domingo, 9 de julho de 2017

Time, entertainment and the state of flow

When we are experiencing certain activities, time passes differently. Time can go fast when we are playing an interesting game, or slowly if we are watching a boring movie. It varies from person to person, but all of us have different perceptions of the time passing. In this context it’s important to highlight that there’s one chronological time (seconds, minutes, hours etc.) and a subjective time (one that affects every single individual in an unique way).

This is a complex subject to discuss in a short post, so I want to talk about these perceptions related to the gaming field. To help me in this mission, I’ll summon the ideas of the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This researcher (1975) has developed the idea of flow to explain some time lapses we can experience when we are involved in some specific activity. Csikszentmihalyi (1975) explains that “flow” is a state in which a person is fully immersed in an action and highly focused to the extent that one can experience, for example, a loss in the feeling of self-consciousness and time experience. To help us visualize this concept, Csikszentmihalyi created a graph to visually explain the idea of flow:

Source: Tolstoy Therapy

In a synthetic way, we can observe that there are two axes in the graph above: one shows the degree of challenge and other shows skill and confidence levels. When we are experiencing a very stressful situation (like an emergency surgery, one very difficult test or a complex work to be done in a short period) we can enter a zone of panic and anxiety. On the other hand, if we are experiencing a very boring situation (a monotonic class, an annoying movie or a non-challenging game) we can enter a zone of complete boredom. Both extremes lead us to states of attention that - potentially - are harmful to our minds.

But there’s one zone of perfect balance between a stressful situation and a complete boredom state: the flow. When we experience a state of flow, we immerse ourselves in a state of mind that we can even feel the passing of time differently. Have you ever played videogames for three hours but inside of your head, only one hour has passed? This is one situation when a flow happens.

Games are excellent examples to illustrate this discussion. When we like the experience of playing certain games (analogic or digital), we can feel immersed in the state of flow. So, one important component of game design is how to engage players in the game experience so that they potentially access the flow state. There’s no recipe for this, but to test a lot of games with different beta testers that could show some interesting ways to do it.

I want to dedicate this post to all gamers that need to wake up early, but instead say “just ten more minutes” (and play for another hour). =)



CSIKSZENTMIHALYI, Mihaly. Play and intrinsic rewards. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol 15(3), 1975, 41-63. Online >> click here.

domingo, 25 de junho de 2017

Gamification loop

Source: Gabe Zichermann's gamification presentation on Slide Share (click here).


segunda-feira, 5 de junho de 2017

Keeping track of your gaming analysis: a personal approach to organizing notes for classes, meetings and projects

Working with game development requires a lot of references and annotations all the time. Sometimes, we need to find a good example for a game designing class; sometimes we need to reach for a fast good reference to explain some mechanics for a company’s gamification project. Or, maybe, we just need to remember a specific game to write an article or post about it. It helps a lot to have all that stuff at hand to create presentations, classes or academic content. In this post, I’ll share one method that I use to create and organize quick notes about the games I played.

1. Every single game I play is registered on an online document

I call this my “ludic journal”. I have one excel file on Google Docs where I register all played games in chronological order. For analogic games (card games, board games, dice games etc.) I write a note on the same day I played the title. For video games (console, PC, mobile etc.) I register it when I finish the game or when I have sufficiently experienced its core mechanics/narrative. It’s important to write fast to put personal impressions in the document. Usually, I write the game’s name, the day I played, give it a personal rate (one to five asterisks), summarize the game’s narrative/plot (if available), make a list of the core mechanisms and attach a pic. Like in the following example:

Type: board game
Date: December 11th 2007
Rate: * * *
Summary: Players are builders constructing the reign of Carcassonne in France. Using some special characters it’s possible to build roads, churches, castles and farms. When you finish one of these constructions, you earn points. The player with the most points wins the game. The game uses tiles and creates a very interesting design on the table and a random result at the end of each match.
Mechanisms: area control, area influence, tile placement.

2. Add tags to your notes

This second step helps me a lot. After describing the previous elements, I always create a list of tags for the game (a very personal “mix” of words to describe the game in its essence). This is very useful because it’s possible to find a game for a specific use doing a simple search for keywords in the system. Still using Carcassonne as an example, I wrote these tags for the game (tags, in this case, could be single words or even complete phrases):

Tags: Carcassonne; board game; tile game; France; historic context; build; competitive; area control; area influence; tile placement; clever graphic design; metaphor for architecture; useful for history classes; puzzle. 

This method helps me a lot to prepare content in many occasions. Last week I was preparing a class about “casual games”. A fast search in my document revealed 40 occurrences for this kind of game. So, I combine “casual games” with “funny narrative” and the system gave me 7 results. As I said: it’s a personal method. It could probably not be so useful for another person other than me, but this post is to inspire people to create their own methods.

3. I complement my notes using social networks

I like to create personal text registers for the games I have played, but I also like to organize visual references and gaming stuff in other platforms, too. My favorite place to store visual references is Pinterest. Check ot my GAMES, RPG and GAME DESIGN boards. It’s a very practical way to access ideas.

I’m preparing a second post about this subject with other personal methodologies to organize content for work. I hope it helped.

Now, on to your opinion!


domingo, 21 de maio de 2017

The Counting Kingdom: learning math could be fun

What an excellent surprise one student brought in the last “gaming analysis” class. The Counting Kingdom is an educational game for kids (6 to 8 years), that teaches basics concepts of sum and equations using a tower defense mechanics. It’s very easy: you need to cast a spell using some magic scrolls to stop the monsters. Each monster has a number of strength and the player needs to sum the scrolls to make an equal number and eliminate the enemy. Check the gameplay:

That’s a great example of how we can use a game-based learning strategy. It’s important to mention that a game like this one does not replace a math class, but it helps to complement and reinforce the studied ideas.


terça-feira, 9 de maio de 2017

Article: Analyzing the creative process of mobile indie game RockFlickz

A complete article discussing in details the creative process of my last mobile game RockFlickz. Click here to download.

Send me your opinion!


domingo, 16 de abril de 2017

International Academic Conference on Management, Economics and Marketing in Budapest 2017, Hungary (IAC-MEM 2017 in Budapest)

Last week I was in Budapest to attend the International Academic Conference on Management, Economics and Marketing. The event was great! Full of good content and awesome people. This conference is very important to me because it's the first event that I attended as a PhD (Yeah! Finished my doctorate one month ago!).

I had the opportunity to present the article "Advergames: games as marketing tools". Below, I want to share the PDF file with some slides from the presentation.

You can download the full article by clicking here.

One more international achievement unlocked. =)


domingo, 2 de abril de 2017

Let's give the floor to specialists in advergames

I selected four experts from the gaming field and asked each one the following question: what are three essential characteristics for an effective advergame? Below, I present and discuss the answers:

Fabio Tola, Brazilian elementary school teacher and specialist in the use of games for education, says that one advergame 1) must reach the target audience; 2) convey the branding/product message effectively; 3) become viral – this last item is very important to quickly expand the marketing message to the social media environment.

For Guilherme Camargo, CEO of the Brazilian gaming studio Sioux, the three essential characteristics for an effective advergame are: 1) have a well-defined purpose aligned to the brand, product or service (it seems obvious but, often, an advergame is detached from the core concept of a campaign); 2) know your target audience to match the style, mechanics and other characteristics of the games; 3) be fun – it is fundamental to create something that strengthens engagement through entertainment languages.

Mauro Berimbau, Brazilian high school teacher and specialist in advergames ponders that 1) in this modality of games, is elementary to send a clear marketing message; 2) to observe the historical socio-cultural aspects of the players; 3) to study the player's interpretations and responses to the system. From these opinions, we can ponder a lot before an advergaming project or an analysis of an advergame. We will discuss these ideas in the final topic of our article.

Laura Herrewijn, guest Professor at University of Antwerp, says that 1) it is important to be sure that your audience will have fun, to create an original game in which you integrate your brand message in a central, prominent way; 2) it’s necessary to focus on the moments where the player has no attention left to perceive the brand messaging; 3) you need to make sure that the behavior you want to promote (e.g. visiting a website, buying a product) is made as easily as possible (e.g. to include a very visible link/ a coupon, etc.).


segunda-feira, 20 de março de 2017

Board game mechanics in a poster

I was in Santiago (Chile) last weekend for a presentation about my new mobile game RockFlickz. After the work, I visited one very interesting ludic place: Dos De Seis Board Game Café. You can rent board games, play them and drink excellent coffee. One poster in the wall caught my attention and I want to share it in this post:

Some "artist" grouped the main board game mechanics in the same space. A cool poster to decorate a wall and an excellent exercise to think about game design.


segunda-feira, 13 de março de 2017

Game design process: one more interesting approach

Some excellent stuff from the YouTube channel Game Design Ed. A concise and interesting view about game design process. Enjoy!


domingo, 5 de março de 2017

The magic circle idea and the playgrounds scattered throughout everyday life

From countless mobile gadgets with wireless and fast track connection to the Internet, or using more traditional modes of access, people are increasingly blurring the lines between near and far, public and private, work and leisure, online and offline. The impressive rates in social appropriation of communication and information technologies entail changes in the way we live, get together, do business and – of course – have fun.

Stephansplatz, Vienna (June, 2016). Photo by @vincevader

Having fun, in this scenario, is closely linked to the large number of entertainment languages that pervade our daily experience. The languages of entertainment are crisscrossing boundaries in the quotidian landscape and games become media and a relevant tool of marketing for many companies. We can find games and languages of entertainment in our mobile devices, Facebook site, television shows, videogame consoles, mobile applications and lots of other platforms. Everything indicates that, more than never, individuals are searching for ludic/entertainment/gaming experiences to disconnect for some moments from the chaotic quotidian, the pressure of working hours or the accelerated routine of big urban centers; in certain way, people are trying to reach places of catharsis, dreaming and fiction to escape from this. Based on the Huizinga’s (1995) thoughts, they are searching for different “magic circles”.

Johan Huizinga (1872 – 1945) was a Dutch historian and one of the founders of modern cultural history. In his book Homo Ludens, from 1938, he discusses the possibility that playing is the primary formative element in human culture. In this book, the author (HUIZINGA, 1995) presents the idea of the "magic circle". As described by Adams and Rollings (2009), Huizinga did not use the term as a generic name for the concept: his text refers to the actual playground, or a physical space for playing. Inside the magic circle, real-world events have special meanings; in the real world someone kicks a ball into a net, but in the magic circle someone scores a goal leading the crowd to celebrate this act. (ADAMS; ROLLINGS, 2009).

The magic circle is a place of dreams and fantasy. It's an escape from everyday problems and chores. Most importantly: everything inside the magic circle is, in some way, transformative. Each time a person leaves the magic circle, they bring meaning and experience to the real world. The arena, the card-table, the stage, the screen, the tennis court, the court of justice, etc., are examples of the magic circle idea. It is important to mention that authors like Bogost (2016) discuss that “magic circle” is too dramatic a name for this kind of processes and embraces the term “playgrounds” as an alternative.

Regardless of the categorization – whether “magic circle” or “playgrounds” – it is important to understand that the contemporary stage is full of platforms that we can access entertainment/games and there are lots of individuals attached to these ludic experiences. We can suppose that companies/brands/products/services will try to connect its selves to the audiences immersed in these experiences, platforms and languages. Based on this assumption, we understand more clearly how games also become communication and marketing tools.



ADAMS, Ernest; ROLLINGS, Andrew. Fundamentals of Game Design. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009

BOGOST, Ian. Play anything: the pleasure of limits, the uses of boredom, & the secret of games. New York: Basic Books, 2016.

HUIZINGA, Johan. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture. Boston: The Beacon Press, 1955.

quarta-feira, 22 de fevereiro de 2017

A diagram to explain connections in a board game design process

An excellent diagram to think about the relationships between theme, rules, players and components in board games. The intersections between the different areas point out very interesting ways to ponder about game design questions.

Source: Big Game Theory site


terça-feira, 14 de fevereiro de 2017

Defining “advergame”, “product placement in games” and “in-game advertising”

According to Cavallini (2006), the notion of advergame – a neologism formed from the juxtaposing of the words “advertise” and “game” – could be described as a strategy for marketing that uses games, mainly electronic, to advertise brands and products. That includes a large range that goes from complex games that are developed specifically for advertising purposes to common casual games. The Internet and video game consoles are great environments to use this strategy. Mobile media (smartphones and tablets) are already being tested by companies, which chose this marketing strategy too. For instance, the Brazilian branch of the soft drink brand Fanta launched in 2015 a hot site with ten advergames. Developed by Sioux Studio, the games emphasized Fantas’s branding features like happiness, friendship, radical sports and music. All the features of the brand appeared in campaigns displayed on television, magazines, movie theaters and on the Internet are present in the game; therefore, we can conclude that the game is an advertising piece like any other.

Cavallini (2006) also discusses the idea of product placement in games as a strategy that inserts a company’s product inside the gaming interface and context. The characters in the game Devil May Cry wear pants with the Diesel brand in evidence. In Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell - Pandora Tomorrow, the character uses a Sony Ericsson p900 smartphone to solve missions, so the player virtually experiences the use of the device. In Worms 3D, by SEGA Studio, the characters drink a can of Red Bull energy drink in order to jump higher. In the last released UFC game, we can see the fighters wearing shorts and gloves from famous sporting brands. It is very important to highlight that this kind of strategy, as everything in marketing, needs its context aligned with the target audience. In all previous examples, the product fits in the gaming universe and dialogues with the players.

Another fundamental keyword in this context is in-game advertising. As Herrewijn and Poels (2011) define, in-game advertising refers to the use of games as a medium for the delivery of advertisements, and the authors point out that there is one player branding experience during the gameplay. In this type of strategy, we can notice the use of banners, posters, radio spots, digital ads and billboards mixed to the game’s landscape. In Virtua Tennis 3, as an example, it is possible to see Bridgestone tires and Citizen watches billboards all around the scenario. Both brands are present, sponsoring the real tennis matches, so it is very pertinent to be in the virtual game, creating a deeper sense of immersion to the player.

In this topic, we are discussing examples developed for consoles, personal computers and mobile media. However, the advergaming strategy is not something created in the Internet age. In the beginning of the 1980s, we already could find some very interesting cases in the Atari platform (as we discussed in this old post here).

Note: this post is part of a complete paper about "games as marketing tools". Soon, I hope to share the complete content in another post.



CAVALLINI, Ricardo. (2006). O marketing depois de amanhã. São Paulo: Digerati Books.

HERREWIJN, Laura. & POELS, Karolien (2011). Putting Brands into Play: How Player Experiences Influence the Effectiveness of In-Game Advertising. Proceedings of the DiGRA (Digital Games Research Association), 6, 1-19. Available here.

quarta-feira, 8 de fevereiro de 2017

About constraints

"The pleasure of limits arises only when the participants within a particular magic circle understand and respect the material constraints it circumscribes" (BOGOST, 2016, p.179).

"Constraints are most effective when those who are bound up with them can clearly see, understand, and appreciate the limits they impose. That doesn’t necessarily mean accepting those limitations as a best approach to a pursuit, nor does it mean fixing them for eternity as the only way to do things" (BOGOST, 2016, p.179).


BOGOST, Ian. Play anything: the pleasure of limits, the uses of boredom, & the secret of games. New York: Basic Books, 2016.

domingo, 29 de janeiro de 2017

“Why is gamification not working in my company?”

Last week, I was invited to a meeting in a medium-size Brazilian company, which for ethical reasons will not have its name disclosed. The director of the innovation area wanted a special consulting about the gamification process implemented on the last two years. After many attempts, these tactics proved worthless for the company. The employees did not understand the purpose of this process and could not see the utility in what was proposed. Why did it happen? In the director’s mind, gamification is a positive thing for every company, after all, it’s an attempt to put games (a fun element) inside work (a boring subject) to improve their routine.

Well, it is not that simple.

In the article “Hate the games, not the players", Daniel Ruch discusses some points that can make gamification fail in the business ecosystem. First of all, Ruch gives us one good definition about the term:

“Gamification” is the application to other activities of game-playing elements (such as point scoring, competition and rules of play) in an attempt to achieve a measurable goal. In business, that goal could be greater productivity, user engagement or employee satisfaction. In our personal lives, goals might include losing weight, exercising regularly or unplugging from mobile devices.

After this definition, Ruch says that many companies tried to implement the gaming process in their DNA, but, in most part of them, the game objectives were unclear and complicated. According to Ruch, some employees “weren’t sure how to win points and badges”, and, let’s be honest: what’s the real purpose of it? One virtual trophy received in a special e-mail will not motivate behavioral change. One public score with a race between the selling departments could only create frustration and bad competition. A system that only punishes failures and never rewards positive acts is bounded to be a failure. So, what is important to think before introducing processes like gamification into a company? Here are some thoughts to dwell on:

1) Define clear goals. What’s the problem with your company that gamification will try to solve? Are employees unmotivated? Is communication between departments bad?

2) What paths are guaranteed to solve the problem and achieve the goal? And one essential thing: does your company really need to implement gamification processes? Or can the problem be solved in a much simpler way?

3) According to Ruch, “gamification begins with a why question”.

4) Once identified that gamification could be a solution for the problem, comes one important step: to hire a specialist team to implement the process. Discuss with them. Try to put the objectives clearly to the employees. Emphasize the benefits, the rewards and the gains. “We can’t make successful games without understanding the problems we aim to solve”.

5) Gamification is a not a generic solution applied to any kind of company and employee. One cautious observation and previous analysis is fundamental.

Another important thought to highlight this discussion comes from Bogost (2016, p.82) who says that

A job is made of fun not by turning into a game, but by deeply and deliberately pursuing it as a job. Jobs are fun when their work is meaningful, when their activities matter, and when the act of conducting them can be done over and over again with the increased commitment. Fun can’t be added to something, like sugar to coffee or like songs to chores.

Gamification is always a polemic subject. Many experts condemn the term and prefer to talk about "ludification" or "game thinking". Regardless of how it is called, it is important to broaden the discussion on this subject.

Now, on to your opinion!



BOGOST, Ian. Play anything: the pleasure of limits, the uses of boredom, & the secret of games. New York: Basic Books, 2016.

Article “Hate the games, not the players”.

segunda-feira, 16 de janeiro de 2017

Iterative design & games

Gaming creativity process, allow a myriad of methodological using possibilities. In the gaming projects that I participated, I frequently used the iterative design method. One first view about this methodological process comes from Zimmerman (2003, p.176), who says, ‘iterative design is a design methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a work in progress’.

Complementing the previous idea, the process of iterative design for games, can be divided into few stages (FULLERTON et al, 2008, p.249): A) conceptual phase: consists of generating ideas, formalizing and testing them; B) pre-production: here the ideas are reviewed to evolve and be tested again; C) the production stage: the game is tested and revised with different groups of play testers to locate errors; D) phase of quality assurance: where the game is tested to be launched without errors.

We'll discuss more about these subject in a future post using some examples (indie games and triple A games) to clarify this idea. Until then, check out the video below about iterative design applied to games:



ZIMMERMAN, Eric. Play as Research: the Iterative Design Process. IN: Design Research: Methods and Perspectives, (2003): 176-184. (also available at last access: May, 2015).

FULLERTON, Tracy et al. Game design workshop: a playcentric approach to creating innovative games. Burlington: Morgan Kaufmann, 2008.

sexta-feira, 13 de janeiro de 2017

To think about fun, play and games

"Fun is the aftermath of deliberately manipulating a familiar situation in a new way" ( BOGOST , 2016, p.57)

Source: BOGOST, Ian. Play anything: the pleasure of limits, the uses of boredom, & the secret of games. New York: Basic Books,2016.