From not-playing to playing
We thought we'd take a peek under the hood of the Tiny Games design process today and share some ideas about how the app will actually work. We know from the experience of many, many events that getting people to start playing is an art. When we're not playing, we're nervous, reticent, sensible - and when we're playing, we start to cast off those inhibitions in pursuit of our goal. The play historian Johann Huizinga described this play-space as the 'magic circle', into which we step when we start to play.
Normally, that magic circle is made literal - a Monopoly board, a sports arena, a "Player 1 Ready!" screen - but with Tiny Games, we're trying to draw that magic circle wherever you happen to be. Here are a few of the ways we're breaking that down.
Be specific, and don't offer a list. One of our central goals with the app is to recommend the right game for the right situation. Partly that's a challenge of content and tagging, but it's also a question of tone. The app will tell you it has the perfect game for you, and we want you to believe in that! We think that going along with a single recommendation is more fun than trying to choose from a catalogue - if you're choosing, someone has to decide, and then it's their responsibility whether the game is fun or not. Our way, it's the app's fault, and you can just pick another when you're done. (of course, all the games will be fun)
Ask playful questions. We imagine that at the start of using the app, one person will have brought it out to encourage their friends to play. Over the course of answering the questions that lead you to a game, we intend to bring in the other players - by asking questions of the group ("Do you think toucans are amazing?", identifying an individual ("hand the phone to the youngest player") or discovering a handy fact ("is any of you wearing a hat?". By doing this, we hope to get the group acting as a group, which is halfway to playing a game together.
Use the environment. A truly essential element of Tiny Games is that they make use of the world around you. As well as making the world feel full of playful possibility, this also ties you to playing right here, right now - you might not have access to trees or cutlery later... Humans like deadlines, and we find that this now-or-never approach is a useful impetus to get started.
Every interaction feels fun. We hope the intro video gives a sense of the kinds of interactions in the app - not just menu clicks, but something animated and playful. We think it's important to put this kind of polish in the app - lots of little fun touches that keep it feeling fresh.
Break down the rules. We're going to use the affordance of the smartphone screen to break up those scary paragraphs of text you see when you open a board game - instead, it will be one idea per screen, to help embed each one into your minds.
We hope that these design ideas will help that transition from not-playing to playing to be as smooth as possible - and consequently, you'll be playing more games than ever before.