from Project Horseshoe

How Do You Design For Building Friendships?

We play games with people we know, and we generally stay friends. We also play games with people we don’t know, and we generally stay strangers. Or do we?

Dan Cook is the Chief Creative Officer at Spry Fox, and spends his days making some really innovative games.

But perhaps more importantly to the design world, he writes. Dan is responsible for some of the articles that have had the most influence on me as a game designer and as an academic.

For example, his seminal article on Loops and Arcs, some of which has made its way into the GDT Framework and my teaching on and off campus.

But Dan also gets together with a semi-secret group of other designers once a year for a sort of “game design think tank” to work on really hard problems; they call this Project Horseshoe. And thankfully for us, they report out on some of their work.

One article that really stuck out to me from this year was on Game design patterns for building friendships.

In this amazing article, the group builds a general model:

  1. Proximity
  2. Similarity
  3. Reciprocity
  4. Disclosure

Then they define what sort of friendships this model covers.

And then they note which types of games can use this friendship model:

  1. Online
  2. Mediated
  3. Synchronous

But then they start to dig into each one of these, uncovering and defining design patterns for building friendships inside of games. They even have a set of metrics for measuring friendship inside of a game. For a game designer, this is very valuable work. People talk about this sort of work all the time and occasionally blog on disparate pieces. But only rarely do we see someone take the time to research and write this up in a more holistic way outside of a white paper or dissertation.

What about for those other designers or developers who are trying to increase engagement in educational or other types of technology? A little digging into this material and I guarantee you will come out with insights to make your device, product or service better at connecting people.

Honestly, I read a lot of game design articles and papers. And this is easily the most valuable one I have read in six months.

Read it yourself.