Leighton and Byron's Blog

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

About this Blog (linking Seriosity and Total Engagement)

We've recently moved our blog to the Seriosity web site. You can find it here. This new version is more user-friendly and will be updated more frequently. We hope you'll subscribe and become a regular reader.


With the publication of Total Engagement this month, we’d like to use this blog to comment on what we’ve learned since delivering our manuscript to the Harvard Business School Press and to create a place where others can tell their own stories.

How we got here
Two swim dads standing around our daughters' team pool in 2003, we began to compare notes on our mutual fascination with the psychological power of design principles in interactive media. There is a lot of time to talk, because kids swim for only a few seconds out of every hour and these girls have meets all year round. We discovered that we not only shared a lot of common ideas, but that the subject matter was vastly deep, interesting, and timely.

Questions swirled about what design features were driving the exceptional engagement of players, especially in the case of massive multiplayer online games (MMOs). What psychological theory could explain how each feature contributed and was there a common thread that tied the features together? Are players already doing stuff in the games that looks like real work? In that case, why does someone have to pay people to do the same stuff in another context (outside of the game?)

To get some initial feedback on these ideas in early 2004, we hosted a conference - in the form of a game - with intellectual and financial support from Alph Bingham and colleagues at Eli Lilly and Company. To get broader feedback, we gave a seminar at the Santa Fe Institute Business Network and learned that people from many large enterprises were also fascinated.

Leighton's colleagues at Alloy Ventures provided the resources and a home to incubate the ideas. Seriosity, Inc. was formed to further develop these ideas for information workers in large enterprises. Elite student gamers became our jungle guides and we immersed ourselves in the broader literature on serious games. We recorded hundreds of hours of game play and spoke to many great game designers.

After talking to people in dozens of large companies and hearing about their pain points, we settled in 2005 on the problem of information overload (and in particular, too much email from colleagues) and the solution we chose was to use marketplace ideas and a synthetic currency – ideas taken directly from the games we had studied. It took quite a while to build the software and it initially didn't turn out the way we had hoped. For early users, it actually slowed people down rather than making life easier. But since mid-2007, we have continued to work with a handful of talented people who have rebuilt the troublesome parts of our attention economy. It is now working quite nicely in a beta trial that must be setting records for length.

While we were waiting for software to happen, we decided to codify our thinking and experience; that is, write a book. We wrote a proposal and, Bang, our agent had signed up our first-choice publisher. We each drafted different chapters (can you guess which ones?), but we each edited every paragraph of the manuscript and can hardly tell who deserves credit for the better (and worse) turns of phrase. See our Acknowledgments in the book for the names of the many people that made Total Engagement possible or better.

Where we are going
We continue to work on new games that address broad enterprise challenges. These are still stealthy projects, but we look forward to writing about them when our enterprise partners are ready. We've also taken on some interesting behavior change projects in the energy field. More later.

If you've found your way to these pages, we bet you may have some stories of your own about using games in the workplace. Were the ideas smart or silly? What could have been done better? Post them if you like and we’ll comment and tell others about them.

1 comment:

Jim Hurd said...

Great to see this! Alot is going to happen fast in this area.