Thursday, May 11, 2006

Pervasive Games and Innovation: Jane McGonical

Continuing from the last post at GEL, Jane McGonigal spoke inspiringly about creating very radically unlikely connections in order to see things new. I will reproduce my notes here as faithfully as I can, and much of it includes Jane's own words. I wrote as quickly as I could and for more information, go straight to the source.

Play and Insight

McGonical calls her work pervasive game design, the goal of which is to create alternative social experiences around everyday spaces. It's a little like site-specific theater, but the participants have not met and follow rules rather than a script.

Why Alternative Experiences? Why Everyday Spaces?

McGonigal is bothered by the wasted opportunity for interaction and engagement. Her goal is to connect play with real life by designing experiences around crosswalks, airports, bookstores, public payphones -- all the spaces in which automatic behavior is the norm. McGonigal uses games because they make it feel safe to behave in new ways, to escape from habit, and most important, to see new possibilities of engagement, both with the space and with others.

McGonigal builds some of these outdoor experiences in conjunction with computer games in order to extend the play and online community into the world off the monitor. The example a space into which she would breathe new life seemed both figuratively and literally impossible: for this exercise, McGonigal chose cemeteries. How could one change the public's view of playing in a graveyard?

Wonder Before Insight: Questions First

Before moving on to design the cemetery game, McGonigal asked a series of questions:

--What is the history of social use of spaces?
--What are the universal physical affordances of spaces?
--Does she have any personal alternative experiences/investment in the space?
--What are the most likely obstacles to new experience in that space?

The result was a game called Tombstone Holdem. More on its how it was developed -- and how it relates to business -- in the next post.

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