Project Report: DIGC210 – Assessment 4
This report critiques and analyses the works submitted in assessments two and three to better determine how both myself and my group could have gone about them better. Overall, this analysis finds several ways that the work could have benefited from a different approach to either the overall concept of the presentation, or the specificities within it. However, it also notes some things that, in my opinion, were very beneficial to the presentation and work overall, and were great to include.
In this assessment we aimed to create and present a campaign surrounding the issue of unethical practices in mobile games. This was originally primarily an awareness campaign, with some supporting materials such as posters to help spread awareness. This campaign related to the topic of dissent through the users of these mobile games. It happens frequently that someone will download a game from the app store, or play store, and play a game they thought would be fun only to find that it has some features that make it seem impossible to progress, thus, they stop playing this game, and eventually working up the effort to uninstall it entirely. This act of dissent against a game might seem meaningless by itself, but on the mobile game platform this is not happening to a few hundred people, it happens to millions around the world on a very frequent basis. A paper written by Ian Macinnes, Janusz Moneta, Julio Caraballo and Dominic Sarni in 2002 called Business Models for Mobile Content:
The Case of M-Games predicts that “Like other mobile content services, such as music, gambling and information, it is difficult to predict the size of the games market when it matures. The one certainty is that it will be substantially larger than it is now”, and to back up their prediction, they quote a statistic from Durlacher that mobile entertainment revenues “will exceed $8 billion in 2005.” They weren’t wrong, the mobile entertainment industry brought in a cool $9.3B in the United States alone in 2014 according to SNL Kagan (reference 1), and the global estimate this year is said to be around $50-60 Billion.
Our project has always focused on the malpractices of game, or even entertainment developers, however we wanted to focus on games as it was an issue close to the hearts of all of our group members. At first we thought it to be a good idea to focus on the free to play genre specifically, which is explained in length in the introduction in a paper by M Dreier called Free-to-play: About addicted Whales, at risk Dolphins and healthy Minnows. Monetarization design and Internet Gaming Disorder, however analyzing this genre on both the PC, Console, and Mobile platform seemed too broad and beyond the scope any one campaign could cover. Instead we turned our attention to purely PC games in general, even then the wide variety of issues faced by the platform, not even necessarily in the control of consumers was decidedly too broad for one campaign to cover. And so we found ourselves looking at the mobile game industry, it is well segregated from the other platforms, it has its own separate set of expectations from consumers, and a definite set of issues caused primarily by the market and some questionably ethical practices.
Our project was, and still is primarily based on the internet, there are no physical resources as we saw the internet as the easiest way to reach a large, or at least our potential maximum amount of potential viewers. However, that is not to say that the project was purely information based. Originally our idea was to create several posters that drew the audience’s attention to the particular practices some mobile game developers employed, thus encouraging them to take some kind of action, be it uninstall that particular game, or to at least be more aware of the ethically questionable strategies employed by it’s developers. However, we noticed that there were some flaws in the plan to make the campaign entirely awareness based. The most prominent being that there was almost no public engagement factor, the campaign relied on consuming content that was not particularly engaging. This was especially important if you didn’t already have some idea as to how games are developed, or how the monetization of games works. To create a heightened level of user interaction and engagement we instead employed the use of an easy to understand flow chart (reference 2), this flowchart is similar in a way to the ones found in some older magazines and other traditional media that take you as a person as the input, and through asking questions in the flowchart, arrive at a certain answer about one topic in particular (Reference 4). In our case we did not analyse the person however, we analysed that person’s latest/favourite mobile game. We thought this would be a better idea going forward than the poster idea presented in the first group presentation as it actively engaged the viewer in a more active way than just passively reading information on a screen or paper. Jari Salo and Heikki KarjaluotoIt write that “It is underscored here that while reach might be lower than in other mediums, at least people realize that they are playing a game of King Kong rather than passively skipping commercials while watching TV.” This is the kind of engagement that we were seeking, active participation rather than passive viewing, or in their case, skipping.
While this method of raising awareness seemed interactive enough that the information would be remembered, and action taken, we were aware that there was little incentive to take the flow chart. As a group we decided it was best to find some alternate means to incentivize ‘clicking the link’ and taking the flowchart. We came up with many different ways of doing so:
- Rewards for completing the flowchart
- Rewards for sharing the flowchart
- Create ‘replayability’
After much deliberation, we decided it would be best to employ not one, but all of the above methods if we could. We figured if the flowchart was hosted on our own website, we could reward the “player” or viewer for taking the flowchart by then linking them to some other content we had created. We executed this plan, but to a lesser extent. Because hosting a website can be costly, and quite time consuming to design, we decided to focus on applying these methods to the class we would be presenting to in the simulation talk. We implemented the reward for participating by creating computer desktop backgrounds and offering the class a unique link in imgur.com where they are hosted online (Reference 3). As for implementing a reward for sharing, it was quite hard to come up with a way to do it in such a small environment, but on a larger scale it would have been easy to create a share button that links to other free content we made as a reward, that was the plan originally. However, we did find a way to incentivize sharing the flowchart, by implementing a scoring system to the answers found at the end of the questions. Re-‘playing’ this flowchart became of importance to us as we intended the flowchart to be reusable, not only because it isn’t intended to be one use, but because the more the audience uses the chart, the more aware they are about their games and practices. This replayability was also integrated into the sharing aspect of the chart, the scoring system. It works by giving the user a point score based on the different options they chose in the chart, the higher the score, the more questionable practices the developer has worked into the game, this almost ‘gamefies’ the chart as it is easy to start comparing your score to your peers.
There were several discernable conclusions to be made from the work presented in assessments 2 and 3 that I’d like to explore further:
- Simplicity of the campaign
- The lack of understanding surrounding the issue
- Target market size
- Lack of further information
Firstly, the simplicity of the campaign, after presenting our finalized campaign, that revolved primarily around the use of the interactive flowchart, it became evident to our team that the campaign was quite simple. The issues involved were explained well, but their consequences on your average Joe/Jill were not very well established, and thus it became apparent that the issue, and therefore the campaign was not easily relatable. More research could have been shown about the consequences of unethical practices in mobile games to show the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars that could potentially be wasted away. Secondly, it became apparent during the simulation talk that there was definitely a lack of understanding surrounding the topic, one student did not know how to answer the flowchart because they didn’t (or couldn’t, I’m unaware) have any games on their mobile device. While this wasn’t any fault on our part, we definitely should have predicted that there would be a lower state of awareness around the issue than ourselves. This could have been avoided by quickly explaining the core fundamentals around the issues without using any of the language (freemium, f2p, premium currency, etc) to help those people who didn’t understand the flow chart at first sight to at least be able to apply it to a mobile game they knew of through someone else. Thirdly, the use of the ‘gamefied’ flowchart was definitely aimed at our younger audience, as was intended of course, since we were presenting to a class of peers. However we should have considered alternate means to help educate the older generation, especially since they are the ones handing mobile devices to their children, and are therefore in charge of how that child spends money on that device. Identifying that target market and catering to it, or at least coming up with alternate means than just the flowchart would have made the campaign much more applicable to a wider audience. Lastly, the final conclusion we made about the project is that we had not provided any further readings for people if they did want to learn more about the subject. While we did say during the presentation that we would have linked more info if we had gone with the hosted website as the main “hub” for our campaign, but still, even if the students in our class had asked where they could have learnt more, we had no prepared, trusted resources to link them, even content not created by us. It was also noted that there was very little explanation of what the different ethical practices of mobile gaming are. As it’s noted in the same paper by J Salo and H Karjaluoto, “…the convergence of underlying mobile gaming technology will pave the way for more successful and effective m-advergames (mobile games that feature advertising) and campaigns.”
This campaign could have easily been expanded and carried forward if need be. There are several avenues I would recommend if that were the case. Firstly, I would recommend creating a website for the campaign, and to use it as the hub for all resources, primary and secondary, for the campaign. Creating additional information that is easy to understand, and easily applicable to a wide target market would also make the campaign easier to understand. Perhaps even a definition sheet for the specific terms used throughout the campaign or a page that thoroughly explains what the different business models, like free to play and pay to win are would greatly benefit people who are new to the more intense gaming scene, such as the older audience. I would also create a page that shows the different ways to lock a mobile device from making purchases in-app and other safeguards, like not remembering an apple ID. This provides practical solutions for people who manage other people’s devices in a family, like a child. Creating a short video about the campaign and it’s aims would also be good to host on the hub website, as it provides a quicker explanation of the campaign and could include images or video of examples of the different malpractices in action, thus making it easier to understand. If I were to take this campaign to it’s absolute limit, I would also include a page to explain just how damaging these practices can be, not only to the industry, but the people’s lives it affects. There have been plenty of documented cases of people spending thousands of dollars either out of ignorance or because they felt a false need to on mobile games. These cases could be outlined on the website to show just how serious an impact these practices have on people. It would also be beneficial to point out that games are not just for entertainment purposes, there are plenty of papers and studies to back up the fact that games can be very effective learning devices, and mobile games are no different, one such paper is Savannah: Mobile Gaming and Learning? Written by Facer, K., Joiner, R., Stanton, D., Reid, J., Hull, R. and Kirk, D. Perhaps linking this paper in the main website would provide enough research for parents who have had an issue with accidental spending on their child’s mobile device to not see it as just a waste of money.
- Dreier, K. Wölfling, E. Duven, S. Giralt, M.E. Beutel, K.W. Müller, Free-to-play: About addicted Whales, at risk Dolphins and healthy Minnows. Monetarization design and Internet Gaming Disorder, Addictive Behaviors, Available online 13 April 2016, ISSN 0306-4603, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2016.03.008.
MacInnes, I., Moneta, J., Caraballo, J. and Sarni, D., 2002. Business models for mobile content: The case of m-games. Electronic Markets, 12(4), pp.218-227.
Reference 1: broken-link
Reference 2: http://imgur.com/z3FMCQM
Reference 3: http://imgur.com/a/ifww4
Reference 4: broken-link
Salo, J. and Karjaluoto, H., 2007. Mobile games as an advertising medium: Towards a new research agenda. Innovative Marketing, 3(1), p.71.
Facer, K., Joiner, R., Stanton, D., Reid, J., Hull, R. and Kirk, D., 2004. Savannah: mobile gaming and learning?. Journal of Computer assisted learning, 20(6), pp.399-409.