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This is an old revision of PersuasiveTechZJB made by ZacharyBurke on 2009-04-16 11:11:33.


Persuasive Technology

AnalysisOfAPersuasiveTechnologyExercise - ZacharyBurke


As a vocal proponent of video games and gaming as legitimate forms of art, education and entertainment, I felt it only right that my analysis of persuasive technology should have something to do with games and emergent technology.

I picked the InstantAction website for two reasons: Firstly, because it is a free, browser-based 3D gaming platform. Currently, InstantAction stands practically alone as a provider of free, 3D, browser-based games, but the games industry is making remarkable motions in that direction. Cloud processing and server-side gaming is coming into the spotlight. (Consider OnLive) Soon, this kind of service will become much more popular, and its persuasions much more widespread. Secondly, I chose InstantAction because I recall it being particularly effective as a social actor. It uses language especially to establish itself as a hip, friendly and somewhat sassy social entity.

Overview & "The Games"

Since InstantAction is both a website and a number of complete game experiences, I have to focus on the persuasive elements of the website in particular, and the games in general. Analyzing each one would be a long, long process, although it would force me to play online games as homework, which is an enticing thought.

The games InstantAction features all share the most basic persuasive elements of video games as defined by Fogg: They use operant conditioning to reward certain actions and deter others. There are winners and losers, kills and deaths, points and penalties, all reinforced by sounds, visuals and other cues.

Notably, most of the games featured on InstantAction are actively multiplayer, and all have “round” rankings and universal scoreboards. Using a particular user’s score or standing in relation to other users as a type of social comparison (mentioned in Fogg, p.90) may encourage users to play more often. Another interesting feature about the games on InstantAction is that most of them are based on the core gameplay elements of existing franchises which have either gone belly-up or have become bogged down in series iterations, publisher’s manhandling, etc. (For example, it’s easy to see the influence of the Tribes franchise in the free InstantAction browsergame "Fallen Empire")

I’m not certain about the importance of these similarities. Certainly, InstantAction is not persuading its users to go out and buy the original games which provided these experiences. The website does, however, advertise these games in ways very similar to the advertisements of their influences, perhaps sparking users’ memory and curiosity as a lure.

In any case, every game on InstantAction certainly persuades using operant conditioning and as social actors, persuading through language with praise and by placing users in a context where they might interact and compare themselves with other users, thus persuading them to play more often and become more involved. All of these games are instances of microsuasion.

The InstantAction Website

The first thing I notice about the Instant Action website’s persuasive functionality is the prominent sign-in form in the upper-right. The button itself is large and made to resemble a computer’s traditional “Power On” symbol. A “remember me” box also sticks out, white against the black background. All of this seems indicative of reduction technology—InstantAction is making it very simple for returning users to jump immediately into the gaming they presumably came for. In this vein, an enormous, red button on the changing splash window (showing huge screenshots and giving brief introductions to the available games) urges users to “PLAY NOW” with smaller text beneath saying “Register Now” and “Why Register?”

Everything on this page seems tailored to getting users to play InstantAction games, but first, registering on their website. Following the latter link leads to a page entitled “Why Should I Register?” in which the website takes on the definite role of a social actor and makes an argument using language very prominently. Here’s some of that hip, fun-loving language I talked about earlier: “Come on in. The water’s awesome.” “We’ve set our thrusters to full blast – the future is now! … One day, you’ll tell your kids about the first time you played here.” The second “case” they make, in which InstantAction lauds its multiplayer base, is headed “Quit Playing With Yourself.” Definite use of humor here. The last heading returns to reduction: “Start Playing Now.”

At the bottom of the screen, there are two huge red buttons. One says “Play as guest,” the other says “Register.” Fogg’s discussion about tunneling came to mind here. Clicking “Why Register?” didn’t plunge the reader into an inescapable tunnel, but definitely shows the user the entrance. Providing a “Play as guest” button allows an easy way for users to not only say “No thanks,” but to still enjoy the gaming experience they came for.

We see the interface playing the role of a helpful, fun social actor and a reduction technology in the actual registration page, which uses extra-large form fields (no more than four), large, bold text proclaiming that “It’s Free!” and a sideline of little unlinked (don’t leave the registration page) text dyads, such as “Play games now / no big downloads required.”

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