The Planner's Book Of Things To Make

The planner’s book of things to make

View more webinars from John V Willshire.

UPDATE – I felt a bit guilty about posting just the below.  So I’ve uploaded the presentation on Slideshare and done a wee voiceover.  Hoorah for the interwebs.


…yes, fair enough, you might click on a post expecting something interesting, but you’re going to be disappointed, because all it actually is so far is some photoshop I’ve bodged together as an intro slide for the IPA – Level One talk I’m doing tomorrow…


Sorry.  It’s all I have at the moment.

If you want to read stuff on what you thought the subject area implied, then you should wait until I write the bastard, and manage to record a wee narration and upload it here, or maybe read Mark Pollard’s post on Why Strategists Should Make Stuff again (a faster, better option, probably).

Or you could watch a video that We Are The Physics made:



Game Economy vs Game Ecology

I was in a fascinating workshop on games today with Mark, the Hide & Seek guys, Tassos (who it was lovely to meet for the first time), Johnnie (likewise) and the Brainjuicer peeps (indeed, again).

And as happens occasionally, there was a brief lingual slip by Alex when he said “game ecology’ rather than “game economy”…

…but it prompted a really interesting thought:

What’s the difference between a game economy and a game ecology?

(CAVEAT: of course, before anyone gets all extra-clever on me, I know I’m not the guy to be writing this… I’m only just versed enough in games to be dangerous… but it’s interesting, worth capturing, sharing, and seeing if smarter, gamesier brains than mine can take it up and run with it)

Here’s my starter for ten.

Let’s say a game economy is where the actions and rewards within the game have been sufficiently worked through so that the points and prizes you collect feel fair for the effort put in. 

It balances out to keep you interested and keep you playing.


So, with that in mind, perhaps a game ecology is a lot more organic and complex in the way it changes…

…everything is interconnected, but not in clear, expected ways, so that an action has a lot of different, harder to determine consequences, because it causes a shift in the ecosystem.


So whereas both an economy and an ecology change because of the actors in a market, an ecology also changes because of small things which make bigger things happen… the butterfly effect, I suppose that is.  Which if they’re big enough, and disastrous enough, get termed ‘acts of god’. 

Anyway, I’m going to think more about this.  And would appreciate some help.  I feel it’s important, and interesting, though exactly why yet I’m not sure.

The one thing that’s already apparent is that if you think proper game economies are hard to get right, imagine how tricky a game ecology might be…




Physical stuff. It matters. In Matter.

A quick ‘un…

We love all the digital malarkey.  It’s ace, and new, and exciting, and so on and so forth.

As a result, we spend less time thinking about the physical stuff.  And as Ed points out here, physical connections for brands & companies can be phenomenally powerful.

It’s what Matter was started to do, over two years ago now. 

Here’s a photo of the first box I opened back then.  There’s a whole pictorial review on flickr here


Anyway, Matter is coming back this November, when we put the Pocketgames in it.  Woo!

Someone’s dropped out though, so Tim asked if there was anyone else that might want to put something wonderful in Matter to send to people. 

I thought I’d post it here, in case anyone who reads it might have something.

But what to put in?

Charlie wrote a good critique of the first matterbox pointing out that…

“Most of the other bits were a bit weak… not really getting me that excited or stimulated.”

I think (and may be wrong) that the trick to getting something that works brilliantly in Matter is to create something physical inside the box that will make people want to do something social outside the box.

It’s not (I repeat, NOT) a sampling exercise. 

It’s a box of actual social objects.

Email Tim, he’ll tell you more –


Pocketgame… the story so far

I mentioned before that I was working on something with Cadbury called ‘pocketgame‘… a crowdsourcey open game design competition thingy.  Which has been tremendous fun so far, as this video shows:

Anyway, there are now 10 shortlisted pocketgames up for public vote; the most popular two we will make 25,000 of to send out in Matterbox in October, and people who play the games will decide on the winner.

Please have a look at the ten entries at and vote for your favourite; we’ve been blown away by both the ingenuity and quality of the entries we’ve had, and I know you will too.


Introducing… pocketgame

Things might be a bit quiet round these parts over the next few weeks… as I’m working on a brilliant project with Cadbury called pocketgame



It’s really exciting, quite scary, and of pulls together a lot of the sorts of things that have got me agitated here on feeding the puppy over the last couple of years.

If you want to know more, I suggest you head on over to pocketgame to sate that curiousity…


Pixels. Thousands of 'em…


Some folk feel like they’re being invaded by the scary digital world.

It might look look a little like the below video Suneil made by Parisian visual effects company One More Production…

Pixels.  Thousands of ’em…



Uniqlo & Inception: Riding The Data Comet

I wrote a post in January last year about The Data Comet, which was about how…

…the data that we all collect in a comet-like trail behind us (either on purpose or inadvertently) can be harnessed by clever tools that make our life just a little better…

There was even a rudimentary little visualisation.  Aww.



Anyhoo, two things this week made me think of it again.

Firstly, the already much talked about Uniqlo Tweet Show… you enter your twitter account, and it makes a music video from the data left in your comet’s tail:

I think it’s a neat execution (though the music really fucking annoys me). 

I guess it’s an interesting twist on advertising rather than some groundbreaking marketing initiative, but that’s cool… it makes ‘sit back’ just that little bit more ‘lean forward’.

The second thing was the new game for the new Christopher Nolan film Inception.

Now, we work with Warner Bros in the UK, but this has emerged from the US (as a lot of film stuff does), and given the levels of secrecy Chris Nolan usually surround his films with, we always expect things to emerge from nowehere (we found out about all the Dark Knight stuff by registering & playing for instance…).

Anyway, the first level of the game that’s up is a pretty rudimentary casual game based (as far as anyone knows) on the movie… it’s fun to play, yes, but my favourite bit (and the thing that reminded me of the Data Comet) is the fact that when you sign in with Facebook Connect, it uses the names of your friends as the other people in the game…

Here I’m hiding out from Fiona and Mark…



…and here I’m being beaten up by Piers and Gibbo…



Again, it’s not revolutionary, but it’s the subtle pulling in of the data tail I’ve left behind in life to make something more relevant to me that I’m a fan of.

Just think what’ll happen when people get really creative with the comet tail…


#CMS2010 – three big things, pt II

OK, after part I, here’s part II of ‘what I walked away with after the Guardian Changing Media Summit’…

Part II – It’s all in the game

Now, I’ve talked about different sorts of games quite a lot here on FtP before (for instance, here, there, and there too). 

Mainly around the elements of gaming that can be brought into other parts of our lives (scoring, points, rankings, interaction etc).

But despite creating various projects that are bubbling away for clients at the moment, I realised this morning that I’ve not really written anything on here about Social Gaming…

…I know, shock, horror.



So, Social Gaming… here’s a quick definition from SFGate:

“Social games are built to be enjoyed and shared with friends through existing social networks and platforms like the iPhone.”

The key is that they are games made specifically to take advantage of the social toolkit available across various  platforms… rather than making the game first, then working out where to put it.

I think the first social game I was probably aware of on Facebook was the ill-fated Scrabulous



The key thing that made it work was not that it was the most intriguing, taxing gameplay, or amazing graphics, or in depth storylines (which the gaming industry generally holds up to be the drivers of ‘gaming success’), but the fact you could easily play it with the friends you already had on Facebook.

No registering on special, controlled gamer networks, just quick, instant access to games you could play with your friends whenever and wherever you were connected.

Since then, in the last two years the number of games out there, and the number of people playing them, has swelled significantly… currently led of course by FarmVille. 

(I hadn’t realised until I read this that FarmVille was a clone of the less successful Farm Town… as Faris would say, Talent Imitates…)



(Monthly Active Users on Facebook, from App Data)

Someone said on the panel that there’s about 200 million people playing social games worldwide, though this report on the BBC suggests that it’s about 300 million. 

Whichever stats you believe, it’s undoubtedly true that social gaming is now both big and profitable… in three years, social gaming has become a $1 billion industry.

But hey, maybe it’s too late to start posting about social gaming now…

As Kristian Segerstrale of Playfish said in the ‘Convergence, Creativity, and Commerciality in Gaming‘ panel at CMS2010…

“In five years time, talking about ‘social games’ will be like talking about ‘electric television’.  It won’t be relevant; ‘social’ will be embedded in every game”

Meg pointed out (via twitter from a different stream at the conference… oh, this wonderful modern world), that this quote is a riff on this Douglas Adams piece, most notably the part on ‘interactivity’…

“…the reason we suddenly need such a word [interactivity] is that during this century we have for the first time been dominated by non-interactive forms of entertainment: cinema, radio, recorded music and television.

Before they came along all entertainment was interactive: theatre, music, sport – the performers and audience were there together, and even a respectfully silent audience exerted a powerful shaping presence on the unfolding of whatever drama they were there for.

We didn’t need a special word for interactivity in the same way that we don’t (yet) need a special word for people with only one head.”



The one-headed Douglas Adams

From a media point of view though, I think that games are going to become a wholly social experience a lot faster than the other broadcast media experiences…

…as Tom points out in this post here, it’s hard to imagine that the individual media experience (reading a book, watching a TV show) will completely die off in the immediate future.



But games… games are different.

Firstly, in the grand scheme of things, they’re so new

Which is why a lot of the older people who’ve come to social games like FarmVille and Bejewelled don’t consider themselves ‘gamers‘… when they were younger there was no such thing.

And secondly, games were always something to be played together…

…this quote here eloquently identifies the root of the issue:

“The entire video game industry’s history thus far has been an aberration. It has been a mutant monster only made possible by unconnected computers.

People always play games together. All of you learned to play games with each other. When you were kids, you played tag, tea parties, cops and robbers, what have you.

The single-player game is a strange mutant monster which has only existed for 21 years and is about to go away because it is unnatural and abnormal.”

Raph Koster, 2006

…and now that there’s a place to come together and play games like Facebook… well, why wouldn’t you?  Raph again, this time from 2010

“All games are becoming connected experiences.  And it turns out social networks are the glue.”




Why do I think this is important?

Well, marketers and media folk are great (especially in this day and age) at jumping on the bandwagon of ‘the latest craze’.  It would be all too easy to dismiss social gaming as just that.

But when the incumbent gaming industry is looking hard at its own games and trying to move quickly to adapt, I think that shows just how deep this rabbit hole goes…

Also on the panel was Josh Atkins, from Lionhead Studios. 

They’re what you might traditionally think about when you picture games developers; a bit like a major film studio, they create big budget affairs like the Fable franchise…

Josh had this to say:

“We’re not ‘the dinosaur’, but we’re the Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier which doesn’t necessarily change direction as quickly as the other guys.

We’re trying to make our games more connected, more casual… taking the best of the modern age into the console game experience.  We want ANYBODY to be able to ‘pick-up-and=play’.”

In short, even the guys in the established games industry are looking at social gaming and thinking ‘whoaa… maybe that’s where everything’s going’.

I think that every game we see created nowadays will have as much sociability built in as possible.  And it’s not like TV or film, where all the ‘old’ content will continue to exist and keep that ‘individual experience’ ticking over.  People don’t tend to play old versions of games.  They play new games.  As games become more socially enabled, so will the expectations of all games.

And just think about all the solitary, individual media experiences that will give way to this new, social, game-fuelled world.

(Part III is here)


There's a Glitch in the matrix…

There’s a Glitch in the matrix.  Or at the very least, in the pipeline:



I chased this down earlier when Johnny Vulkan tweeted “Manic Miner + Second Life x Sims + Farmville – Tekken = Glitch. Destined to be very big or not. You tell me.”

Glitch themselves describe it as…

“…a massively-multiplayer game, playable in the browser and built in the spirit of the web. It is currently in development and will launch late in 2010. Private alpha is beginning shortly and a public beta period will begin this summer.”

Go sign up.  You know you wanna.