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Supercharging Your Product Design With Game Thinking

Much of my time these days is devoted to teaching game production at The Los Angeles Film School, as well as giving live talks and virtual lectures on the topic of game design to everyone from boy scouts to industry professionals. Still, I was absolutely thrilled when Amy Jo Kim invited me to be a coach at her Game Thinking Live training event being held March 31 to April 1 in San Francisco.

For those of you not familiar with her work, Amy Jo is an accomplished social game designer, community architect and startup coach. She is well known for her 2000 book, Community Building on the Web, and her 2012 TEDx talk, “Collaboration & Community-Building”. In addition to earning a Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience from the University of Washington, her expertise is based on her work on such products as Rock Band, The Sims, Ultima Online, Happify, eBay, and Netflix.

Amy Jo has drawn upon her experiences of creating innovate products to develop an integrated system for accelerating innovation and driving sustained engagement.  Called “Game Thinking”, it is a powerful blend of game design, systems thinking, agile/lean practices, and design thinking built upon the following development pillars used by game designers when making games:

  • Build a community of Super Fans — your most passionate, early customers —  to provide early feedback on your product and then later expanding  your playtesting from that base to a larger group of target customers.
  • Build and test your core product from the inside out by first focusing on the product’s core interaction loop.
  • Tinker and prototype without assuming that your first idea is the right one.

By leveraging Amy Jo’s Game Thinking system, entrepreneurs have learned how to innovate faster and smarter, and to build products that people love to come back to.

Amy Jo is now putting together as high-impact two-day training event to teach entrepreneurs the tools and techniques of Game Thinking, and give them a blueprint for building products that are as engaging as games. The event will introduce participants  to the designers and innovators who’ve created successful businesses with Game Thinking, and provide hands-on training and support that will super-charge product design.

A ticket to the event provides a package of benefits that includes:

  • An introductory online course before the event, with short videos and step-by-step templates that take you through the basics of Game Thinking at your own pace.
  • The two day-event, where on Day 1 participants will learn the foundations of Game Thinking through real-life Case Studies, and on Day 2 apply the Game Thinking Toolkit to your project with coaching and support from guest experts & peers.
  • After the event, continue learning and stay in touch with the people you met in the Game Thinking Academy — a curated learning community of experts and enthusiasts.

Sound interesting?  If you’re a startup CEO, game developer, UX pro, design leader, product manager, agile expert, or innovation executive, this event may be just right for you!  To find out more, visit Game Thinking Live.




Cooperative Gameplay

The news and social media feeds of this past weekend were dominated by the Women’s March, the worldwide protest march that drew at least half a million participants in Washington DC, and by some estimates, at total of 4.8 million in various cities around the globe. It was quite an amazing feat that so many people could gather so quickly and do so peacefully. Now, I don’t get much into politics in this blog about games, so I am inspired by the cooperative spirit involved in this event to discuss cooperative gameplay.

Cooperative gameplay occurs in multiplayer games when players coordinate their actions or share resources to reach a goal. Cooperation may be an explicit stipulation of the game’s rules: simply provide a main goal of which success or failure of its achievement results in all the players winning or losing, respectively, the game together. Cooperation may also be implicit if the goal cannot possibly be achieved by a player working alone, such as when each player is given a different but necessary piece of a puzzle.

Team-based gameplay is the easiest way to put cooperation into a game. At the start of the game, players are separated into two or more groups in which each member must coordinate their actions to reach a common goal.

Cooperation can also arise dynamically during gameplay when players’ actions or the resources for performing those actions are limited, and player must work together if they hope to achieve a goal immediately or in the short term. However, the rewards for achieving the goal must be ones that can be shared among the players for them to have incentives to work together.

If a game has several goals that can be achieved in parallel, players may decide to assign individual goals to each players so that individual players can focus their actions and resources to achieving their assigned goals. Such goal assignments are likely to happen when each player has unique actions or resource allocation that are useful for achieving goals.

Even in games in which players don’t have mutual goals, players can cooperate with each other simply by agreeing not to hinder or harm the other player. And in today’s political climate, even such a base level of cooperation would be a welcome relief for many players.