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What Is “Gamocracy” And How Could It Be Better?

March 3rd, 2011 by

One thing I’ve learned as a Community Manager is that gamers love telling game developers how to do their jobs.

Turning the tables constructively on this vocal majority, Swedish indie developer The Bearded Ladies have launched Gamocracy – an experimental game design project that puts creative responsibility in the hands of average gamers across the globe. In collaboration with Sony’s Official PlayStation Community, Gamocracy invites players to submit original ideas for a 2-D action platformer (think Super Mario Bros.) to be developed for PlayStation 3 and PSP by The Bearded Ladies. Check out this quote from their Facebook page:

Anyone can submit ideas [for Gamocracy] via the PlayStation Forum and each week the best ones will be posted to this Facebook page where a public vote will decide which idea is used. If your idea makes it through to the final game, your name will be added to the end credits, ensuring bragging rights and a possible first step on the game development career ladder.

“The People Need a Hero!”

Week 1 of the eight-week initiative, which began February 18, presented participants with their first challenge. Tasked with creating a protagonist for the as-yet-untitled platformer, amateur game designers submitted more than 400 ideas in 10 different languages to the Official PlayStation Forums (EU). After selecting 5 finalists and posting their ideas in a Facebook photo album, The Bearded Ladies called for their community to cast votes in the form of Likes on Facebook. Once all the votes had been counted, PlayStation Community member The_Sparta_Ghost emerged victorious with his protagonist “H7” – the alien-built android with body parts held together by force-fields and who detaches his head to vault into hard-to-reach places (why didn’t I think of that?) Here’s a peek at the community-driven character design:

Room for improvement

While the cooperation between Gamocracy’s creators and Official PlayStation Forums moderation staff is commendable, the logistics of this initiative are not without flaws. Notably absent are clear, consistent CTAs in the PlayStation Forums forwarding successful participants to The Bearded Ladies’ Facebook page. I’ll bet many international contributors didn’t fully understand that if their Week 1 design was selected as a finalist, it would be subject to a community vote on Facebook in the form of ‘Likes’. That would explain the extremely low voter turnout (109) compared with the number of submissions (400+). The solution? Show participants the path from the instructional post, through the submission process, all the way to the voting booth. Once your amateur designers realize they need the ‘Likes’ of everyone they know, visitors will flock to your page in support of their friends. (Note: Regardless of whether a change is made, I suspect the voting spread will be greater in Week 2 than in Week 1, where the closeness of Finalists’ vote counts [28, 11, 15, 24, and 31] demonstrated little awareness of Gamocracy’s unregulated voting system.)

The Bearded Ladies clearly have a submission collection process worked out, so I hope to eventually see published data showing weekly entries, to-date entries, and entries per region/language (my estimate of 400+ Week 1 submissions is based on overall forum post counts.) Measuring these data internally could prove useful in the short term for week-over-week changes in community outreach, and in the long term for post-initiative press highlights.

To hear from the developers themselves on how the Gamocracy experiment is going, check out their first dev diary:

Moving forward

This week’s design challenge, “War of the Worlds,” asks designers to dream up 3 unique settings for H7 to traverse with his unique self-dismemberment abilities. If Gamocracy keeps its momentum, the next 6 weeks will see a massive influx of crowdsourced game concepts from across the globe. My hat goes off to Sony in particular for for giving Gamocracy a chance and for seeing the value in empowering gamers to share their ideas with the world.

Do you have a caged creative beast inside waiting to be unleashed? Are you an XBLA junkie, a PlayStation Mover & shaker, or just a kid at heart with a Wiimote in hand? Try your hand at game design with Gamocracy - it looks like a hell of a lot of fun.

[This article was originally published at WASD in Translation. It appears here with the author’s permission.]

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