My name is Jon Back, I'm a game design researcher, and a play consultant. My main area is designing for technology enhanced play outside of the computer. My focus is on how to create certain engagement, feelings and experiences in public places, through game activities.
My interest in the design of activities, with a game design focus, comes from a broad background. My education began in computer programming and design, from where I moved on towards communication with a pedagogical twist and games as my main tool. I've also studied game design in more practically oriented educations. I've designed both live action roleplaying games and published board games, both for serious use and for entertainment. I've got a great understanding of the practical approach of game design, and believe this will be of good use in my future research.
I deal with the design of play in public places; this can mean both pervasive games and other freer play activities. In these activities (as well as in many other game activities) the same game can spur many different ways to play it, and the same activity can be experienced differently by different players, and even differently on different occasions for the same player. I believe an activity such as playing benefit from being observed as a whole as the surrounding culture, player preconceptions and the emergent mood within the group will affect the experience.
In previous work a design framework to be used as a lens towards understanding the design of playful activities has been developed. The framework focuses on the player perspective, offering game design as an invitation and encouragement to engage in certain activities. The framework distinguishes between design at three levels: the designed construct, the activity that is going on, and the experiences created during and after playing.
But it remains to be understood why people engage in the activities that lead to playful experiences. What encourages playful engagement? This question can be split into two parts: engagement, how someone starts to be interested in the activity, and commitment, actually caring for the experience.