creative technology serious/superpower game(s)

Here an update about the work Siewart and I are doing at T-Xchange. The project is to design and build an application that helps employers' motivation to do their chores. Tuesday we presented our plans for to our clients. Here a quick summary of these plans and the feedback we got so far:

Augmented Office
The chosen title already gives an idea where we're aiming at. The idea is to augment chores in the office by incorporating them into a game.

The core principal, as introduced in our self-experiment, is inherited from the hedonic calculus. It states that every act one performs causes an amount of pain (measured in dolors) and an amount of pleasure (measured in hedons). If the pain out-weights the pleasure, as usually the case with office chores, one usually decides against doing the chore, until the mess is unbearable! 

However, in a company, especially in one that want's to practice the new world of working, we can't only look at individual pleasure and pain. If chores aren't done, others are affected as well. Therefore, besides dolors and hedons, collectons and anti-collectons (from collective) had to be introduced as well.
Clearly our application has to compensate the occurring dolors with virtual hedons and the anti-collectons with virtual collectons.

This is an abstract concept, to help us find a more mathematical approach. It might not even be visible to the users -- the gained hedons and collectons are used to as data input for the actual game.

By doing a chore, one can earn hedons and collectons. The rewarded hedons are allways fixed for a task (as long it seems sensible to do the task at the time).

The amount of the rewarded collectons however depends on how sensible doing the chore was towards the group. If, for example, one has emptied up the dishwasher for the fifth time this week and nobody else had, doing the chore again is not optimal. Your collecton pay-off is minimal. The maximum pay-off for the "empty dishwasher" chore can be achieved if the dishwasher has been emptied in turns by everyone.

So, hopefully, by regulating the pay-off of collectons, we can steer who does which tasks and when, improving the overall content among the co-workers.

For the actual game a metaphor had to be found to help explaining the concept. This metaphor should fit to the identity of the company and provide space to visualize the individual and collective progress and conflict in the company, as suggested by the earning (or loss) of hedons and collectons.

We proposed two different metaphors that should meet these requirements.

The Caring Metaphor
Inspired by games such as FarmVille, The Sims or Tamagotchi, the caring metaphor gives the company a shared space (farm, garden, house, ...) that has to be fostered collectively, while every user has his own representation in the game in some form (pet, avatar, flowers, ...) that has to be taken care of as well.

Individual progress could be reflected in new items for the pet, or growths of newer, bigger flowers, depending on the chosen theme. Individual conflicts could cause atrophy of these representatives.

Collective progress would affect the world as a whole - more playground articles for all pets, better weather for the flowers, etc. Collective conflicts could cause a breakdown of the world, requiring to repair it again. Or problems/obstacles such as attacking enemies.

The Exploration Metaphor
Inspired by a German kids song, "Unsre Schule hat keine Segel", which pictures a school as a ship (without sails) where teachers and pupils explore the world (of knowledge) together. Likewise, in a company everybody sits in the same boat. There are goals to be reached that only can be reached when working together. In this metaphor the company would literally be pictured as a ship (or other transport) that discovers its own world. Users could be represented as parts of the ship or crew.

Individual progress could be the rank on the ship, or, again, personalized characters. Individual conflicts could be events such as deck fights or sea sickness.

Collective progress would be the exploration of a world, conquering continents and finding treasures/artefacts as proof of their success. The content could be related to the companies actual desires. Collective conflicts could be attacks to the ship (Pirates!) or obstacles (Hurricane!).

Technical Realization
To administrate and interact with the chore system a conventional web-application will be written, providing an API that allows other applications to interface the data.

The first application would be the game, written in Unity3D (as requested by the client). We plan to use procedural generation of assets, which seems like a technique worth exploring for this applications, since it allows providing the game with new elements without having to create them by hand.

A second application would be single value devices, which would be deployed in form of small gadgets on the desks of each user as a small, playful indicator to show who might have to catch up a little with doing his chores.

Reaction at T-Xchange
The reaction was positive, and they were excited to see us realize our plans. Some valuable remarks about our time planning were made (which wasn't really allowing an iterative progress). We were asked to work out the exploration metaphor further for this prototype, because it would fit the identity of their company better. We agreed on having a working prototype in two weeks.



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