Nablopomo – Day 26 – Amnesia: The Dark Descent

Do you like scary games?

For me, any game that immerses me into its own little world is a game for me. If it has the odd scary bit to it, all the better. A great example: Half-Life.

However, I just found out about this new game called Amnesia – The Dark Descent. The reviews are somewhat decent for a puzzle and interaction game. But what people are raving about the most is how truly scary this game is.

I think what makes this game so successful is that it relies on the user’s own imagination and fear. It then continues to feed your fear the more you get into the game. I don’t want to spoil this game at all, so I won’t get into the story. But, if you’re a big fan of making your heart race and you’re not squeamish, then this is a game you should check out.

Personally, I won’t play this. Not because of the game play, but because my heart wouldn’t take it. 😉

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s an example of someone who is quite ‘immersed’ in the game: (NOTE: NSFW due to language and intense scenes) (courtesy of You Tube)

Nablopomo – Day 16 – The Angry Birds experience

Angry Birds is the bane of my existence. Oh, how I love it so!

I’ll admit, I can’t stop playing this game. There’s something appealing about flinging birds at pigs, wood, ice and stone. But, like anything I use, I start to pick apart the methods behind the madness. Specifically in this case, I’m very curious as to why this game is successful from a user experience stance. Let’s analyze, shall we?

There’s birds with eggs. There’s pigs with an appetite for eggs. Pigs steal eggs. Birds are angry. Hilarity ensues. But, why is it so appealing?

After you’ve chuckled at the story and started the game play, do you still remember the story? Do you remember the struggle that the birds have against the pigs? Or, does it simply become a game of throwing things at objects?

A sign of a good story is having the user continuously engaged in the world you’ve created. I think the one thing that helps with this is using the different types of birds and pigs. How so? Well, you quickly realize that the pig with the helmets are a little harder to kill. As well, different birds have different strengths and weaknesses. Not only does this make up part of the game play, but it keeps you engaged with the story by making the user think about what bird to use with what pig and / or barrier. The story and the game continued to be connected.

This game is also one of the best examples of effective interaction design. Touch to play. Touch to start the level. Touch and drag to fling the bird. Simple. The instructions itself are also very simple. I really like that only pictures are used to convey what to do with the finger movements and touches.

I guess my only feedback is that the developers might want to add a ‘cheat’ option that allows you to tilt your device to make that big teetering rock fall off the corner of the cliff when it’s just hanging there. Honestly, I think this comes from my own personal frustration with trying to get 3 stars on every level, but that’s just me 🙂

Overall, I’m trying to illustrate simplicity in design. If you want something to be effective from the user’s perspective, keep it simple. I know we’ve all heard this before, but I think that this lesson sometimes gets lost during user experience development. Sometimes, it becomes more about what features and gadgets can we add instead of developing actual engaging game play.

Design Jr. – Design from a child’s perspective

For inspiration, I want to share with you my original proposal for the 2008 IA Summit: Design Jr. – Design from a child’s perspective.

Back story

Back in 2006, I had attended the 2006 IA Summit. At the time, it was my first exposure to professionals in the IA field. I must say that I was a bit out of my own comfort zone, but that’s how I like to learn new things. Plus, the people I had met really made me feel at home.

In the same year, I was also learning all about being a father. From my own observations of watching him develop, I had seen the connections between my son’s experiences and what he retained. From this, I believed you could extrapolate the very basics of how we, as human beings, can learn and are guided. The result being that you have a better understanding of effective design.

From the summit and father-like experiences, it inspired me to write up a proposal for a presentation I had in mind for the 2008 IA Summit: Design Jr. – Design from a child’s perspective. This is what I submitted:

Title
Design Jr. – Design from a child’s perspective
Authors
Marco Battilana
Objective
To show the recognition and understanding of canonic icons/symbols with children and how it influences today’s user-centered and interaction design practices.
Description

The purpose of this presentation is to highlight one’s ability to recognize canonic icons/symbols, making that instant connection to understand the meaning behind it, and taking the appropriate and expected action. Specifically, what I want to show is examples of the earliest stage of this recognition possible – starting with children.

  1. I’ll show examples of recognition from an early age. Probably using flash cards of common imagery that loosely relates to canonic work that exists today: a house, an arrow, a stop sign, etc. This is to highlight the mental connection and understanding of the canonic imagery.
  2. I’ll show examples of trends that are happening in preschool where interaction is encouraged and the most effective methods to do so are highlighted. This is to highlight the connection between how children interact in a preschool environment and how it carries over as an adult.

From there, I will take these examples and show how it’s resulted in much of the user-centered design and interaction design work that is performed today. Basically, taking what was cited from point 1 and 2 and meshing them with real world examples of web and web application design.

Examples
  1. User-centered design
    • Observe children’s books from different countries to see the communication of letters, numbers, etc.
    • Cite example of showing my son my finished icon work and having him recognize (at a high level) what each one represents
    • Ideas for icons: An arrow versus a realistic finger, A fork and knife versus a realistic plate of food, Showing examples at various sizes to see the difference in recognizability
  2. Interaction design
    1. look at kiosks targeted for children

Results

My submission was rejected. Flatly rejected. In fact, out of the 7 people on the judging panel who gave feedback, 6 of them completely (and bluntly) discounted my proposal. I’ll be completely honest when I say that I was quite devastated at the results.

However, looking on the bright side, I did have the satisfaction of knowing that I had at least enlightened and inspired one person on the panel.

And the lesson to be learned?

Don’t give up. If you believe in something enough, make it happen. But, keep an open mind as to the feedback you receive. It’s always beneficial to bounce ideas off of others and refine as necessary, without effecting the integrity of your original idea.

Looking back, I don’t think the IA Summit was the right venue for this type of proposal. However, I see that there’s a related submission on the 2011 SXSW Panels. I’m going to submit this for 2012 and see where it goes from there.

Footnote

I want to thank Lisa Colvin for helping me out back in 2006. Not only did she tell me about the benefits of Linked In (and being my very first connection), but she also gave some very good advice. She told me not to feel so out of place, take full advantage of the knowledge base available and network as much as possible. And so I did.