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Why Games Matter Episode 1

The Raccoopod: Why Games Matter 1

The Raccoopod Podcast

Join us in our new series where we talk about why games matter.  In this first episode I share how Dark Souls helped me through a really rough period in my life. Let us know, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Transcript

Why Games Matter: Zach’s Story

Welcome to the Raccoopod! This is going to be the start of a smaller series in our podcast.  We wanted to have an open and honest dialogue about the power that games can have and what they have done for us. I’m your host Zach Bearinger, and Today we are going to talk about one of the most impactful games I have ever experienced.  

 

In order to set the stage for how much games have helped me we have to go into my state of mind.  I was entering into my second year of university and my first year as a resident assistant.  After my first semester my grades had dropped a bit and I was feeling stressed about being a good RA for my residents.  I suffer from pschlothemia which has long periods of depression or mania.  During this time I was struck hard with a deep depressive swing.  I found myself waking up every morning, opening my eyes and questioning if it was worth continuing on.  I found myself struggling with thoughts of suicide every couple of days.  It was a dark time for me.  

 

It was during this time when the first dark souls game released, I had a resident who was really excited and had got me excited for it as well.  So on release day we headed over to pick up our copies and headed home excited to play.  

 

By playing the original Dark Souls I found myself up against a game that seemed too difficult and was going to be something that I couldn’t ever beat.  However every attempt I made I found myself making improvements becoming better at the game until I could conquer the challenge in front of me.  Then the game would throw something harder and harder and harder and I eventually hit the point where one of the last bosses I fought I was able to beat on my first try.  I had gone from someone who struggled with some of the easiest enemies to someone who beat a late stage boss on my first try.  The sense of accomplishment I felt at that moment was something I don’t know if I’ll ever forget, and it seems weird to have that be a moment I won’t forget but during that period I was feeling less and less like I was worthwhile and everything I touched was a failure.  But through Dark Souls I realized that those perceptions I had about my life just weren’t true, that I did have value, and that I could always do more than I imagined if I would continue to push myself beyond my current limits.  That’s just one example of the power a game has in my life where I have been uplifted by many different games for different reasons.  

 

Ok so games have some value outside of just entertainment but how can we apply something like this for gamification.  After all Dark Souls required years of development and cost millions of dollar to make.  If we want to have gamification in more things we need to distill lessons from larger projects so that we can apply them on a smaller scale.  What can we learn from my story with Dark Souls?  There are a couple lessons we can learn but we’ll stick to 3. First is that being in a game world you are able to fail with far more freedom than the real world.  There is a well known mechanic from Dark Souls where when you die you lose all your currency and have to return to where you died to recover your currency.  This meant that failing would give you an immediate goal on your next attempt, get at least as far as you were and recover your gains.  And it’s a great segway into the second lesson we can learn setting effective goals.  At the start of the game you have a long term goal, a medium goal and a short term goal.  Each of your goals leads to the next, short term can either be recovery or exploration, medium is to meet the next boss and overcome them and long term are to ring the two bells of awakening, defeat the 4 Lord Souls and to best the final boss.  Lastly feedback in providing you a sense of direction is huge.  In dark souls the world is expertly crafted and through subtle shifts in light, colour, and having differing looks makes it hard to get lost.  At times you can clearly see where you are trying to get to and you can understand how things are interconnected.  I’m gonna stop myself here as it’s too easy to completely dive into praising many of the design decisions that were made in crafting the dark souls experience.

 

If you would like to learn more about the power of games I would recommend checking out the Because Games Matter series on the Extra Credits youtube channel.  Also subscribe to our youtube channel to see new episodes when they come out.  You can also learn more about gamification and the raccoopack at raccoopack.media or by following us on social media.  Have a great day.

 

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Raccoopod Episode 2: What is Gamification?

The Raccoopod Episode 2: What is Gamification

The Raccoopod Podcast

Join us in our second podcast where we set out a definition of gamification.  We want people to understand how we see gamification and how we intend to use it.  Is our definition different from yours?  Let us know, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Transcript

What is Gamification?

 

Welcome to the Raccoopod! Where the goal of our podcast is to give you the insights into gamification, what it is, and why you should consider it for your applications. I’m your host Zach Bearinger, and Today we are breaking down Gamification.  This will be a broad overview covering what gamification is, what parts of games we are using to make it and looking at two cases of gamification to understand the benefits that can be gained from it.  Let’s jump into it.

So… What is gamification?  Let’s start with the Oxford Dictionary definition.  

 Gamification

  • The application of typical elements of game playing (Example point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service. 

 

There is also a quote from Richard Stokes “Gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun” 

 

Ok so from the quote and definition it is telling us something about gamification.  The goal of gamification is to increase engagement or as Richard Stokes puts it.  “Make the hard stuff fun.”  I like this quote because it covers a surface level as to what gamification is.  Like what would the point of making the hard things in life fun?  What does that really mean?  I see it as looking at the things people struggle with in their life and making them something they want to do.  So in a single word gamification is seeking to improve Engagement.  This can be done in two different methods, enjoyment and motivation.  The implementation will change depending on what subject we are looking to add gamification to.  Either method has us look at typical game elements to use as a base for gamification.

 So you may be wondering, what are typical elements of games?  Mostly this is game mechanics (such as set collection) but can also include multiple visual and audio techniques to improve engagements.  To get a real sense what game mechanics are and how they work individually and as a group let’s break down Monopoly to get a sense of why each mechanic matters and how they work together to make a compelling game.

 So when you play Monopoly what is the end goal?  The established goal in the rules is to “Become the wealthiest player through buying, renting and selling property.”  So we already have some hints as to some of the mechanics.  There is a strong resource management mechanic throughout Monopoly.  What does that mean?  Well in Monopoly’s case, it’s how you manage your money and your properties.  This mechanic leads to lots of interesting questions for players to consider.  Should I buy this property?  Should I Mortgage this property?  Which property should I put my first house on?  Ok thats a resource management mechanic but we haven’t even started a turn. 

 Your turn starts with a roll of the dice afterwards you move your piece equal to the number you rolled.  This is a straightforward mechanic but what does it add to the game of Monopoly.  First off it provides a degree of randomness to the game.  You can’t plan several turns ahead or choose where you land.  This is an important factor as without a roll to move mechanic nobody would ever pay rent or land on a space that didn’t benefit them.  There are several other mechanics that could take the place of roll to move but they lead to different outcomes, But with the roll to move people have a simple turn structure roll then resolve the space they land on.  It provides a simplicity that anyone can understand and get going immediately.   The randomness provides a sense of surprise and suspense.  “If he rolls a 6 or 7 he’ll need to pay me 250$?” “I need a 2 so that I can buy Park Place”

 Ok, so there is a roll to move and resource management mechanics. Are there any other mechanics in Monopoly? Yes, but I’ll breeze through these. There is an Auction mechanic, where if a player doesn’t buy a property they land on it starts an auction between all players for that property.  The auction starts at the next player but could allow someone to buy it at a discount, and also motivates players to purchase properties when they can so that you can reach the mid-late game sooner.  What does that entail for monopoly?  It’s being able to trade with other players and start developing properties.  There is the player elimination mechanic where if a player runs out of money and properties to mortgage they go bankrupt and are knocked out of the game.  This provides survivors with a sense of real progression and adds a weight to all your actions.  Are you progressing towards victory or are you sliding towards bankruptcy? 

  That’s more than you probably would have guessed.  There are lots of mechanics and massive differences in play from different combinations and implementations of them.  These are what drive the unique interactive nature of games, what happens after a user puts in an input or makes a decision. Each mechanic provides a question that requires an answer from the player.  When we do a gamification project we pick and choose different mechanics depending on the project as to what will work with the topic and goal as well as maximizing its effectiveness.   

 Alright so we now know what gamification is and how we implement it.  Now the big question is “Is Gamification effective?”.  Well let’s look at some real world examples.  

 First up,could gamification help scientific research?  Well we’ve got an excellent example to look at. It’s a puzzle game called Foldit.  What is Foldit?  From their website “Foldit is a revolutionary crowdsourcing computer game enabling you to contribute to important scientific research.”  So Foldit is a puzzle game that focuses on players manipulating a protein to have the highest score.  Foldit uses a combination of Score, Leaderboards, and Teams for increased engagement across it’s players.  Ok, so they have an engaging puzzle game but what value does that have?  

 Researchers look at the top solutions and apply the knowledge they gain from those solutions to scientific research.  But we have the ability to create AI and programs to generate such solutions. Why are they using people’s solutions?  Well people’s solutions have proven to be as effective or better than computer generated solutions.  It does follow logic as abstract problem solving has long been one of mankind’s best survival tactics and something that AI’s struggle with.  The design of Foldit promotes this creative thinking and allows anyone who wants to help with scientific research to be able to do so.

 For an example that’s more indicative of the work we do at Raccoopack Media.  So let’s look at the Training web game we made for VCH and how successful it’s been. They were looking to create a training application that would include gamification techniques to be more effective than regular training.  Our solution used several different mechanics to convey the information in a more engaging way.  We used Avatars and visualizations to make the training more personal. We broke down the training goals into several scenarios that would feature the user’s avatar and a situation they needed to solve.    We also included leaderboards to encourage friendly competition as well as replaying to get a higher score.

 But let’s talk about the benefits from creating a gamified training module.  It has been introduced across 10 hospitals and used in staff orientation at Vancouver General Hospital. Over 1000 staff have been trained with practical knowledge and skills. From these metrics we can see that the training has been seen as a useful tool to use in more training opportunities.  VCH also conducted a survey on the staff who played the game.  Within the evaluation they found 93% of participants found that the games helped them learn and understand person-centered care.  90% of those surveyed agreed that they learned practical knowledge of dementia care and that they would recommend the games to others.

 

Thanks for listening! If you’re interested in learning more about our app development services or how gamification can help your organization, feel free to book an exploratory call today and meet the pack at Raccoopack Media!  Also share this podcast with your friends and follow us on social media @Raccoopack Media, Have a great day.

 

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Raccoopod Episode 1: George Padua Interview

The Raccoopod Episode 1: George Padua Interview

The Raccoopod Podcast

Join us on our inaugural podcast episode.  We’ll be interviewing George Padua about the origins of Raccoopack Media, and why they wanted to do gamification.  

Transcript

ZACH BEARINGER

Hello, and welcome to the Raccoopod Podcast.

The goal of this podcast is to give you insights into gamification, what it is, and why you should consider it for your applications. I’m your host, Zach Bearinger. And today we have an interview with George Padua, President of Raccoopack media, we are gonna talk about the formation of Raccoopack media, and how they seek to bring more gamification to the world. So let’s go to the interview.

ZACH:

George, how are you doing today?

GEORGE PADUA:

Good, how are you? 

ZACH

Good, good. So let’s start off by talking a little bit about Raccoopack Media. So what is Raccoopack Media and what do they do?

GEORGE:

So Raccoopack Media, we develop web apps and mobile apps that use gamification or are serious games. And we use gamification to take people through a journey from point A to point B, in more functional applications; used potentially for events. And we use serious games as a way to educate and train in a more engaging way. Because we know that when you’re having fun, you’re able to retain more information.

ZACH

Absolutely. So let’s dive in a little bit into who you are. And what do you do at Raccopack?

GEORGE

 Sure. So hello, again, I’m George and I am the president or our fun title pack leader of Raccoopack Media. And what I do I do a lot of the conversations that we have with clients, figuring out the initial ideas that would potentially be the end product for them, and as well as the operational parts and direction for Raccoopack media.

ZACH:

So why did you start Raccoopack media? Why do you want to make an app development studio?

GEORGE:

So Raccoopack Media’s mission is to be able to create a positive impact in the world. And what we know best, developing mobile games, mobile applications, using game principles. Before Raccoopack Media, we were actually a game development studio called Raccoopack Studios, where we developed our own mobile games such as bubble bath, cooked the beat, and plushy defense. , And from there creating our own games, so we were not doing games for other people, for the people that are making positive change in the world.

ZACH:

Okay, you seem to really like the name Raccoopack. Where does that come from? Like, how did that name genesis for you guys? 

GEORGE:

So Raccoopack as a name it started off or the reason that we started with Raccoopack as a name is a value that we wanted to have for the studio, which is family. And as we know, around here in the neighborhood, you see a lot of records, and they always move around in packs of these families. And we want them to have that as part of the core and have that in the name itself for Raccoopack.

That’s kind of the reason that we decided to use that name for the organization. But before that, it does have a little bit of history from one of the colleagues that the one of the founders in Raccoopack studios and I had in post secondary. He made a joke that since we were working on our projects, late that night, we would have these dark circles in our eyes. Like we were a bunch of raccoons. And that joke stuck with our, with our teams and eventually Raccoopack in some form, or was used in the different teams that came out of our post secondary class. 

ZACH:

So it all started as a joke about pulling all nighters. 

GEORGE

Yes, yes. 

ZACH

That’s awesome.

So what do you think makes RPM special and different from other app development studios out there?

GEORGE:

So right off the bat, we do have gamification that makes us a little bit different from other app development studios. Because as much as we have the skills like the rest of the app development studios out there to develop applications. We go above that by creating or adding gamification principles to motivate people in the use of the application, taking them from point A to point B in the application, getting them involved inside it and enjoying using the application. And also, we are able to create serious games that can be used for things like workshops, and/or training material, elearning material to engage our learners in a much more fun way. 

ZACH:

I See, I see.

So let’s start talking a little bit more about George person, George, the man, not George the, although you’ve used the term pack leader a couple times so far, can you describe what that means? I think some people might be a little lost. It’s not a normal job title.

GEORGE:

So as I mentioned, pack leader is a fun title.

As game developers, we like to have fun, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

And at the beginning of the organization, I, the names presidency, CEO really didn’t quite stick to me. But we needed to have an official title for when we’re doing business registrations, but I wanted to have that kind of, it’s not all just business, part of it for the title. So I decided to call myself pack leader rather than the more official title, and give it a little bit of fun, and people seem to enjoy this well. When we’re talking to clients, it puts a smile on people’s faces.

ZACH:

So I know that you mentioned that you’ve started in programming, but you seem to be really drawn to game design. What is it that’s driven you towards, you know, making your own games initially, and then making these gamification applications? What’s been drawing you to that?

GEORGE:

So what’s what draws me into game design and user experience? In general, it’s actually very similar to what drew me into programming initially. What drew me into programming was kind of the experience the worlds that you can create that programming allowed because as sometimes in  C programming, it’s basically make believe in programming. You define certain variables, certain numbers, and say that this does that. And if you add this would that now it will do this and this means this now, and it’s just a lot of series of make believe. Now on another level of that is the user experience in game design, where, instead of just the functionality that you’re creating (the make believe) it’s also creating the experience itself, and how a person gets involved in the interaction, how they dive into it. And that’s really interesting, and being able to kind of understand better what makes people enjoy certain things, or how different different types of people with different psychographics or different interests, they might have, experience or want to experience things in a different way, which is pretty cool.

ZACH

I really love your definition of programming, there is just a series of make believe, probably wouldn’t enjoy a lot more if I looked at it like that more often than usually, for me when I’m coding. It’s more so I needed to do this, but it wants to fight me so I’ll have to force it in some way. It’s never by doing all these make believe things, then it works perfectly. For me. It’s a lot more of all these gears are grinding, I’ve got to get it flowing.

That’s why I’m now in game design focusing on mechanics and engaging people. 

GEORGE:

Yes. On the higher level. 

ZACH

Yeah. So what do you enjoy working most about Raccoopack Media?

GEORGE:

What I enjoyed most about Raccoopack Media is the culture that we’ve kind of cultivated over the years where our teams are more like a family. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We like to have fun, make jokes, when we’re working on our projects, or even just interacting with each other. And that, that having fun in the organization, having fun with each other, ends up translating into being able to have these Creative Conversations, being free to be able to talk your ideas out or go through criticism in a much friendlier positive way, and create these applications that we do where the fun element, not just in our organization becomes outside of our organization, through the applications for our clients and from our clients, to their customers, and other users that they have for the projects we do with them.

ZACH:

So it seems like you’re really happy with the family aspect that you initially set out to have with Raccoopack Media from the get go. It sounds like it’s, it’s there and going strong. 

GEORGE:

Definitely. 

ZACH:

Yeah. Well, lastly, how can people get in touch with you slash Raccoopack Media?

GEORGE:

You can get in touch with us in Raccoopack Media, probably the best way is going through our website. And that’s Raccoopack.media . And Raccoopack is R, A, C, C, O, O, P, A, C, K dot media. And that’s where we’ll have information about the organization, different people that we’ve worked with, as well as the ways that you can contact us through a form, through email or booking a call with our team. We can also find their blog posts that we all have, from time to time, that kind of show you different principles about gamification, or case studies that we’ve finished certain projects with our clients. Other than their website, you can follow us if you just want to learn more about gamification, or about the different things that we post on social media, we have Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. And you can follow us there as well to keep informed.

ZACH:

Awesome. Well, it’s been awesome having you on the podcast today.

I’m excited to

Yeah, for many of the projects that you get to work on in the future.

GEORGE:

Yeah, thank you for hosting Zach! 

Zach:

Of course.

And I hope everyone listening has a great day.

Thanks for listening. If you’re interested in learning more about our app development services, or how gamification can help your organization, please feel free to book an exploratory call today. And meet the pack at Raccoopackmedia. Also, share this podcast with your friends and follow us on social media at Raccoopack Media. Have a great one

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