Category: Project Management

When Work Becomes a Game (A Role-Playing Game)

Learning organizational skills from video games

Since entering the professional world out of college in 2018, I have consistently found myself mildly overwhelmed by, well, pretty much everything. It has been a rollercoaster of new people, new challenges, and new skills to learn. And as someone with an anxiety disorder it has meant a whole host of new and exciting things to worry about. And, in addition to more conventional means of treating my anxiety, I’ve had to come up with some creative ways to adapt to specific situations, and for those, I tend to draw from what I know best.

And one thing that I’ve known very well for my entire life, is how to play video games.

Once I noticed myself subconsciously adapting my knowledge of video games to find solutions for problems at work, my first thought was, ‘Wow, I’m weird.” My second thought was, “okay, I have to flesh this out. My job is a video game now. What does that look like?’ and I started unfolding this comparison in my head, taking broad concepts of game design and applying them to my everyday routine at Posture. 

So what type of video game is my job? I found the most applicable concepts came from Role-Playing Games (RPGs). RPGs, such as Fallout, Final Fantasy, or The Witcher, are designed to give players a sense of freedom and are usually full of characters to meet and items to collect. And most RPGs share a few key design staples, some of which I’ve found to be useful for keeping up with a fast-paced, collaborative work environment.

Your Quests

The most important aspect of any RPG is the quest, usually the main objective of the game. For me, quests are high-priority items: large-scale projects or tasks with tight deadlines. Other work, such as writing or answering emails, or making small revisions to a pre-existing project, fall under side-quests: lower-priority, but still important! I’ve also jokingly referred to my coworkers as quest-givers when they assign work to me.

Besides making even the simplest task sound way cooler, mentally sorting my work into quests and side-quests is a helpful way of keeping myself organized: what needs to be done, by when, and for who?

Your Inventory

As a videographer, an ever-present part of my work is sorting through massive amounts of raw video files, most of which come out of the camera looking like this:

When dealing with a frustrating situation like this, I draw on another skill I learned from playing RPGs: inventory management.

Many RPGs include massive inventory systems: allowing the player to carry a wide variety of items while they determine what suits their style of play. However, inventory spaces are usually limited, which means that the player must manage their inventory by clearing or selling unwanted items to make room for new ones. Subsequently, this involves spending a lot of time in menus that look like this:

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Basically, playing RPGs has made me feel right at home navigating a labyrinth of menus and sorting through bins of random items, and this has been very helpful when keeping track of a video project that is potentially linked to hundreds of individual files.

Your Controls

Video games have always been my means of escapism: they offer a sense of agency that cannot be matched by any other medium of entertainment. RPGs in particular, have always given me a profound sense of agency: they offer the player multiple ways to approach scenarios, and offer more choice and input than most types of video games. This control is obviously limited; the player cannot control the content of the game, but they can control how they play it.

As a single human I have limited control over the nature of the work that makes it to my desk, which can be an intimidating feeling. However, I do have control over the effort that I put into said work. So, in a roundabout way, playing video games has helped me acknowledge my sense of agency in the workplace, which has helped me cope with work anxiety and impostor syndrome.

What If I Know Nothing About Video Games?

That’s completely fine! I’m not saying that thinking about your work through the lens of gaming will definitely improve your workflow. If you’re not someone who frequently plays video games, it would probably just be confusing. However, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and pull from areas you’re familiar with when it comes to overcoming challenges. If you are adjusting to a new job or even just a new situation that you feel intimidated by, use any and every piece of knowledge you have at your disposal, and you might find some fun, creative ways to tackle those challenges and make your work a little bit more fun in the process.


When Life Hands you a Pandemic, Make Dog Lemonade

Stay Home. Practice Social Distancing. We’re all in it together. We stay home so they can save lives.

By now, you’re pretty familiar with the new messaging surrounding the current global situation. And like many others, you probably hadn’t factored a global pandemic into your 2020 business plan. Yeah, neither did we.

We did, however, have plans to meet with new businesses and generate new branding ideas. We had plans to:

  • Travel to new places and go to weddings with friends and family.
  • Keep our current websites in tip-top shape with new code updates.
  • Have a Posture group game night, as we tend to do every few months.
  • Go on video shoots and capture our partners at the moment.

We also had plans to launch a fake dog version of our site for an April Fool’s joke. Obviously, we had to put some of those plans on hold. Other ideas, however, we were able to carry out with a new spin.

In the spirit of being an interactive group full of creative problem solvers, we’ve pushed ourselves harder than ever before to find ways to carry out plans. We kick off new websites and projects via video conference. We have digital competitive challenges daily capped off with a video conference “Happy Hour” every Friday.

We coach our clients through shooting their own video and sending the footage our way to work our Posture Magic™ on it. We find ways to continuously connect with others while uncovering the silver lining one day at a time.

We have been so inspired by those around us that we are continually finding new ways to get their message out and bring in business without physically interacting with people.

This ability to change course when things don’t go as planned has been an integral part of our business over the years. It is what led us to our recent rendition of “Pawsture Interwagtive.” We had planned for this launch since January, gathering assets and footage and carefully curating a social campaign to launch as an April Fool’s joke.

Honestly, we couldn’t see that original plan going over well at this point in time, and we couldn’t be tone-deaf to what was happening around us. So we got to work re-tooling a lot of our messaging for the original social media schedule and pushed up our launch schedule to fill the remainder of March instead of hitting one day in April. We realized that now, more than ever, the world needed to see the smiling puppy faces of Pawsture Interwagtive. We hope you enjoyed them as much as we do every day!

Think about those plans you had before you found out about “shelter in place.” What spin can you put on them now to find a new way to connect with others? We have been so inspired by those around us that we are continually finding new ways to get their message out and bring in business without physically interacting with people. This is what interactive design looks like on a global scale – making a digital connection with those around you to present a clear message. This is one of the things we love most about the work we do.

The world is continuously changing, but all we can do is take it one day at a time. If you need advice on how to do that, we’re here for you. From all of us (and our pups) at Posture, we wish you much love as we all continue to navigate this new normal.

Visit getpawsture.com to see our pups at work.


Seed to Farmacy Branding & Experience

Planting the seeds for a successful fundraiser experience

We were first presented the opportunity to work on this project by designing the invitation and donation collateral well before the virtual garden concept had been born. This was an exciting design challenge in itself, as the client wanted to carry over the farm-to-table theme into the actual design and production of the invitations. We sourced sustainable parsley seed paper as the branded piece that held the invite, reply card, and inserts together, which could then be planted in the recipient’s’ own garden at home.

To carry the sustainable planting concept through to the Virtual Garden experience, we then designed and produced seed “tickets” on more parsley seed paper that each donor at the event would take to our physical garden. They would then rip and plant the “seed” design of the ticket and keep the stub for planting at home. At the end of the night, the garden was filled with planted parsley seeds – the virtual garden reflected this in all the plants that appeared on the screen. This garden was then taken to the Fresh Food Farmacy in Shamokin, PA to produce parsley that could be used by FFF patients in healthy meals.


 

The physical garden design was a collaborative process involving custom vector art, branded signage, an adventure at Home Depot, and a garage-based construction session. Building the physical box along with the electronic components was a great opportunity for the Posture team to showcase their maker skills. The box itself was prototyped first, and built using ¾ inch plywood. Measuring in at six feet long and two feet wide, the planter was designed to accommodate a large amount of plants.

 

The electronics side of the planter ran on a MakeyMakey. We drilled holes throughout the planter with an exposed copper lead coming out of each. Donors used a small metal shovel, which was wired to the MakeyMakey, to plant their seed paper tickets into the planter. The soil was measured out to cover the exposed wires and was kept damp to maintain a consistent level of moisture. With that, donors could complete the circuit with the grounded shovel and the leads inside the soil.

 

Figuring out how to handle such an interactive experience was an interesting challenge to overcome. We’ve previously used Processing for Generative Art installations, but we knew we needed to find a tool that could handle concurrent processes and animations better. We landed on Phaser, an open source “Desktop and Mobile HTML5 game framework”. We were able to use a fast and modern Javascript framework to handle the animations, reading from an API and listening for user input. The entire front end was designed to be modular and completely customizable by using Javascript ES6 classes and the Phaser 3 syntax.

 

We knew from the start we would need some sort of database and admin area in order to capture and seed the game (pun intended) with donation information. Once we became more familiar with Phaser and its capabilities, we decided the best approach would be to create a PHP wrapper to encapsulate the game and use a standard JSON file to pass data back and forth between the game side and the admin side. This project required a custom built MySQL database architecture to tie all the data together, and so we chose CakePHP as our framework to rapidly build the foundation of the admin area and to easily interface with the database. We then built a locked down website to prohibit outside users from potentially accessing any parts of the game, since it would be publicly displayed on a large screen at the event. The admin area included a section for inputting donor information, as well a customized troubleshooting section, to provide added redundancy in the event of a connection, software, or hardware issue.
 

We were also on hand the day of the event to set up, run final testing, and execute the experience for users as they arrived. Setup included fully filling the garden with the soil, interfacing our computers with a large display, and feeding our video feed out to one of 4 main wall projectors in the event space. During the event, we guided users through the garden, helped the client keep track of donations and amounts, and ensured that our build ran as smoothly as it did during testing. Ultimately our station was one of the highest trafficked tables at the event, and generated a high amount of donations for the Fresh Food Farmacy.
 


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