UX Week | Bill McIntyre | Patterns of Play and Interaction

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UX Week | Bill McIntyre | Patterns of Play and Interaction

hi my name is Bill McIntyre and I’m a toy inventor and that is still a real job my little company atomic am we create interactive toys and games and we also help other companies prototype their electronic toy and game ideas and last year at ux week 2012 absolutely wonderful we talked about inventing in the process and we debuted at Omnicom’s flagship product little–it amo and so we’re just going to refresh everybody’s memory with 10 seconds of little utama so it’s little at um OH the amazing thinking robot from atomic ow what’s he doing he’s thinking what’s he thinking about space stuff science stuff robot stuff little Tom Oh from atomic ow batteries not included awesome so that’s little–it amo and we love him we’re not going to talk about him so much this time but will come up later in the presentation this week this year we’re going to talk about play patterns right we’re going to ask what is a play pattern how do they work and how can they make interactive experiences better right and before we can do that we really have to look at play right what is play and it’s actually kind of hard to define did a lot of good reading on it one of the best definitions i found is george santayana the philosopher defined play as whatever is done spontaneously and for its own sake you know and you might be even want to add in and is fun but that’s really that’s the core of it play has some trappings it has these tools right at toys and games are very familiar objects of play Jesse Schell who wrote in an excellent book I refer to a couple times the art of game design spends 20 20 pages trying to define what is play what is a game what is a toy and he comes down to a toys an object you play with a good toy is an object that is fun to play with and the game is a problem-solving activity approached with a playful attitude and we’re going to talk about that attitude some more too because that becomes very important right so what is play for right all animal species these mammals tend to have play and engage in play primates especially play is the work of childhood right master educator Maria Montessori very focused on play and learning in the tie between the two master game developer Ralph Koster up said fun is just another word for learning and I think that really that hits the nail right on the head because play is the work of childhood you have to think of children almost as scientists right play is their laboratory everything is new to them and play is how they experiment basically testing things out what you know what everything does so when your child because everything’s new this place how you learn not only how you discover sound and vision and cause and effect in motion but it’s actually how you explore relationships I’ve misspelled dynamics but it’s in relationship dynamics very important so we’re going to look at play right what are the properties of play importantly what makes play different from anything else what makes it different from work and it turns out one of the most important parts of this is attitude right there is an experiment run where researchers studied preteen children’s description of their daily activities and many of the kids described everything they did as play or in terms of play and there’s a group of kids who actually described everything they did in terms of work and even though the activities were essentially identical right so attitude is very important and how do you how do you make their transformation how do you transform work into play what’s the difference right well play has these properties and one of them is very important that spontaneous and it’s voluntary and it’s free and we’re going to look at that as in freedom right so play is voluntary right there’s a very big difference between go play outside and the floor is lava right or let’s go ride bikes right all three of those things have a very different feel go play outside is sort of the least play like of all those right that’s it’s not spontaneous play is free as in freedom so when your inch playing you know you’re in control of the experience you get to choose the play pattern you know what you’re going to do you’re going to choose the theme whether it’s you know Highlander or Star Wars or under the sea and you’re to choose the narrative right forces coming together coming apart and we’ll talk some more about that one of the most important aspects of plays it’s free from consequence right there are no real life penalties for the way you play right if you lose a game of hopscotch everybody’s still going to treat you the same it’s all going to be okay and that leaves you free to experiment right you’re actually free to try different strategies and again if you go back to looking as at the child as a scientist that freedom to experiment with trying things different ways is critical on the

flip side play is also free from reward right so if you you know if you tell some if you win this game we’re going out for ice cream if you if you beat that circuit Suzie durkins at baseball we are we are getting Sundays like that changes the whole dynamic of play right that that causes some steaks it makes you anxious you’re not going to try and experiment with new strategies you’re going to stick to what you know works and that so that’s a very important aspect to play doesn’t really have rewards other than its own self right so now we’re going to look at play patterns and one of the first people that coined this term was a sociologist Mildred Parton and she wrote a dissertation in 1932 called the stages of play in what you know is one of the very first formal studies of looking at the way children interact with each other and she came up with a number of categories and I’ve kind of cherry picked the major ones here and the first she looked at sort of the basic level is solitary play it’s a very simple you’re playing with blocks you’re playing with your dolls and it’s just you by yourself right and then she sort of decided a higher level of this was a parallel play and this is something that occurs in two to four year olds and what they’ll do is they’ll they’ll observe a kid playing with a truck or a ball and they’ll pick up their own toys similar toy and they’ll play with a truck or a ball as well and there’s not direct interaction they’re just kind of checking each other out but this parallel play is again a very it’s the next step you know aside from playing all by your lonesome and it’s you know there are other parallels it’s like bowling or golf or you’re you’re not actually interacting with the ball at the same time you’re just doing the same thing at the same time as your playmate and what Parton saw is sort of the highest level of play was what’s called cooperative play activity becomes share organized and so like saying I’m let’s all play circus I’m going to be the ringmaster and you be the lion tamer and you know you check tickets at the box office and these roles emerge right this group dynamic emerges you all share the narrative you’re all sharing the theme at that point group identity can emerge and all these different aspects basically take place that can only occur with group play and that’s very important so after parting a number of sociologists toy companies and inventors and researchers and educators started to use this terminology play pattern basically play pattern is a method of play that’s different and separate from the narrative or theme right you know the theme can be spies or saving the galaxy or where you know there’s there’s a big wedding the narrative is of course what happens right the good guys win the bad guys win we’re all going on a road journey together but the pattern itself is basically what what the play activity really is and the root of all play is exploratory play they call it right and it’s basically infancy to almost age too but it’s really about discovery it’s a how sound works how motion works right you’re born mom turns on the lights and everything is new what’s that shiny thing and so it’s all about mirrors and mobiles and what they call manipulatives which are busy boxes it’s about learning cause and effect right and that’s very important and the next play pattern that becomes very popular very important is transformative play creative play right and that involves painting and drawing and sculpting and in its root level it’s really not about creating this beautiful work of art it’s really more like I’m going to turn this canvas purple right like that’s important it’s cause and effect you’re changing the world you’re changing things same without you like I’m going to take this lump of clay and I’m going to squeeze it and it’s just going to squish right and that’s learning that’s very important and then you sort of work on to the next steps of you know I’m going to represent my family I’m going to draw my house and then beyond that as you’re going to draw things you think of a desire like that that sweet car or the fighter jet I want to be flying or my new x-wing you know it’s it’s that sort of level of that you build up on construction play is a big part of this right that’s blocks its Legos I mean you can all the way to Minecraft and again it starts with cause and effect is I’m going to stack these 10 things up and see what happens when I break them down you know and you can basically build up to or I’m going to build a whole village with my friends right that’s very important another very common play pattern that breaks down all sorts of different ways is physical play right movement you’re swinging your climate on monkey bars dance sports and something the toy companies call skill play and we’ll take a look at what skill play is it’s a what if so what and now I

right so now it’s your favorite store right in swing-wing but that’s that’s something cuz it’s something you’re doing for its own sake it’s it’s own activity you can become a master of the swing-wing and it really doesn’t affect your life in other ways but you have that knowledge right I um and the next posted my favorite actually played category play pattern is called pretend play and it’s it’s a really really deep sort of vein you can mine for interactive experience pretend play always has two elements narrative right what’s going to happen and that’s not something you necessarily plan out at the beginning but there’s a series of events that occur and it has a theme and the theme is very changeable it’s very based on your society or the things you’ve been told or the stories you know the root of pretend play is role-playing right you explore what would it be like to be a hero or a monster or a parent or a teacher and the root of role-playing right when you really get down to it is nurturing play right it’s it’s having a baby doll it’s sort of the first role playing children tend to do and it’s exploring the relationship that’s most important to them right it’s my parents and as is having a baby doll that lets you you know explore what it’s like to love someone to take care of them to tell them no disco them and to see what all those things really mean and that that role reversal is very essential to learning and development nurturing extends very quickly to pets right teddy bears ver be my pet monster it doesn’t necessarily have to be a baby but the relationship between you and that toy is essentially the same right it’s a very it’s a nurturing play pattern beyond that you get into thing like things like doll play went in to post GI Joe coined the term action figure action figure play and that’s one of the highest forms of role play because you play multiple characters at the same time right you can be both Batman and Catwoman and explore the motivations and what’s going on in the relationship between them you can be both parents you can be all sorts of things and that dynamic letting you explore all sides of a situation really adds a lot to the value of that one of the patterns for play something very basic is people explore social outcomes right so it starts with everyday situations Neil times are one of the most complicated things you’ll do as a kid right there’s all these rules and this order the things household vignettes you know it’s hi honey I’m home or mommy’s mad and it’s like how do we all work that out and stay you know stay together and stay happy how can you resolve that at the end of the day at special occasions are the next right there’s weddings somebody’s very special they’re like birthdays it’s Teddy’s birthday I’m saving the galaxy that’s a special occasion on all these things involved like planning and relationships and making sure the right people are doing the right things right a new enhanced us even further toy companies from while back and it’s really time immemorial introduced doll houses right and dollhouses and action playsets do two things they enhance the narrative right so you basically you get reinforcement of having furniture and objects and props which enhance role play more importantly it gives a child a sense of control right it’s more it’s a deeper play experience if I can control everything that goes on you know the car arrives I’ve got furniture here and that’s all going up in the bedroom and so we’re going to look at two examples of dull houses and action playsets what’s going on here right now Modell’s famous barbie has a brand new dream house with special furniture that’s fun to put together and even a sliding door that really opens inside there’s a big new closet with hangers for hold of Barbie costumes you buy best of all Barbie’s new dream house is a lot bigger now you can actually change the size and shape of the rooms like this or this or lots of other ways you’ll love Barbies wonderful dream house it really is a dream and here’s Barbies fashion shop the perfect place to have fashion shows with Barbie midge and ski when you’re through playing the fashion chop and Barbies new dream house both fold up so you can take them with you wherever you go you can tell they’re Mattel good Wow right so that’s fantastic you’ve got a place to let all these dramas unfold out we’ve got another really good example of the dollhouse action set place it over the budget team members equipment arrived for the opening of GI Joe headquarters flash a radio message from the tower advanced a team member clock in quicksand get the maps is the location it going Joe and good luck back in the tower Jill signals help all the way we’ll

your own adventures GI Joe adventure team headquarters GI Joes an ATV sold separately right awesome so we’ve seen both of these right and we look at these things say well what do these have in common and there’s one element that jumps right out at me and that’s the thing they both have is hangers right and they both have a place to store your outfits a place to keep your gear and outfits are really important right when you’re all playing when your pretend playing your role becomes who you are you need your props and those props lead to different narrative outcomes right and there’s a really great example of this it’s no longer made that I’d like to run here captain action so super powerful you can change him into nine of the mightiest super heroes of all time change captain actions uniform and face mask and he’s Batman fighting crime with his Batarang he’s the mysterious phantom he’s the Lone Ranger he’s Flash Gordon and he’s Superman flying to the rescue yet captain action complete with uniform sword and ray gun then get his nine other great superhero outfits they each come with action ready uniform thanks mass and realistic equipment he’s ideal right that is that’s ideal and he’s a great toy because not only are you role-playing but your doll is also role playing at that point right he’s exploring all these different social situations that he never necessarily you know do has either Batman or the Lone Ranger you can be both right and that sort of least this right so we’ve got you know Barbie’s Dreamhouse we’ve got GI Joes Action Team adventure headquarters and that leads us to some important questions that toy makers and sociologists think about a lot right and that is are there differences in the way boys and girls play it’s a hot topic there are a lot of great newspaper articles last couple of years especially it would make a great presentation by itself but we’re just going to talk about really quickly there’s a caveat right hi I’m a toy inventor I’m not a scientist I’m not a doctor I’m not even a full-time employee I just you know but it’s something I think that that needs attention and that is what I we found is all children draw from the same essential play patterns right not just children but they’ve actually done Studies on chimpanzees and rhesus monkeys some at Emory University and some back in the eighties we’re all children unit primate or human tended play with each of the play patterns there’s some different degree in how much each tend to play with a nurturing pattern versus an action play and a skill play pattern and these things but they’re all very common to all of us now that being said your narratives and your themes come from the world around you they come from your parents they come from your friends they come from the movies you’ve seen in the books you’ve read and those themes and narratives tends to diverge based on the culture you’re in there’s a great book about this pink pink brain blue brain neuroscientist leaves Elliott as a great quote I like which is the parents and reinforce gender specific play and that very tiny brain differences tend to get amplified by culture especially by marketing and so it’s you know there are differences they’re really subtle they’re really small and just the reason I bring that up is you know when you’re creative experiences of any kind be very very conscious about limiting gender-based role right role play is such a big form a big part of childhood and learning itself it’s just really important to be cognizant of that there’s a company at amo calm is also cognizant of such you know gender role based differences so we’re introducing our newest product miss utama for girls new from atomica it’s miss utama the amazing thinking robot / girls she’s thinking math is easy science is for girls mr. Tomo comes with a fashionable array of shoes and accessories shoes why does she need shoes miss adamo from atomic ow batteries not included right there we are mr. Tomo for girls with fashion shoes and accessories right which brings us to an important question so how do you make we’ve got all these play patterns we’ve taken a look at and their experiences within themselves right how can you extend that what can you take away that’s important right and so in creating this presentation there’s actually a new toy that’s come out this week and the teaser camera I haven’t played with it it looks great the teaser commercial for it touches on a lot of these points and so I just like to tease that very quickly just because it’s an incredible piece of commercial making

I don’t know how it’s actually going to be but it touches on a lot of the points we talked about during the presentation right theme and narrative is very very strong with this desire what’s it called Disney infinite right it it promises you can choose your own you’ve got that sort of flexibility to like I’m going to be under the sea I’m going to be in outer space i’m going to be in the magic kingdom theme and narrative you know and their characters you’re familiar with so you know that pirates and monsters inc and all those guys there are themes and narratives become part of your play pattern right play is free from consequences right and that’s something inheriting a lot of video games in general but it really is you know nothing bad is going to happen to you if you don’t play very well it’s about experimentation right so there’s there’s this concept of a toy construction set toy box set it’s being able to build your own play experiences and that makes it very play like that makes it very engaging something we talked about before it’s very important to play as an experienced losing doesn’t actually punish or cost the participant right in keeping your interactive experiences play like it’s very important to keep that in mind that there’s no penalties and also there are no inherent rewards other than play itself right if you have an experience that offers a cash prize for for doing well or excelling or outselling the other salespeople or something it’s work and that can be engaging but it’s not play like and that’s that’s a very important point players have autonomy right so in Disney infinite you know it appears and I don’t know how it really plays out but you know it appears you have the ability to do a vast array of things and it’s under your control it’s at your volition that makes it playa like right its autonomous I can control what’s going on place of course voluntary right spontaneous if you can do the thing you want at the moment you want that that’s sort of the height being play like multiplayer right I Spartan suggested one of the highest forms of engaging play is being able to play together and with other people and we’ll need to wrap it up you know the most important thing about play is it’s fun right if you’re engaged resigning experience testing it with other people observing their reactions fun is key fun is that the heart of play so thanks everybody for forgiving me your time and I appreciate it