Playful design wins

Game-based approach to architectural design

Here's a fascinating report on a new design methodology thesis by Christopher Totten.

Totten used games as powerful tools in cooperative architechtural design projects. The games had two functions:

A simple, self-designed board game guided the design process in a Cabal-type system: "Three or four player/designers play cooperatively but each have their own piece on the board. Each of these players takes on a different design role .... rolling the die to move around the board and respond to the directions ... to make design changes, draw new cards, lose turns, or run playtests. "

At turns, the actual building design took place in Google SketchUp or Valve's Hammer Level Editor: "Using a game engine such as Hammer allowed players to explore their buildings while they were designing them; since it lacks a traditional "orbit" tool but allows the in-program camera to be moved through the model with game controls; as one would move through a game environment ... "

Mr T. reports three main benefits of this game-based approach:

1 The board game / Cabal system helped circumvent many of the social or group-dynamic problems normally encountered in cooperative work.

2 The video-game design testing encouraged a high degree of focus on the emotions and experience of the building user.

3 Playtesters also reported that their designs were different because they felt they could make more creative moves while in the play environment of the game. Their designs were more complex and stimulating than those produced with more traditional techniques.

So, fewer arguments, higher user-centricity, and more exciting designs... sounds good to me. This is a great example of successfully using the power of play in a complex business environment.


PS I particularly liked this report on one virtual house: "The playtesters conceived the house as a path of rooms that offered sporadic views to the landscape around the house, leading up to the ultimate reveal of the river on the large porch."

Now, that sounds just like the narrative structure of the next Hollywood blockbuster...

Play house pic by barnabywasson at flickr


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