One thing that unites Endless with many studios and game-changers across the world is a belief that the medium of games and entertainment can change the world for the better. But designing games for impact can feel like a different kettle of fish than aiming for commercial stardom. The landscape is uneven, there are more stakeholders involved, and the metrics for success are obscure.
We asked a few of our favorite impact experts, including a few members of the Endless team: What’s one thing to keep in mind when building impact games?
Don’t think you’re the first person to discover the field
Alan Gershenfeld, President, Co-Founder, E-Line Media
Do rigorous landscape and opportunity analysis. There’s a lot of people playing in the space, a lot of projects that have worked and a lot of projects that haven’t worked and you don’t want to make the same mistakes. You want to learn from those experiences. It’s important to know that ‘games for impact’ is not new. People are already doing or have done projects in that space. Don’t just jump in and assume that you’re the first. Really figure out what lessons there are to learn from the folks that have been doing this for the last 10, 15, 20 years.
Pick yourself up, dust yourself off
Diego Rodríquez Calvo, founding partner, Fair Play Labs
It’s a bit cliché, but basically keep in mind that it’s ok to not get it right the first time. Learn and keep growing.
Check back in with your audience: do they care?
Virginia McArthur, Executive Producer, Endless Studios
After making games for 20 plus years you realize that, instead of focusing on profit margins and 50% plus return, we can actually make a difference and focus on impact, reach, and engagement. However, just because you have experience under your belt does not give you the right to set the parameters. It is our players that need to set those for us.
Kids might not know what they really need, but they know what they like. I would argue that every kid, every personality, needs something different to learn. Successful impact gaming involves not being afraid to experiment and try new mechanics, searching for the right formula to teach and have fun while learning something that will impact future growth and knowledge for kids’ future success. Focus test, involve, and work with your players to give the right balance of fun and learning. One needs the other in order to really impact the game player’s future.
Your business model can start with passion
Heather Chandler, game producer, founder Whole Brain Escape
If you want to work on an impact game, one approach would be to find out the thing that you want to make an impact on, create a small team, then make the game that goes with it. Then you can apply for grants and do all kinds of different things. Getting into impact gaming is probably a little easier than getting into commercial games because with impact games if you have that desire and passion you could create something that can get grants and funding and lead to all sorts of things.
Fun comes first
Carlos Rocha Silva, Founder and CEO, Dreams Uncorporated
Pick a value and then think about clever and funny ways to subtlety educate the players about that value or idea that you want to communicate. Fun comes first, don’t forget that.
Put everything into what you want to teach. Then make it invisible.
Dennis Bartels, Managing Director, Endless Networks
It’s all about design: design to a clear purpose. The design should be so well thought out that it’s invisible to the user. I’m a huge fan of one of the early exemplars of this standard in the Logical Journey of the Zoombinis. It was so beautifully designed that most gamers had no idea they were learning mathematical set theory. But they knew it intuitively and this game tapped it with such elegance that it is still a standard of learning games today.
Measure your success with data
Nan Chu, Director of Game Development / Design, Endless Studios
Don’t lose sight of the end goal and what kind of knowledge, emotions, or reactions you are trying to impart to your audience when building an impact game. Do research and learn from experts in the field of the topic you want to tackle. Interview and playtest with your intended audience to understand what resonates with them. Define your measurement of success and track the results your game actually has from beta testing to launch. Having qualitative and quantitative data to track your game’s performance will help you better achieve your game’s end goal.