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:

Why funware?

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.

The video of the presentation is also available on QIK (kindly recorded by Tommi Rissanen) as well as on Floobs.

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

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5 Comments on “Funware changes the world”

  1. […] games, entrepreneurship and more Jussi Laakkonen’s blog « Startup marketing Funware changes the world […]

  2. […] Lost Garden recently gave a talk about applying game mechanics to user experience design, that is, funware. His presentation offers great insights and ideas on how to go about applying game-like structures […]

  3. Further links that anybody interested in the topic should explore:

    Amy Jo Kim’s presentation: Putting the Fun in Functional

    Amy Jo Kim’s book: Community building on the web

    Daniel Cook’s presentation on game mechanics:

  4. Hey Jussi,

    Nice post. The idea makes so much sense intuitively — there’s so much knowledge in the game design community about how to create enjoyable experiences, and we should be able to apply some of the fundamental principles around challenge, reward, exploration and socialization to application and service design to improve people’s everyday lives.

    Regarding cutting greenhouse gas emissions, make sure you check out Fiat Eco Drive:

    It’s a technology in new Fiat cars that collects information on your driving habits, then usees that data to provide you with goals and tips to help you cut fuel usage, as well as for challenges within the ecoVille community. It’s like Nike+ for automobiles.


  5. Geoff, thanks for the excellent tip on the EcoDrive! That is definitely a great application of Funware mechanics. There is a brief mention of community features, and I can really see the power of “I challenge you”, like I’d challenge somebody to run a marathon, or to lose weight. That in turn ties into the principles of the psychology of influence (our need to remain consistent with how we are perceived, to our commitments).

    Robert Cialdini’s books on influence are the classics:

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