Persuasive games receives quite a lot of attention, and rightly so. The videogame “platform” is in many respects ideal for conveying messages in a powerful way. The idea, as I understand it, is this: if you could turn your message into an interactive experience, that will make your message more contagious. This is because games add interactivity to the power of ordinary video (sound and moving images) and interactivity done right engages us. This seems to be what people are doing with games such as “Fatworld” and “Airport Security”.
I have just begun reading “Persuasive Technology” by B.J. Fogg and cannot say that I know anything about the theories and ideas behind persuasion in interactive media, but I hope that the book will shed some light on the subject.
There is, however, one thing that immediately came to mind as I browsed through the foreword. I played a lot of “Brain Trainer” on my Nintendo DS a few months back and I was stunned with the efficiency the game captivated me and persuaded me to come back to it time and time again. At the time I thought a bit about what the game was doing and how it affected me. I came to the conclusion that the key was the guy on the screen – Dr. Kawashima. He actually got to me like he was a real person.
When I started up the game and the good old Doc greeted me, he said something like “Hello Mikael, good to see you again. It seems like you have been away for almost five days now.” He could as well have added “Shame on you!” because that’s how I felt. The next day I fired up the game. I must confess I did it partly to keep the Doc happy.
That, to me, is persuasive power!
Of course, there is a fine balance here. The good Doctor in that game is a double-edged sword. It’s been months since I played the game. It sits in a drawer at home and I am reluctant to start it up again. Why? I am half-expecting the Doc to tan my hind for being away for so long.
I feel that there are immense powers here that just waits to be unleashed. Cleverly designed games can convey powerful messages efficiently. Furthermore, I believe more “traditional” games can benefit by applying techniques for making better tutorials, create more intuitive interfaces and generally hook the player to the game.