Work and play traditionally exist as separate entities. People look to recreation as a release from the stresses involved work and everyday life, epically in modern American society where work dominates. [Marano, 2]
"...play's value among adults is often too vastly underrated. We would all agree that play lifts stress from us. It refreshes and recharges us. It restores our optimism. It changes our perspective, stimulating creativity. It renews our ability to accomplish the work of the world." [Marano, 1]
When overworked people do take the time to relax at a spa or retreat, they find themselves slaves to email, phone calls, or other forms of digital communication connecting them back to the workplace. [Fletcher] Serious (work related) interfaces not only appear in work environments, but also are part of everyday life for most people. These interfaces generate poor relationships with the users. Generally speaking, semiotics are limited or not used. Many interfaces, which are intended for efficiency/information specificity, overlook or lack interest in these components because of corporate focus. [Rouzie, 293] Many people live by the philosophy of separating work and play because of various reasons, most relate to beliefs that play is childish and inefficient. [Sutton-Smith 188-190]
"'Play behaviors are not instrumental.' Play is suppose to be nonproductive and not to intend serious consequences." - [Ruben, Fien and Vanderberg, as quoted by Sutton-Smith, 189]
Ludic activity (playful attitude) can be controlled through a system's objects, cultural rhetoric and cultural environment and manipulating the systems itself. These controlling factors can be isolated and analyzed through examination of existing ludic environments (games). By identifying these parameters, one should be able apply them to other environments that are not originally meant to support ludic acts. Hypothetically, by integrating ludic acts/rewards into these traditionally non-ludic environments (such as work and work related interfaces [data retrieval/computing, task oriented, etc.]), it will increase productivity/efficiency because of desired involvement by user. Because of ludic influence, the physiology of the individual and/or whole will be affected in a manner that both motivates and progresses them. If the user (may or may not be implied by the system) is [end] product oriented, the satisfaction (call this 'Ludic Rewards") is in completing of the goals (in reference to a more formal game system); if the user is process oriented; the satisfaction is in being involved in the Magic Circle (in the context of a work system this may be completing tasks to achieve goal). Users/systems can utilize both product and process oriented rewards. Ludic rewards, often pleasureful, can create a seemingly non-pleasureful experience for the user, and still be effective (in terms of efficiency/repeat desire); an addiction.
"If you create a space of possibility that rewards players for exploration, then you are likely to have players that want to see more permutations of how the rules play out. The same-but-different quality intrinsic to all games is at the core of a game's ability to engross players and bring them back to the magic circle again and again. 'Action' is the sense that is merely shorthand for a game experience that can support this depth of meaningful play. " [Salen/Zimmerman, 356]
Ludic rewards usually hold [long and short term] value to the user, defined as rhetoric -
"...rhetorics of play express the way play is placed context within broader value systems." [Sutton-Smith, 8]
In formal games systems, these rewards often take physical forms and can be anything from an object (functional or symbolic) or action; verbal [in the case of digital; a text box] acknowledgements, monetary, sexual, etc., and these can be dispersed through-out the system (process), or as an end product.
Albert Rouzie introduced ludic elements into educational environments. He created a system for communication and studies effects of what he calls 'seri-ludic discourse':
"Discourse that combines or alternates between serious and playful purposes I call serio-ludic discourse, and I view it as the most significant form of verbal play for the composition classroom." [Rouzie, 255]
In Rouzie's test with InterChange, students discuss a serious topic. During the course of the discussion, jokes are exchanged creating ludic activity. One of the male students submits an anti-feminine message to one of the females, offending them.
"The conflict that flares up is defused in a playful manner, suggesting that conflict often occasions playful discourse and that play serves both positive and negative purposes in mediating conflict." [Rouzie, 271]
"Through confrontation, both serious and ludic, the students experimented with their subject positions; ultimately, they developed a sense of role-play and the ability to use self-parody and reflexive commentary to negotiate asymmetries of power for the benefit of class community." [Rouzie, 284]
Although the reword for the girl was the factual justification/acknowledgment by her peers, the ludic reward was in the rhetoric of identity; "confirming, maintaining, or advancing the power and identity the community of players." [Sutton-smith, 10]
"The cultural and market forces that separate work and play through commodified leisure are exerting the influence on how we use computer technology." [Rouzie, 293]
Much like putting a carrot in front of a mule, ludic rewards offer incentive to explore system environment.
"If you fail at something, you think it is your fault. Therefore you think you can't do that task."
"In general, it has been found that people attribute their own problems to the environment, those of other people to their personalities." [Norman, 43]
Interfaces designed for executing tasks tend to lose user interest and often have poor intuition/call-to-actions. This can be seen in non-digital work environments. Users will blame their peers/colleges for the systems flaws. This causes individual and team esteem issues. Users need to feel supported by the system through feedback. The user needs to be gracefully told they are wrong and helped in the right direction. Game system proved feedback by immersing all the senses. Users are less intimidated, because 'the bad news' is delivered in a ludic manner, witch makes it easier to accept.
For example, when moving a cursor in an application on a work (non-ludic) PC, the user hears a ding. This dings becomes old and annoying fast, making the user agitated. In a ludic application (Mario paint) the ding is replaced a giggle, and the screen gives feedback in the form of a blink. This is more immersive to the scenes (adding visual cue); in addition, the audio feedback is more pleasing. [Wikipedia]
Often the most intuitive, functional, and visually pleasing systems are found in games. The systems are successful in laying out cues for use and calling action through intuition, metaphors, and affordances. Game systems have very strong GUI (Graphical User Interfaces) and make use of semiotics. [Norman, 188]
"Each placement of an object, the choice of materials, the addition of hooks, handles, knobs, and switches, is both for utility and for communication. The physical placement and the perceptual appearance, sound, and touch all talk to the users, suggesting actions to be taken. Sometimes this conversation is accidental, but in the hands of good designers, the communication is intentional." [Norman]
Through design, form implies function to users.
"Every form has a primary function and many subsidiary ones. Function is obvious in some forms. A saw for example has a mechanical function of dividing pieces of wood... A painting has no mechanical function purpose, butt does serve a purpose in that it can inspire, inform or move us to action." "To inform includes clarifying, explaining and identifying; to enlighten includes revealing; to persuade include suggestion (common in advertising)." [Bowers, 6]
Systems, which are rich in media, immerse the users senses, creating a more for filling experience.
"...make it easy to determine what actions are possible at any moment (make use of constraints)" [Norman, 188]
Consistencies in routines/actions, design layout, and semiotics/objects help keep a user's scene of orientation. Redundancy of information helps reduce the 'noise' level. Noise refers to the level of uncertainty in an game (interface). [Salen/Zimmerman, 201] Although noise can add ludism and create play as rhetoric of fate (like flipping a coin) it is not often constructive and has a negative impact on user controllability and predictability.
Systems that incorporate a story, or build a relationship with the user, creating more meaningful play.
"What are conceptual models? I think the easiest way to connive of them is as stories, stories in context. A model is a story that puts the operation of the system into context: it weaves together all of the essential components, providing a framework, a context, and reasons for understanding. Without this story, without this conceptualization, the operation of something becomes a set of memorized actions, but without reason or purpose except "this is how it is done." [Norman]
To better perceive how interfaces/systems could be broken down into ludic elements, a tool (rubric) was constructed from an outline of the most fundamental game elements. Three are three sections; meaning of play, systems, and interactivity. The outline loosely based off of Rules Of Play, by Salen and Zimmerman; it is as follows -
The functionality served was to deconstruct non-ludic systems and organize all it's objects. The rubric was completed using traditional games, and the results were as expected. They traditional games were successfully deconstructed for easy analysis. When deconstruction non-ludic interfaces, most seemed to have the groundwork for play, but know implementation. In addition, when deconstruction a larger work system, there was a realization that layers of systems and sub interfaces construct most of these environments. For this simulation games are the best to look at for multiple layered system comparison.
Successful work systems and related interfaces incorporate rhetoric of progress, power and self. By understanding these rhetorics, the user can better understood and satisfied. [Suttion-Smith, 214] When information turnaround is becomes more efficient this is transferred into workflow. [Norman]
People incorporate elements of their recreational life in work environments everyday. Listening to music while working adds a ludic element. Looking at pictures of loved ones who bring smiles and feelings of happiness transfer these feeling into work tasks. Flowers, stress dolls, and other 'knick-knacks' all add ludic elements. Through replacing traditionally 'dry' work objects with 'pleasure objects' is the easiest and most frequently used method of making work fun.
Mac is creating rhetoric of self, strongly blended with power and identity. This marketing campaign is still used today in the Mac commercials that portray PC's as an out-of-date, boring, nerdy programmer in a business suit, while the Mac is a young comical (ludic) character. This method of ludic incorporation targets the social order around the work, this is known as the 'Magic Circle' in games.
If you look at the game Magic, it's a very complex card game with lots of rules, mathematics, and memorization of the objects/variables.
"Magic is more similar to bridge or poker but with substantially more cards and more complex rules than other card games." [Wikipedia]
There is a large cognitive investment into playing the game, much less being successful. Players must even make capital investments to maintain the best objects/variables for the most meaningful play. What makes kids play, and maintain playing the game, is their peer's influence. Many psychological elements feed the urge to play and create the feeling of fun, such as unity (or acceptance), competition (power/esteem), and curiosity (desire for knowledge); rhetoric of power. [Sutton-smith, 74]
There are even extreme examples of people becoming completely immersed in a game system, it becomes incorporated into their work and dominates their lives [what I like to call hyper-ludo-serio discourse]. This would be seeking social status through play. In the game Everquest, people are taking the elements of the game and giving them real world monetary value, so they can be traded on eBay and other peer-to-peer retailers.
"In the game, players explore a fantasy world of sword and sorcery, fighting monsters and enemies for treasure and experience points and interacting with other players. As they progress, players advance in level, gaining power, prestige and abilities." [Wikipedia]
A newer version of the game called Second Life, allows player to purchase products right in the digital enviroment. Second life's population is drastically climbing.
Although user's hold value (in and outside of the magic circle) on the digital objects, the ludic reward for fills the rhetoric of power and identity. The objects define the users persona and abilities within the system/community. [Salen/Zimmerman, 461]
Also people who act out Star trek fantasies, known as Trekkies, are examples of this hyper-ludo-serio discourse. They are not to be confused with Star Wars fans, who they has a distaste for. When attending conventions, knows as cons, activities include trading memorabilia, creating explanations for various plot holes in the series, and other fantasy networking/games. [Wikipedia] If you look at this from a psychological standpoint, some of these people have anxiety and/or social disorders that make just living everyday life is a work related task for them. (Hence the stereotypic timid nerd attends these events) Through (ludic) fantasy they are able to oversee the obstacles of normal social interaction and focus on the goal/task/reward of interacting through someone else's (usually dominate/strong/leader like) character. This is imaginary, as well as identity, rhetoric. [Sutton-smith, 74]
'Employee of the month' is the most common goal/task/reward for social systems in place today. This is an appropriate ludic system containing all the elements of success. People play/act with in the objects/variables of their own task (work routine), and workers are forced to create their own goal/system and execute it. The reward is the social impact of achieving success within your individual system (task). The reward, whether it a plaque or bonus check, has ludic value within the magic circle of the work environment. Each work system's rules of play are different, and the amount of impact/change this could have is depend on the player and system itself. If the award is valued among other employees (within magic circle), it holds power/identity rhetoric, as is a ludic reward.
In the story The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse, the game played initially using objects (glass pieces) to make connections within the game system. The game is designed to expand on one's knowledge by making 'life comparisons' therefore creating a reward of information. [Hesse] Eventually the game evolves to the point of where external objects are needed, other than the ceremonial robes that tie into the social environment of the game. The information system still remains open, because exchange takes place through telepathic like communication between players.
This is a literature example of the power of evolution/progress game systems have. The value to the users is in the knowledge, and the ludic rewards are in the rhetoric of progress. This rhetoric related to children and animals instinctive desire to play and progress. The players are meaning this ludic act through out the change of the game system/objects.
The game becomes more efficient and the ludic elements survive through the 'Magic Circle.' Magic Circle refers the 'social circle' surrounding the game system. Because Magic Circles can exist when game objects/variables spread outside of the game system itself, they have the power to change old and make way to entirely new systems (and new objects/variables within a system). [Salen/Zimmerman, 92] Ludic acts can give way to new systems; rhetoric.
The quest for knowledge is at the forefront of the Glass Bead Game. Although the 'players' have fun in the process, the reward is in the end product. The success [efficiency in reaching a goal] of the game generated strong cultural ties and is compared to a religious experience. Through play, the game evolved, much like interfaces and complex systems do today. [Hesse]
For example, the iPod's multiple forms over the past years change not just the system, but also the objects within the system. The screen size and navigation hardware are the major objects of change. The wheel, once physical, now is just a touch sensitive circle with no more moving parts.
Many people (especially children) just given the elements of any system will derive some play out of it. [Huizinga, 2] A recent example is the car commercial where the lab technician hears the sounds created by the car engines, and creates a melody from them. Often that's how most games emerge in general. A lot of the most basic ludic acts are derived from remapping the use of an object, hence creating a new system. Although the ludic reward is rhetoric of frivolousness; the most 'foolish', and non-productive of the acts, the reward to the user is still important. This is comparable to a child's creativity. The task is so boring the frivolousness is needed for cognitive re-investment. A negative result may be loss of focus of the original task.
"There are at least two kinds of games. One would be called finite the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, and the infinite game played for the purpose of continuing to play. The rules of a finite game may not change; the rules of the finite game must... The finite game player aims to win eternal life; the infinite player aims for external rebirth." - James P Carse [LeFevre]
Players/User should be rewarded to keep their faith as a player, but they must feel like the environment around them is evolving. Lets say a factory worker pulls a lever every five seconds. The objects /variables are the lever, man (measured by power/speed), and time. The man's job is horribly boring; applying a game system would generate a task and reward system that could improve production.
If goal is met, revive goals and reward. Rewards are mostly dependent on the system and should advance the game system once achieved.
War is simple game system with much higher stacks. Many digital, video, and card game system have some variation of defense/offence or command and capture/conquer. War is filled with ludic elements that make for a strong work environment.
War has been played for thousands of years. Gladiators of Ancient Greece would practice with wooden swords, playing out the fight. Children of the era would payout the same roles mimicking their hero and expirations to be soldiers or worriers. This is still seen today in children and bows, arrows and toy guns are added to the mix. Cowboys and Indians is almost a household name synonymous with war play. Even animals (dogs) play fight as practice for defense. [Huizinga, 89]
"We can only speak of war as cultural function so long as it is waged within a sphere who's members regard each other as equals or antagonists with equal rights; in other words its cultural function depends on its play-quality. This condition changes as soon as war is wagged outside the spear of equals, against groups not recognized as human beings an thus deprived of human rights - barbarians, devils, heathens, heretics and "lesser breads without the law". [Huizinga, 90]
When 'playing war' the objects and action involved in fighting would be functional whether killing dinner or an enemy. Although many would ague there are more formalities that are involved in killing humans, those formalities are really just system variables in dynamic game system. The elements of war are constantly changing; there was a point where hunting (and play hunting) pray used a comparable system (and objects) as enemies. [Huizinga, 89]
Currently the ARMY uses an extremely advanced system with simulates as well as analyses a soldier's and weapon's performance. Tactical Engagement Simulation Systems are used for both training and testing. [Fuhr]
Children have been doing this since 1992 on their parents personal computers. The first widely popular first person shooter genre game, Wolfenstein 3D by Id/Apogee Software, not only let you practice your shooting skill but told you how many kills you got. With the advancement of predecessors, eventually you would know everything from how many heads shots you scored, to how many rounds fired, just about every statistical analysis you could think of. Some games like, 007: Goldeneye by Rare, even designate awards like Most Single Shot Kills, Double Kill, and of course 00 Agent. [Wikipedia]
This is an example how game are a the forefront of creating a successful system. The interfaces created are complete with all aspects of usability under control, and they feed the user rewards of simulated death and [rhetoric of] power.
Most people play games because it's 'rewarding.' Generally there is a problem, puzzle, or obstacle to overcome with some sort of goal or gratifying end result. Rewards must have value to the user in order to be successful. Even though a lot of traditional games seem to have meaningless rewards (in the context of functionality), the instant gratification like a laugh or smile, can play a significant role in the work environment. If one's routine is dry and boring, an occasional pleasantry can stimulate the conscience, hence work flow. This follows the notion that a happy worker is a productive worker.
"I watch a thirteen-year-old girl [play Asteroids, a video game,] in a family cafe... [The cafe owner] asks her if she would like something to eat. 'Get the fuck away from me, I'm fucking playing your fucking games.' ...The girl is hunched over the console. When the tension momentarily lets up, she looks up and says, 'I hate this game.' ...when the game is up she wrings her hands, complaining that her fingers hurt... she plays everyday 'to keep up my [the girl's] strength.' One is inclined to say she is more 'possessed' by the game... There is a sense of a force at work, a 'holding power' whose who roots are aggressive, passionate, and eroticized." [Turkle, 64]
This girl posse all the qualities of a hard worker. The game system, although portrayed as abusive, is effective is creating an immersive, efficient environment. She has a clear goal; generate a higher score than before. The system is simple and static in function. Because the 'high score' (goal) is set/manipulated by the player, it remains dynamic; therefore maintaining a desirable experience. The goals can initially be set by outside players or culture influences, for instance if someone sets a high score somewhere else, yet in the same game system. This may or may not have a relevant impact on the current users goal. In the instance of a successful work system, goals can be a combination of user desire and management influence, if properly incorporated.
Games promote social growth among teams and co-workers. When groups become involved in a common tasks with a playful (positive undertone) individual get a chance to interact on a more personal level, expose venerability and build confidence/trust. This makes for a pleasant/healthy work environment.
Google practices the concept of work and recreation as co-existing entities. The workspace is open to promote communication between workers; increasing social ludic behavior. Ideas are shared in a playful manor. There is a giant (dry erase) white board where people can post ideas and expand on others, or even play tic-tac-toe. The 'Google bus', which provides public transportation for workers, is complete with wireless Internet. The idea is that employees can work or play. There is no separation between to the two. In fact at least 20 percent of every employee's workweek must be spent on something non-Google related.
A large amount of advertising is based on comedy or some for of play, hence ludic discourse. It must insinuate some form of success for information to become 'sticky'. Sticky is a term describing how well you remember the message, desire/return to the system, and/or value/immerse in the cultural rhetoric and environment. Ludic acts help systems become sticky because of physiological rewards of process and external rewards that are various in nature (monetary, social, sexual, etc.). Ludic rewards.
Ludic value/effectiveness is variable by each user, and the system. If ludic rewards are incorporated into non-ludic system, the user will be come immerse and more involved. The ludic rewards hold value to the users and system (magic circle), through the rhetoric of play in which they relate. These rhetorics of play are significant in incorporating work and play.