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Here's a sneak peek to the book I will be working on for the next six months. Drawing from a number of design methodologies, case studies,and interviews, the book will introduce a variety of methods and perspectives to games in social networks.

Aki Jarvinen, Blogger

September 1, 2009

6 Min Read

I'm glad to announce that I will start a book project for Carnegie Mellon University's ETC Press. The book will expand the work started with my recent blog posts, and in practice, the book will be written by posting drafts of sections every couple of weeks to my blog. My goal is to finish the manuscript spring 2010. I will also take advantage of my on-going design projects, workshops, and teaching next semester to give the book an accessible, practical edge. You are very welcome to influence the final manuscript with your feedback. Most likely there will be a Gamasutra feature or two edited from the material.

Here's the working outline for the book's content and structure:

Games for Social Networks: The Design and Business of Networked Play

Part I: Fundamentals of Networked Play

The first part of the book (chapters 1 & 2) outlines the fundaments: First, how designing games for social network compares to game, interaction, and service design practices and processes. Second, motivations for play and social networking are discussed in order to establish a basis for user-centered design practices.

1. Introduction: What is Game Design for Social Networks

This chapter introduces the reader to the author’s interpretations and insights into what game design, interaction design, social design, and service design are, and how they each combine in social network game projects. The approach adopted in the book is also placed into the context of design research, user experience (UX), and designing play experiences (‘PX’).

Link to earlier blog post

2. Design and Business of Networked Play

This chapter summarizes a number of relevant studies into online social networks in order to lay the ground for distilling a number of game and play centered design drivers for social network game design. The chapter also introduces a number of qualities of play, and categorizations of social emotions to inform player-centered design approaches. Designing social network games is seen as a practice where game and interaction design tasks are combined, and a number of game design principles have to be made subordinate to more broad service design tasks. On the other hand, business requirements become embedded into the design process. The chapter will also discuss metrics, which help in evaluating how successful the game is in terms of design and business goals.

Interlude: Researcher Interview

Part II: Designing Social Play and Games

The second part (chapters 3-5) goes into detail regarding design concepts and methods: First, the book introduces a number of design techniques and documentation methods (e.g. flow charts, wireframes) from interaction design and game design practices, and defines guidelines of how to apply them to social network game projects.

3. Social Networks: Platforms for Social Play

This chapter establishes a premise of design thinking, based on the previous two chapters: The constraints and possibilities of networks for game and play design are discussed. Towards the end of the chapter, these concepts and observations will form a lens through which existing social networks are explored. In addition, the instant and mobile aspects of social networks are discussed to round up the chapter.

4. Design techniques and processes

This chapter delivers concrete examples of how to employ interaction design techniques for social network game projects: Documentation and specification methods are introduced, and iterative design practices are discussed through sketching and prototyping. Playtesting is discussed in terms of the particular challenges of developing games for a largely asynchronous online environment. The chapter closes off with a case study of a project post-mortem that encompasses the processes and techniques introduced.

Interlude: Social game developer Interviews

5. Design exercises

The chapter offers practical exercises that focus on the various phases and deliverables of a social network game project: How to translate high-level design drivers into game design solutions, and how to document concepts and design in the form of personas, use flows, and user interface wireframes. Prototyping and playtesting methods are discussed, as well as how to maintain and evolve a game concept once it has been launched. Game designer interview focusing on the latter topic, rounds off the chapter.

Interlude: Game Designer Interview

Part III: Exploring the Future of Networked Play

The third part completes the book. It looks into games and play phenomena on the experimental edge of social networks, in terms of social networks and future game applications.

Interlude: Researcher Interviews

6. Social network games for the future

The final chapter discusses future directions of social networks and their potential for play and games. Phenomena, such as ‘crowdsourcing’ and pervasiveness, are used as particular topics to explore weak signals emerging from the design and business of social network games.

Author bio

Aki Järvinen, Ph.D., is a ten-year veteran of game, interaction, and service design, both in practice and theory. He has worked in the development of online and mobile games, with a solid background in academic research. Currently Järvinen works as a game design and user experience consultant through his company, and teaches game design and social media at the IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is involved in a number of social gaming projects.


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About the Author(s)

Aki Jarvinen


Aki Järvinen works as the Lead Social Designer at Digital Chocolate's Sumea studio at Helsinki, Finland. He has a decade of experience from designing and producing mobile games, online gambling, and browser-based games. Järvinen has also written a Ph.D. on academic methods of analyzing games from the perspectives of design and psychology. Currently he is writing a book on the design and business of social games. You can follow the progress here: http://games4networks.posterous.com

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