PODCAST: From Triple-A games to Engagement Hubs with PUG’s Steve Bocska

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — PUG Interactive CEO Steve Bocska was recently interviewed on the Professor Game Podcast by Rob Alvarez Bucholska about how the lessons he learned making triple-A video games has helped him solve challenging problems in community engagement, loyalty and gamification.

You can listen to the entire podcast here.



Steve Bocska is CEO of PUG Interactive, a technology & design leader in engagement, retention, and community activation. He has 17+ years of direct experience in the video game industry, having designed and produced several AAA games for Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Sega and Ubisoft that have generated sales in excess of $650 million. He is frequently sought as a speaker, having spoken at Game Developer’s Conference, South by Southwest, SIGGRAPH, Banff New Media Festival, GameON Finance, nextMEDIA and several others. He recently enjoyed an amazing Lebanese dinner with an actual Canadian Astronaut.

It goes all the way back to when he started doing “edutainment” at Disney, quite early in his career, for a very young audience. It was especially hard because what your instinct tells you should be done, is probably what you shouldn’t do because it is for an audience completely different to you! He learned this quite quickly in this project when it started facing the final users. He’s found that usually when projects go south it is because there isn’t a balance between the engagement and the business objectives, so one of them gets pushed too far forward and the other is left behind. The best way to be prepared for this is for your projects to be able to iterate and shift very quickly because they will not work as you expected, the audience always surprises us in different ways.

From his process, Steve talked how to determine which are the best gameplay mechanics for a project. It starts by taking an inventory of all the possible interactions between the customer of the brand and the brand. For example with Coca-Cola, it would be purchasing a Coke, following social media, seeing a billboard, watching ads, attending sponsored events, buying merchandise, and many more. Then, you define the measurable business goals and objectives you expect to achieve. And finally, you evaluate the characteristics of the personality of the brand and brand community to determine the most appropriate game mechanics that would fit within the system (which they call the 5C — competition, collaboration, collection, customization and completion.

Steve also talked about how to measure success. He is using a proprietary system at PUG called “Steve’s Net Engagement Score” (SNES) which he spoke about on his talk during Gamification Europe 2018. The principle is to look at three things that drive people’s interest and enthusiasm, the first is interesting choices, multiplied by the consequence of those choices and then is the time pressure. He even argues that you don’t want to over-engage people, so it is a balancing act.

His final advice would be to always be looking for those mechanics that make sense for the situation, find things through Gamasutra and others because if you only have a hammer everything looks like a nail! We can find Steve on his company’s website puginteractive.com.

You can listen to the entire podcast here.