Learning from game design: 11 gambits for influencing user behaviour

Games are great at engaging people for long periods of time, getting them involved, and, if we put it bluntly, influencing people’s behaviour through their very design. Something conspicuously missing from Design with Intent v.0.9 is a satisfactory treatment of the kinds of techniques for influencing user behaviour that can be derived from games and other ‘playful’ interactions. I hope to remedy this in DwI 1.0, so here’s a preview of the eleven patterns I’ve included in the new Ludic Lens on behaviour change: patterns drawn from games or modelled on more playful forms of influencing behaviour.

These aren’t original, by any means. People such as Amy Jo Kim (see her great presentation ‘Putting the fun in functional’), Sebastian Deterding, Francisco Inchauste, Jeremy Keith, Geke Ludden, and of course Ian Bogost have done work which explores this area from lots of different angles, and it also draws on decades of research in social psychology. Russell Davies’ Playful (which I really should have gone to!) looks like it was very pertinent here too. (Note, this lens doesn’t cover Game Theory-like patterns, some of which are indeed relevant to influencing user behaviour, but which I’ve chosen to group under a new ‘Machiavellian Lens’)

My main interest here is to extract the design techniques as very simple design patterns or ‘gambits’* that can be applied in other design situations outside games themselves, where designers would like to influence user behaviour (along with the other Design with Intent techniques). So these are (at least at present) presented simply as provocations: a “What if…?” question plus an example. The intention is that the card deck version will simply have what you see here, while the online version will have much more detail, references, links and reader/user-contributed examples and comments.

Challenges & targets, Santa Barbara beachChallenges & targets

What happens if you set people a challenge, or give them a target to reach through what they’re doing?

« Whoever laid out this coffee tub as a target for throwing coins knew a lot about influencing people to donate generously and enjoy it

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Why it’s been quiet here

I haven’t blogged for a couple of months, which is not unusual, but I always feel I owe loyal readers an explanation! Primarily, I’ve been so wrapped up in PhD-related work (now in my final year, and desperately trying to get the thing finished by the summer), that most of my writing energy has been going into the thesis and some papers and articles for various outlets, rather than towards the blog. Our Applied Ergonomics article, ‘The Design with Intent Method: A design tool for influencing user behaviour’ (co-authored with my supervisors David Harrison and Neville A. Stanton) has just been published in the print version of the journal (I will put an open-access preprint version online soon), and I’ve written articles with Fergus Bisset and Nick Marsh for the next issue of the Service Design Network’s Touchpoint journal – ‘Designing Motivation or Motivating Design? Exploring service design, motivation and behavioural change’ and ‘Research in practice: Bringing behaviour change from lab to studio’. Look out for them in the April/May issue.

There have also been a few other projects with which I’ve made an effort to get involved, mainly to secure my own future and enable expansion of research in this field once the PhD studentship runs out! I’m pleased to say that things seem to be progressing OK on that front, with some very exciting projects lined up, working with some very interesting people indeed.

In parallel, DwI toolkit v.0.95, which I think I will henceforth name Design with Intent 1.0 (shows a bit more confidence!) is nearing a stage where I’m happy to release it. More on that very soon.

As Richard Hamming said, “You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There’s no question about this.”

New card deck under development