Expert Interviews > Adrian Hon

Adrian HonAdrian Hon is co-founder and CEO at Six to Start, specializing in creating new forms of storytelling through ARGs, transmedia, or mobile and web-based games. Clients have included Disney, the BBC, Channel 4, and Penguin, and Six to Start has won multiple awards including Best of Show at SXSW. He also writes about technology for the Daily Telegraph, is writing a Kickstarter-funded book and blog called A History of the Future in 100 Objects, co-organizes the Hive Mind Challenge, and is the founder of Transmedia London. He studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge, specializing in experimental psychology and neuroscience.

What do you find most interesting about games?

They’re fun.

What are the most important lessons you have learned about how to engage players in computer [/other] games?

People like things which simulate or mimic the real world, which seem a bit magical or unexpected. For example, you do something on a computer and get a phone call back – crossing boundaries. What’s exciting me are games which are truly collaborative and multiplayer – for example, in a first person shooter, people offer to help you out or collaborate – not just in chat but in voice and real time. In Smokescreen we tried to teach through the gameplay, but then we had an article afterwards that they [the players] read through to get further facts and information.
To engineer high engagement in playtesting, it’s best to observe differences in behaviour of different players, but this costs money. Educational things always suffer from being a bit more didactic; but there are ways of doing things simply (eg. some of the work by Channel 4) using existing communication channels in new ways. You can do informative games once you know what works well – some media have an underlying point about learning about the world (eg. The Wire, etc.). Whereas for ‘art games’: they’re nice, but, what is the point?

Which elements of your games surprised you by grabbing or engaging players in an unplanned way?

In ARGs, people get engaged deeply with the characters/story, which is always surprising and results in surprising levels of engagement or activity. I’m always pleased with how generous people are with their time/expertise/even money (a lot of the games are free – which might affect it).

What are your top tips for games design?

It’s very easy to get tunnel-vision (eg. we have to make this game about piracy): let the idea go, and let it come to you – the best ideas often come in from the side. I have one good idea in 3-6 months. But then you have to make it. Something really good doesn’t come quickly. So my main advice is: be patient. Let the ideas come to you.

Where do you see the future of games?

Everyone’s got a smartphone: so there’s a lot of potential there. There’s no one future, there are lots of futures. Even marginal genres like text adventures etc. have a future. It’s going to be hard to come up with one game which suits everyone (certain types of people like Farmville, etc.).

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