Conducttr Blog

This post continues from an earlier post here. Hence that’s why the figure numbers don’t start at 1.

Many ARGs and other transmedia experiences run for a set period of time and then become abandoned. It’s fair to say that most have been designed to run while the money’s there to support it. But effectively they become abandoned because they lose their appeal – there’s no new content, no new challenges, no new fun, no new social opportunities.

This applies equally to any community as it does to ARGs. And some experiences fail to gain traction at all.

The problem in all cases is that the worlds haven’t been designed to be self-sustaining. By self-sustaining I mean that the audience is allowed (given the tools and permissions) to create its own entertainment – generating new content or assuming the roles originally assumed by the designers.

To design a self-sustaining world requires that we understand the audience ecosystem of different types of people motivated in different ways. The world needs a mix of these people to make the experience work.

In his excellent book Designing Virtual Worlds Richard Bartle describes his analysis of MUD player types in which he asked the question “what do people want from a multi-user dungeon?” He concluded that there were four player types:

  • Achievers – like to achieve defined goals such as leveling up, gaining points etc
  • Socializers – like hanging out with other people (either as themselves or role-playing a character)
  • Explorers – like discovering new parts of the world
  • Killers (also known as Griefers) – like to dominate and upset others!

Bartle found that each type needed another type in order to sustain their fun and engagement. If you buy his book – which I recommend you do – then you can see how these groups inter-relate to each other.

Bartle also created what he calls a Player Interest Graph, which is shown in Figure 4 .

Figure 4 Player Interest Graph (by Richard Bartle)

I was reminded of this diagram recently when I discovered Jane McGonigal’s paper on the Engagement Economy. In her paper you’ll find a reference to Nick Yee’s document on Motivations of Play in Online Games which has similar findings to Bartle’s work.

Also in McGonigal’s paper is a reference to Nicole Lazzaro’s Emotional Goals of Players. In Lazzaro’s paper she identifies four keys to unlocking emotion in games (illustrated in Figure 5):

  • Hard Fun – players who like the opportunities for challenge, strategy, and problem solving. Their comments focus on the game’s challenge and strategic thinking and problem solving.
  • Easy Fun – players who enjoy intrigue and curiosity. Players become immersed in games when it absorbs their complete attention, or when it takes them on an exciting adventure.
  • Serious Fun – players who get enjoyment from their internal experiences in reaction to the visceral, behavior, cognitive, and social properties.
  • People Fun – players who enjoy using games as mechanisms for social experiences and enjoy the social experiences of competition, teamwork, as well as opportunity for social bonding and personal recognition that comes from playing with others.

Figure 5 Four Keys to Unlock Emotion in Games

Again, it’s possible to see echoes of similar findings to Bartle’s work and I decided to map Yee’s and Lazzaro’s work to Bartle’s Player Interest Graph as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6 Goals by Audience Interest

If these are the benefits being sought by audiences, then it’s now possible to convert this into a content map that shows what content is most likely to appeal to particular groups of the audience. This is shown in Figure 7.

The importance of this is that we can now check our content to see if we’re pulling too hard in one direction; for example, too much content aimed at Explorers and not enough content for Achievers or Socializers.

Always remember that I think of transmedia content as being recursive – meaning that although the ARG is shown here as fundamentally a game, in designing the ARG you would take a more granular approach and look at the specific content of the ARG and how it appeals to each player type.

To summarize then, in designing your content strategy, look to provide something for each of the four audience types and do so in a way that offers opportunity for attention, evaluation, affection, advocacy and contribution.

Figure 7 Content by Audience Type

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