The Fun Theory

When designing games I tend to think about what will make the game more ‘sticky’. At the start, I can usually enthuse someone about a game by talking to them about it. You’re the consummate salesperson for your game and design and in theory no-one can sell the concept like you can. To get people to play (or better still, to pay), you have to describe the game in such terms that it seems fun. This was a challenge with The 23rd Letter because it doesn’t contain pictures and like it or not it’s the visuals which usually interest someone in a game.

In theory, with the concept of Playbor (work that seems like play), you can make anything seem like fun. Whether this is Tom Sawyer fooling others to whitewash the fence or the complicated patterns from the Folding@Home project, you can get results by adding simple things like achievements, leaderboards and a dollop of fun.

I’m very interested in the motivations of people especially with respect to getting them to change behaviours. Work I’ve done with the University of Ulster was describing scenarios for changed behaviours and how you can take advantage of those for good (or evil). Needless to say that lots of companies are looking at this area because it goes beyond advertising. In this world, advertising is already dead and we’re presenting people with things that would normally be described as ‘not fun’ and making them into ‘fun’. That’s actually a lot easier than getting someone to click through on a banner advert.

Can you get more people to take the stairs by making it more fun?

This is the essence of games.

Not everyone can appreciate the fun of a game like Left4Dead (one of the very best co-operative games on the market). And not everyone is going to appreciate games like Diner Dash or Farmville. But there is a feeling of enjoyment and achievement in all of these games which is what is common in games.

This is Jane McGonigal at TED talking about how games can be used to fix real-world problems.

My aim is to start a new company (working title: Alien Salvage) which will focus on the development of games which will have both learning and healthcare applications as well as being fun.

About matt

Gamer. Writer. Dad. Serial Ex-husband. Creator of The 23rd Letter, SpaceNinjaCyberCrisis XDO, ZOMBI, Testament, Creed. Slightly megalomaniac
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