Why Game Design Isn’t Just For Engineers

Seth Sivak, Game DesignWe’ve all heard the buzzword. It’s a trend that’s sweeping through the business world and has taken new product design by storm. It’s transforming the way we learn, play, and exercise. It’s called gamification, and there’s a reason why it’s so hot right now. Incorporating gaming principles into products makes them more engaging for users and keeps them coming back for more. By including achievements like leveling up or collecting badges, users have goals to achieve, making it ever more enticing to play the game again.

So how can marketers and product managers apply these same concepts in their own fields of work? Intelligent.ly is bringing in Seth Sivak, CEO of Proletariat, a local game design company to teach you game design fundamentals. Seth has an impressive resume with extensive experience in the gaming industry, having been a former executive producer at Zynga, and graduating from Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center. He gave us the scoop this week on the basics of how to incorporate game design principles into your product.

I.LY: What are some important factors to keep in mind when designing a game?

S.S.: The two most important factors to keep in mind is the audience and the promise that you, as the designer, are making to them. It is easy to fall into a trap of assuming that the designer knows exactly what the audience wants, but the only way to know for sure is to test it. Any assumption we make on paper we try to test out as quickly as we can because if too many unproven assumptions stack up the entire concept can quickly collapse.

I.LY: We’ve seen gamification become a pretty hot topic over the last few years. How can companies incorporate these same principles into their own products or services?

S.S.: Gamification is all about creating a strong feedback loop. Players (or users) want to be given a goal, something that they clearly understand how to attain. Then they want to get feedback on their progress towards this goal and finally when they reach the goal they want a reward.

To use the example of foursquare, the goal is to check in at as many different places as possible and to try and become the mayor by checking in the most times. Foursquare does a great job of giving feedback each time a user checks in at a location and gives rewards (which are sometimes a surprise) to the player in the form of badges.

I.LY: You’ve been in the gaming industry for several years now, working for Zynga and even starting your own company. How has gaming changed on a design level with the introduction of new devices and software?

S.S.: The new devices in platforms are drastically changing both the way we design games and the games themselves. The rise of social platforms, mobile and tablet have unlocked entirely new markets of gamers that used to be inaccessible to developers, and these audiences have different tastes. These new platforms also evolve the way core gamers want to interact and that is all about delivering a traditional experience in a fresh new way.

I.LY: Although gaming principles may not directly relate to one’s company or product, how can an entrepreneur or a marketer apply them to their everyday jobs?

S.S.: At the end of the day games are just really complicated products with the challenge of delivering something as nebulous as “fun”. I would bet that developing a game is very close to developing a product like Twitter, where there is no clear evolution from an existing service. The amount of experimentation and iteration that went into understand Twitter and how the audience would interact with it is exactly like developing a game.

We are all trying to create experiences for our customers, so there is plenty of overlap between entertainment products like games and traditional products, especially with the rise of gamification.

I.LY: If you could learn any skill in the world by tomorrow, what would it be?

S.S.: Wow, this is a great question. Probably learn a new language, like Japanese.

Interested in learning more from Seth? Attend his Intelligent.ly class by signing up today!

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