At the “Gamification Summit” that took place Jan. 20-21st I had the pleasure of meeting Nicole Lazzaro, CEO of XEODesign Inc. Lazzaro was hailed as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Women In Technology” by Fast Company Magazine and is the creator of the first iPhone game to utilize the accelerometer.

She has revolutionized the gaming industry through her research on “emotion profiles” and according to Fast Company she “approaches video game design like a Freudian scholar, classifying important user-feelings into categories, from ‘easy’ and ‘serious’ fun to terms she coins herself like "amiero," which she describes as the euphoric emotion of social bonding.”

Lazzaro was a highlight of the annual Gamification Summit. She sat down with CMSWire and answered some of our pressing questions.


Blake Landau: Can you tell our readers at CMSWire the biggest take away from your panel today at the Gamification Summit?

Nicole Lazzaro: I think the biggest take away was the introduction of game mechanics into a non-game context. It’s not just about badges. It’s about adding new interaction design opportunities to reward and challenge as well as novelty and socializing.

BL: What is the most exciting gaming trend you see today?

NL: We are seeing a whole new phase of interface and interaction design. We are reaching out as interaction designers into the world of game mechanics. Game mechanics in the last thirty-five years created a toolbox of motivation and engagement just by making simple moves. There’s a lot that will be pulled over to interaction design.

It’s going to a whole new era of really engaging people whether they are learning, exploring or doing real work. Game interaction will change everything.

BL: You’ve said that if the modern workplace was a zoo, and the humane society came to visit, the facility would be shut down immediately due to poor conditions. Why is this the case?

NL: It’s interesting what we are seeing in the workplace today. The information workplace (knowledge work) doesn’t provide the mental furniture for people to accomplish the work. It doesn’t have the right motivational structure--it lacks the right motivation for people to achieve their goals. The reason people spend so much time on Facebook is companies have removed the social component from a given task.

BL: What are your predictions for the future of gaming and how it can be applied for work design and business?

NL: In the future we will include additional layers of games into business. We have a wonderful opportunity to increase engagement. That’s the core metric. The question is how engaged are audiences and workers today with their craft?

We can take a cue from the game’s feedback systems that have been designed in a game to take a simple click to become an epic win. We can take what gamers do and put this into the work environment. We are at this point where we’ve been traveling on a usability train for long enough.

What will give us the next tick up is improving engagement by taking what we learn from player experiences, motivational structures and emotions. Every decision that a human being makes is first made at an emotional level. There’s a great book called Descartes Error that illustrates this.

We can’t fail to incorporate these opportunities to engage people on an emotional level within the work itself.

It’s a shame that some people only look at usability. Usability is making a task easier -- what we’ve got is a new opportunity to increase other emotions; to increase engagement.

For example, after a hard day’s work you want that feeling of accomplishment and mastery. A farmer throwing a hay-bell on a cart gets a feeling like that when the cart is full.

When we finish that paper and hit the send button, we know it got sent -- but there’s nothing about that system that makes us feel good. There is a wonderful opportunity here to make us feel absolutely spectacular. Like “Wow that was a really great sales report” or “that was a fantastic research report!” You can design the tool to enhance that sense of mastery just like we can design the tools so they are easier to use.

Just like the tools, you can’t push a button and win. You want to push a button and feel like you’ve accomplished something. You've got to have the hardware to do it. Usability would factor that out.

BL: Your statements make me think of Gen Y who is often accused of needing instant gratification. Gaming allows for that.

NL: I think the games do take advantage of instant gratification but I see it more as immediate feedback. You are really getting constant elevation of feedback -- you really understand how you are progressing.

We are in these enormous knowledge factories. Your impact on that larger whole is very difficult to see but if we can put up a game board -- a dashboard -- that gives us metrics -- quality of life scores like greenness of building -- it will change human behavior and improve quality of life on an emotional level.

That escape into entertainment is a large reason people play games -- that cycle is compelling. We are getting enough feedback. It feels good because it completes the circle from discovering the challenge, to mastering the challenge. What is the reward once you win. Those are the four factors involved in game play.