Ep 022 Horst Streck talks about the importance of empathy for gamification

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After changing his student life for a working career, Horst Streck worked as an information expert within the Amsterdam local authorities for over 15 years.

In 2001 Horst Streck founded I Sioux Media Productions with two partners. In 2002 the company made its first step as a game developer. In 2007 the company entered the casual games arena, with the brand Youdagames. Youdagames won the Dutch Game award in 2008, with two games and became best “up-and-coming developer” in 2009 in Seattle. As CEO, Horst Streck was executive producer and responsible for building strong relations with partners and distributors.

In 2012 Horst Streck stepped down as a CEO and became a member of the advisory board. He decided to follow his heart and started a new venture which is all about gamification. In 2014 he was selected as chairman of the Dutch Games Association. For two years he’s been in the mission of renewing the educational system by the use of gamification.

The last two years have been the most regulars he’s had since he has been teaching gamification at the university. He might be also giving workshops, presentations, advising people, almost anything on a given day!

He says that his favorite FAIL (First attempt in learning) is… pretty funny. It was back in 2009 when they were pretty new and they received the award for “upcoming game developer”. They arrived at the ceremony in casual clothes, then they didn’t make much promotion about this huge achievement, all because they were not prepared and didn’t even know how big of a deal the award was! They were the first Dutch company to get such an award. He added that he’s happy on getting his students to commit mistakes because it is a fantastic learning experience! It is something that he feels is a fault in Dutch culture, which is the acceptance towards failure, the fact that it seems to be final, within the business world this seems to be a mark you get for life.

A great experience he had, 15 years ago, was when Idols wanted to do auditions for their program by phone or even online. It was important to also make this profitable. What they did was to direct the calls through a collect call (where the person auditioning would pay a fee for calling) and also introduced a system where the audience could vote through a call or SMS that they would pay for as well. At the time, he didn’t know if he would be able to come up with a solution but went for it anyway! Taking risks, moving forward constantly, that would be his main advice after this experience.

Horst has his own method called ProtoPlay. Before getting started with anything, it is fundamental for him to reach the essence of the problem. This he has implemented from Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. This is fundamental because once you go really deep then you find the real why and you can reach a better solution. It’s a five-step approach, the first step is about understanding the essence of the problem, then comes the “game infusion” by looking at the current situation and looking for opportunities to include game elements, then the prototype, then comes the development and finally the launch has to be well prepared so it works correctly. With students, he mainly uses the three middle steps. The fundamental point is to continually improve, see what works and what doesn’t, and adjust, iterate!

Something that Horst feels can benefit any gamification project is to understand your users so well that you can “walk in their shoes”. His favorite game is Fifa! From the early mobile game days, he would mention Tiny Wings (I hadn’t seen it, but this trailer makes me want to play it 🙂 ). He would love to listen to Jane McGonigal in Professor Game as well as Daniel Pink, the author of the book “Drive“.

His superpower in gamification would be empathy, this makes it a lot easier to design for people. His final advice would be to always follow your own thinking, even when you learn from other people. He also says that whatever you make has to be meaningful for the player. Those two can always lead you to success!

If you want to reach Horst, you can go to his web page gamifier.com, Twitter @gamifier1, Facebook, LinkedIn or reach him on his email for business horst [at] gamifier [dot] com.

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