Reward anticipation - A powerful tool for game design

A neu­ro­bi­o­log­i­cal under­stand­ing of games has at its core the dopamin­er­gic reward sys­tem [1]. The nucle­us accum­bens, which is also dubbed the plea­sure cen­tre of the brain, is cur­rent­ly under­stood as the crit­i­cal brain region asso­ci­at­ed with the neu­ro­trans­mit­ter dopamine, which in turn is impli­cat­ed in habit for­ma­tion, reward-seek­ing behav­iours and addic­tion. The above video shows a speech from Robert Sapolsky, Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University, where he dis­cuss­es his research con­cern­ing dopamine release in the brain when reward­ed and when antic­i­pat­ing a reward. Continue read­ing

Advent Calendar 2009

13 - Gaming it: What User Experience Designers can learn from Game Designers

It’s Sunday, the 13th, which means we will be speak­ing German today. Sorry, folks — but this pre­sen­ta­tion was sim­ply too good not to post it in the advent spe­cial. Fellow game researcher and UX design­er, Sebastian Deterding, has some amaz­ing, well-struc­tured, aes­thet­i­cal­ly designed slides on the lit­tle things that UX design­ers can pick up from game design­ers (to improve design and every­one’s expe­ri­ence). Parts of his slides are also in English, but I will try to sum up some of his main ideas. First, he presents some thoughts on the­o­ries of fun and out­lines fun as a dri­ver to change peo­ples’ behav­ior and moti­va­tor for learn­ing. After this, he briefly explains some game-style pur­pose­ful appli­ca­tions (so-called “games with a pur­pose” [PDF]). Examples for this are the Google Image Labeler, Phrase detec­tives, Spectral Game, Tag a Tune,Book Oven and many oth­ers. He goes on to ana­lyze Twitter from a gam­ing point of view with it hav­ing clear goals, bite-size action options, vis­i­ble rela­tion­ship between action and goal, clear feed­back of cur­rent sta­tus, and extreme­ly audio­vi­su­al pos­i­tive feed­back (see video below).

He also talks about grad­u­al­ly ris­ing chal­lenges in sequence, which brings him to dis­cussing Flow the­o­ry a bit. He then address­es some major dif­fer­ences between game and UX design, for exam­ple that game design­ers need to pro­vide an increas­ing amount of dif­fi­cul­ty as the gamer learns to play/interact with a game, while UX design­ers have the goal to keep func­tion­al soft­ware as sim­ple as pos­si­ble even for expe­ri­enced users (while fans of short­cuts and appli­ca­tions like Vim might dis­agree — believ­ing that steep learn­ing will results in more effi­cient pow­er users). It also inter­est­ing that he out­lines the goal con­flict of work vs. play: In the first, you try to get to the goal as fast as pos­si­ble while in the sec­ond you are in for the ride that gets you there. The fun­ny thing is that some games are not so dif­fer­ent from reg­u­lar work. You might not like cal­cu­lat­ing sta­tis­tics at work in Excel all day, but as soon as it comes to prop­ping your World of Warcraft char­ac­ter for the next raid, you start com­par­ing num­bers eas­i­ly. Continue read­ing