PED - From Game Design to Experience Design

Part Four of the Principles of Experience Design Series

In the previous post in the series, we discussed the DESIGN ONCE, EXPERIENCE MANY TIMES model created by game designers to explore the experiences they create for game players. The Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics model is a very powerful one, but there are three important limits to understand about the model.
  1. The mechanics are fixed
  2. The game design assumes a desired set of aesthetics
  3. The game design makes assumptions about how the user will interact with the game (the dynamics)

An experience designer has the opportunity to provide a richer experience by exploiting these constraints, through:
  1. Asking for and receiving feedback on desired aesthetics
  2. Asking for and receiving feedback on how dynamics are working
  3. Evolving mechanics

Why is this important? Let's pretend for a moment that you are an aspiring actor/singer/dancer who is waiting tables at a neighborhood ethnic restaurant while waiting for your big break. Money is tight, every dollar of tip income means something! You've been assigned 3 tables. At the first is an elderly couple with their three grandchildren. They've been coming here weekly for years and always order the same thing. The kids seem a little more rambunctious than usual tonight. At the second table are two men in business suits - a salesman with an important prospective client with whom he wants to build a stronger relationship. The final table contains a group of people who meet monthly to try different restaurants to build their knowledge of cuisine. You could serve them all identically and according to your training, but the opportunity for designing superior experiences (and bigger tips) awaits you!

Let's start with the couple and their unruly grandchildren. What can you do to make their experience more better? They're regulars that order the same thing each time, but there's one difference this evening. The kids are acting up, so they might value speed of execution tonight. So you ask them "Would you like to see a menu, or should I just place your usual order to save you a little time tonight?" Their answer gives you feedback on their desired aesthetic, and they probably want to get the little darlings home to their parents as quickly as possible tonight.

The salesman at the next table has a very different agenda. In fact, maximizing the amount of time pleasurably spent would be high on his list. This would be a good scenario for your best "attentive but not intrusive" routine. Your goal is to ensure that they keep their conversation going. You want to get good feedback on how the dinner is going, so that if you need to pay more or less attention, you can.

The final group tells you who they are and asks for recommendations of dishes that represent the cuisine well. Your recommendations and your discussion of the history and variety of the cuisine are well appreciated by this group, but would not have been by the others. Then you offer that one of the cooks grew up in the country of cuisine origin, and has a few signature dishes that are considered by management to be to exotic for the menu. You ask if, as students of the cuisine, they would like to try one, and they're extremely happy with your evolving dining mechanics!

Can you think of other things you could do to enhance the experience of each group?

It is interesting to see how the basic MDA model still applies. Designing any experience starts with knowing the desired aesthetics, and then selecting the appropriate mechanics to cause the dynamics that produce those desired aesthetics in the mind of the experiencers. The challenges of moving from design once, experience many times to design-one-or-many-times, experience once-or-many-times are the elements of feedback and evolving mechanics.

The way most organizations deal with these challenges is to include PEOPLE as part of the mechanics. That introduces the notion of a multilevel experience, because now the person involved in creating the experience is having their own experience in the process! And the quality of the provider's experience can have a profound effect on the end experiencer! That's one of the key reasons that restauranteur Danny Meyer believes that he must focus first on the experiences of his employees in order to provide great customer service.
Meyer reinforced that the first and most important application of hospitality is to the people who work for you, and then, in descending order of priority, to the guests, the community, the suppliers, and the investors. “By putting your employees first, you have happier employees, which then lead to a higher HQ. A higher HQ leads to happy customers, which benefits all the stakeholders. The cycle is virtuous, not linear, because the stakeholders all impact each other.”
Too bad more people don't look at things this way.

Next time we'll talk about how process design and experience design are related, and a great methodology for designing processes with superior feedback mechanisms. After that, customer delight!

Part 4 of the Principles of Experience Design series:
  1. Introduction
  2. Anatomy of a Joke
  3. The Game Designer's Model

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posted by Mike at 12:34 PM


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