Funware changes the world
A year ago at the Casual Connect Europe conference I was introduced to the Funware concept by the ever-so-energetic Gabe Zichermann 1). I was fascinated. Gabe put to words something I had inherently known: game mechanics are becoming more and more prevalent in all kinds of products, services and interactions. He had also coined the term funware:
Funware is the use of game mechanics in non-game applications.
Let that sink in for a moment.
A couple of examples of Funware include:
- Superstruct: crowdsourcing the future via a MMO / Alternative Reality Game (ARG) (just starting, join in now!) 2)
- Freerice: spelling bee for donating rice thru UN’s World Food Program
- Ebay (and other social media): collecting, points, levels, badges and other reputation systems
- Nike + Ipod: mixed reality exercising (challenge friends to runs + other social media systems)
- Iminlikewithyou: dating meets game mechanics and reverse auctions (this site is on ADHD – in a great way ;-))
- GetSatisfaction: excellent way to provide feedback on how well I’m doing
- Akoha: “real world good deeds, pay it forward” mixed reality game
As Amy Jo Kim of Shufflebrain put it games engage us in flow and use variable ratio enforcement to quickly hook us. I claim it is even more fundamental. Playing is how we’ve all learned to interact with other people when were kids. It’s how we learned about the law of gravity by dropping things to the floor and watch them shatter (I have two toddlers, so trust me, I know this =)). It’s how we learned to understand the emotions of other people. It’s how we learned to talk.
Fundamentally we are playful beings. We are wired to play and funware applications make use of this engage us, keep us coming back and make us happier using them.
How to add fun to my app?
If Ebay has a game designer on staff, why don’t you 3)? (apart from the fact that finding a good game designer is darned hard, trust me, I’m trying to hire one to Everyplay ;-))
Perhaps you are of the under 35 year old generation, that has grown up playing and still keeps on playing (like I do), so thanks to that intrisic insight you may have added some game mechanics already. I doubt Twitter, Facebook, IRC-Galleria and all the other big social media phenemons had game designers on staff, but they had founders who understood fun even if they couldn’t explicitly rationalize why they were doing things they way they did. It was just fun.
If you want to have a more structured approach, you should consider Amy Jo Kim’s toolbox outlined on her presentation Power to Players:
- Collecting: people, points, badges, trophies
- Points: for measuring progress, enabling comparisons
- Feedback: for faster mastery and added fun
- Exchanges: structured social exchanges either implicitly or explicitly
- Customization: expression, sharing, communicating
Her presentation gives also further insights how to tie this together with technology trends such as social media, accessible tech and syndication. Shufflebrain is walking the walk with their forthcoming Photograb game. I’m definitely looking forward to playing it!
Funware @ Ignite Mobile
I’m a big believer on funware, and the use of games outside of the strict definition of “games”. Inspred by Amy Jo Kim’s presentation I wanted to share my thoughts on the topic. The first ever Ignite Mobile sessions proved to the be ideal venue. It took place in a bus full of startup entrepreneurs headed out of Helsinki to the Mindtrek conference at 07:15 in the morning, so we were all a bit groggy. Despite the sleepiness doing the Ignite session (my first!) was a lot of fun. Big kudos to Antti Akonniemi of Kisko Labs for setting it up!
You can find my presentation along with the audiotrack on Slideshare. Note: there are more details and links to further info in the slide notes. Apologies for the low audio quality due to recording in a moving bus.
Can you imagine?
It’s time to re-think what games are and start considering how funware can make your application better. Here are a couple of juxtapositions to get you started:
- E-banking service that’s fun and engaging, while driving further revenue (think preferred customer levels, money saved/invested as points, quests, social media)
- Motivate MMO players to do more outdoors exercise (think geocaching, quests, mixed reality, social challenges, Nike+Ipod, rewards in the original MMO)
- Cut greenhouse gas emissions (think Chorewars meets utilities metering, gas and electricity bills, social challenges)
Can you imagine more challenges we should solve with game mechanics? Can you come up with the solutions to to solve the ones listed above? Feel free to pitch in the comments!
1) Interestingly Gabe’s RMBR is now longer providing any of the funware apps they developed. I wonder what’s going on.
2) Jane McGonical, the lead designer of Superstruct, is one of the most influential game designers at the moment. Her amazing presentations are definitely worth your time.
3) Source: Gabe Zichermann at Casual Connect Europe