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Designing Gamification in Paris

Tomorrow I’ll be off to Paris for the Designing Gamification workshop at this year’s ACM SIGCHI event. I’m looking forward to contributing our experience as practitioners making games to the workshop. We think that it would be fantastic if efforts at gamification were led by actual game designers.

I also hope that this (along with the Gameful World book) will be something of a step in laying to rest the thing that is gamification. I have no illusions that this will be the final word. A quick twitter search shows how widespread the word has become. Reading through most interpretations of that word as well as ‘serious games’ shows a serious misunderstanding of what games are and an immense hope as to what they can do. I think we should interpret that as a mandate. Games can be fun and do interesting things. It is up to us to show how.

New Games for Extant Contexts

Our submission to the workshop is a paper called “New Games for Extant Contexts”. It draws from our experience over the past years to create games that are situated within a specific context, that take the affordances and problems of those contexts and use them to create new games.

In that paper we keep on hammering on ‘play testing’, something that is strangely missing from almost all of the others. Play testing, we believe, is an essential part of creating games and a step that should not be skimped upon. Read all about it in the paper.

The Papers

In the stack of papers there are a bunch of examples of gamification added to everyday tasks, some that try to add gamification or gameful design to existing user centered design or business processes and some that try to salvage the rhetoric in one way or another. If you want a more in depth impression, you should jump straight into the extended abstract.

I found some notable bits from a couple of papers. Sebastian Deterding’s “Skill Atoms as Design Lenses for User Centered Gameful Design” which identifies issues with existing approaches to apply gameful design:

  • Not systemic: They merely add game design elements, whereas game design approaches games as systems where experiences emerge from the dynamic interaction of users with all system components [6,11].
  • Reward-oriented: They focus on motivating through rewards instead of the intrinsic motivations characteristic for games, like competence [6,14].
  • Not user-centric: They emphasize the goals of the system owner, often neglecting or even being detrimental to the users’ goals [1,6,14].
  • Pattern-bound: They limit themselves to a small set of feedback interface design patterns (points, badges, leader boards), rather than affording the structural qualities of games that give rise to gameful experiences [6,14,17].

This is a good collection of issues that should be addressed, though addressing them is another issue altogether. I would recommend all of Sebastian’s writing on this topic and his presentations for the much needed clarity of thought and prose they offer.

Another that caught my attention is the “Gamification in Business: Designing Motivating Solutions to Problem Situations” one by Deborah Gears and Karen Braun. As a goal this is very much in line with what we do and they also reference Self-Determination Theory, a model that we employ as well.

The self-determination theory (SDT) [4] framed a motivation model for understanding what and how human behavior is initiated and regulated [4,13,14]. The SDT recognizes social and environmental conditions that affect personal volition and engagement in activities. The SDT combines both content (psychological needs) and process (cognition) motivation describing needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. An individual’s motivation for action is defined along a spectrum of amotivation, extrinsic motivation, and intrinsic motivation measured by perceived locus of causality (external to internal regulation) [6]. Needs for autonomy and competence allow the “prediction of the social circumstances and task characteristics that enhance versus diminish intrinsic motivation.” [3 p. 233]

I’m looking forward to the workshop and I hope for some fruitful discussion. I hope to meet you, if you’re there.

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