Am Playr is free to play but is supported by brand partnerships. Score enough goals to earn yourself a bonus and you might pay a visit to the local car dealer to buy yourself the new Alfa Romeo. Build your media profile enough and you might land a sponsorship deal with Nike.

“Rich film media on its own doesn’t necessarily have a model to monetise, other than advertising,” explains Rose. “And it doesn’t necessarily drive the sort of retention that we see in games. So our theory was to use film and rich 3D content, and underpin everything with game mechanics that would build a transactional business model but – most importantly – give people those motivations, rewards and objectives that games do so well to keep bringing people back.”

Researchers are as keen as games designers are to keep people engaged with their ‘content’, so what’s the secret? “I think there are some broad things to bear in mind,” says Rose. “Content should have purpose, it should be relevant. Characters are hugely important, and people respond to emotions. Competition is at the heart of many games but equally collaboration is a very powerful mechanic.”

The rulebook is huge, Rose says. But as a starting point, anyone wanting to design an engaging experience needs to understand why someone would be motivated to take part in the experience. The designer also needs to provide the participant with a very clear journey through the experience, to communicate with them and to reward them frequently for their actions.

The MRS Creativity Lab – The power of design to inspire, illuminate and persuade – is on 19 September. More information here.

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