Warm Gun: Designing for Engagement

by October 12, 2010

In his Designing for Engagement presentation at the Warm Gun Design Conference in San Francisco, Zynga's Mark Skaggs shared some lessons learned about making engaging gaming experiences. Here's my notes from his talk.

  • Engagement = fun = feelings. Most important thing you can remember from this talk.
  • Engagement is what’s in the player’s mind. Sign that a player is engaged in your game: can’t wait to play it again; connected to the story content, characters; enters “flow state” while playing; can create an experience even while not playing.
  • For most games, only 5% of people that buy them get to the end. We want people to get through the games we create.
  • The real “win” is when people want to keep people playing your game. This comes from creating “entertainment” with memorable moments.
  • External reminders only go so far. The want has to come from inside to bring people back.

Feelings drive engagement.

  1. Kid in a candy store –had fun before wants to come back
  2. Enjoy the ambience of being in a different (game) world
  3. Self expression –show off, keep up with the joneses, game can become a story telling method
  4. Way to wind down after a long day
  5. What’s on next level?
  6. Competition and goals
  7. Social obligations

How do you create these feelings?

  1. Use game design patterns and activities: loot drops, wither/harvest, skill development, puzzles, character building.
  2. Present them in an entertaining way
  3. Where players feel their time is well spent
  • The right feelings create the internal pull to bring a player back into the game
  • Think about the player’s mindset –it’s a very personal experience. Understand what they are going through when looking at your app.