It is all about bringing engagement to your product

Meet Carl Axel Tollin, a game developer at Sigma Technology Systems. Today we talked with Carl Axel about gamification, AR&VR opportunities, and trends within the gaming industry.

Can you tell us about who you are and what you do? 

My name is Carl Axel Tollin, and I am 31 years old. I work at Sigma Technology Systems in Stockholm. I studied game development at Stockholm University, focusing on the programming side. I’m currently working as a VR developer for one of our customers. 

What inspired you to become a game developer? 

I have been interested in games my whole life, from playing my older sister’s Super Nintendo as a young child to playing things like grand strategy games today. So, for me, games have always been a large part of my life. 

But before I began my education in game development, I got a degree in theatre studies and worked a bit in that field. My best skill in that field, which I liked doing, was analyzing plays and performances. I had also done some courses in programming at a high school level. So, I felt like being a game developer would be a great fit for me, to combine the love of stories and performances with the logical side of programming and solving problems. 

It also seemed like an excellent way for me to work with something I love and engage with every day. 

What do you think are the next trends in game development? 

There are a lot of talks about trends that are very likely to occur, such as AR and VR, as well as broadening the target audiences for games to be more inclusive. I want to bring up something that I think is less talked about but impacts the success of games. One of the recent examples is the game ”Among Us” which was under the radar until it became popular after a couple of streamers started playing it. It has received some game awards two years after its release. 

Having popular streamers playing a game has great potential in making many people want to play a game and having viewers engaged with the game. However, it is the same concept as having an esports scene for a game. So, I believe one trend that would be impactful is to make more content creator-friendly games that can have viewers engaged with a game while still watching the creator. 

In what areas do you believe VR & AR can be useful? 

I believe AR and VR could have a significant impact in many use cases, so this is a very difficult question to give a short answer to. We, of course, have games that are ported and played in AR/VR, as well as new games focusing on the capabilities of AR/VR. Then we have a myriad of possibilities that are not strictly game-related, such as visualization, collaboration, and education. So, for me, this question 

is like asking in what areas a PC could be useful. The possibilities are endless, and it’s pretty exciting to be a part of the explorative parts of the development of the use cases of platforms. 

To give a more concrete answer: one thing is the ability to put things in context. For example, you can view and interact with objects in AR in your own place. A prominent example of this is using an AR application to decorate the home and view how things look in different places before buying the items. The same concept of viewing things in context goes for VR as well, but here you can choose the place where you want to experience things. 

AR and VR are great tools to use in a more remote world, where you don’t need to go to specific places, for example, education and training. It’s also a great way to experience various things in a controlled, safe environment. It enables the user to experience things whenever and wherever they want. 

I think one of the most limiting factors in the expansion of VR is our own imagination. Out of my experience, one of the things I hear the most from people trying VR projects is that you really have to try VR to understand it, experience it to start understanding its potential. 

Gamification is becoming a “thing”. What’s your view on gamification? 

For me, gamification means that you bring engagement to whatever you offer to a user by using traditional elements of games. I think the ability to make a meaningful choice brings so much to any medium where you want to use gamification. For example, a “Capture the Flag” challenge where a user had to find hidden flags on websites or in coded messages to earn points. The challenge had various difficulty levels so that most people could complete at least a few. The more difficult level required reading up about security vulnerabilities and so on. The result is that the users were motivated to learn new things to complete the challenges. 

You can view this sort of gamification as a motivation for users to learn something. Still, I would instead phrase it as bringing fun to the learning process. 

Adding game elements to other media such as movies is another great example. Netflix made a film in the Black Mirror series called Bandersnatch, where users could choose what the main character does next. It combines the elements of a “choose your own adventure” game with watching a movie since your watching experience will depend on your choices. You can compare it with graphical adventure games such as The Walking Dead series, where you play as characters in The Walking Dead universe and make personal decisions that affect the story. It blurs the lines of where different media begin and end. 

These were just some examples, but I believe gamification has excellent potential to bring engagement and new experiences to many fields out there. 

What impact will have AR & VR on gamification? 

I think AR and VR are both great platforms for utilizing the gamification concept because of the incredible level of engagement that you experience when using these mixed reality tools. We shouldn’t forget that AR and VR bring a physical aspect to whatever you are trying to gamify. It is you who have to perform actions to make things happen. For example, if you compare doing something like clicking a button to move a character or just reading or watching something, having to engage with something physically is so much more engaging. To utilize the already heightened levels of engagement that are created by the platform together with gamification concepts such as using scoring, timing and rewards almost seem too good to pass up when you, for example, are considering having your company’s safety training in VR.