The other day I commented about the reviews written about a street sweeping game. The post ended up on GovLoop where Denise Petet added some great insights on how the game might be made more fun and engaging. She suggested adding more interesting cars, having pedestrians interact with the sweeper, and even allowing the sweeper to temporarily turn into a race car for a few turns around a track. And today having listened to the following TED talk about how video games are developed to keep us engaged, I feel she is on to something.
In the video, the concept of randomness and the percentages developers set up in the game for allowing discovery of quest items seem to suggest Denise's ideas will work. I know when I play World of Warcraft it does seem like my behavior is as described in the video. At first I don't mind searching, but as I near my goal, I am happy to realize finding the items seems so much easier. I always wondered if I was just lucky or imagining it, but now I know it's all part of the grand scheme of things! Denise's suggestions could be combined with discovery quests so that perhaps within the game is another game where the driver must log so many sightings of a certain type of car or potholes, or broken inlets, or other similar features that show up based on specific percentages.
So the lesson seems to be that as we develop games for learning, we need to try to keep in mind this simulated randomness. And because many of the tasks or concepts we develop training for might be perceived as "boring" by some, it will be important to think of the details related to the task that might be taken for granted and develop them as interesting and engaging features that show up at random. In our sweeper example, perhaps they could have added billboards that change each time the sweeper passes by. Or as the commenter suggested, allow the user to temporarily enter a different reality where perhaps the sweeper turns into a race vehicle for a limited time – I think Donkey Kong uses a similar idea when it temporarily takes you out of the regular game for a quick mini-game. I can just imagine a sweeper all decked-out and revved up racing around a track then transforming back to its traditional mild-mannered public works vehicle.