Playability and Agency

Playability is a concept that is now used as a metric for how open, engaging and enjoyable an  interaction is.  Playability is really  a route you can take to achieve these goals. The more playable a place, a system or a product is, the more likely it’s users will feel it is open, accessible , engaging and enjoyable. Of course if a task is fun to do, we are all more likely to do it. Here are 5 examples of playability that have promoted a desired behaviour.

Piano Steps

“Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator and feel better” is something we often hear or read in the Sunday papers. Few people actually follow that advice. Can we get more people to take the stairs over the escalator by making it fun to do.”

This team turned a staircase in to a giant piano. As a result, 66% more people took the stairs.



piano steps1


World Without Oil

Thinking about big issues is hard to do.  World without oil made it that bit easier by giving you a game like interface to share your reactions through. It was an Alternate Reality Game or ARG that, in 2007, asked people to imagine what their lives would be like if we ran out of oil. Though the project was a fiction, many people enacted the changes they would have to make in there real life. Some examples of these changes to a virtual low carbon life include people turning their actual gardens into vegetable plots.



Cardiff cycle counter

This is a very simple intervention. It’s sensor simply counts the number of cyclists that use this route each day. As you go by you see the daily tally go up by one. This super simple bit of feedback is surprisingly rewarding. The message of you are a cyclist and I see you is a warming break from the anonymity of city life and it’s good to know that whether you see them or not you a re apart of a community of hundreds of other people cycling this route every day.  Whenever I am in Cardiff I choose to cycle a route that takes me past this sign.




Neat Streets

Neat streets was a project that asked:  can a little playfulness help to prevent a lot of littering. Cigarette voting invited people to vote an a variety of topics by picking which slot they put their cigarette ends. Chewing gum dot to dot invited people to collectively draw images with their discarded gum. The pilot projects were so successful that Hubbub the company behind them have put the boxes and boards in to mass production.



Tidy Street

Tidy Street in Brighton was an  energy-saving initiative. Volunteers were given electricity meters so they can monitor their daily energy use, and identify which devices are using the most power, and when. The results were painted as a giant street graph. Users could now talk to each other about energy use and figure out what was costing them the most. As a result average energy consumption went down 15%.