1 Center for Computer Games Research, The Department2 unknown3 University of the West of England
A Roundtable on Game Studies and HCI Perspectives
Games and game technologies increasingly transcend the traditional boundaries of their medium, as evidenced by the proliferation of serious and pervasive games (Montola, Stenros and Waern 2009; Ritterfeld, Cody and Vorderer 2009). The most recent phenomenon in this trajectory is ‘gamification’, an umbrella term for the use of video game elements (rather than full-fledged games) in non-game services and applications to improve the user experience and user engagement. This design approach has rapidly gained traction in interaction design and digital marketing (Zichermann and Linder 2010), spawning an intense debate within the professional community as well as numerous ‘gamified’ applications, ranging from productivity to finance, health, sustainability, news, user-generated content and e-learning. Several vendors now offer gamification as a service layer of reward and reputation systems with points, badges, levels and leader boards. While the term ‘gamification’ is relatively new, researchers in human-computer interaction (HCI) have been investigating the area it entails for decades. Attempts to derive heuristics for enjoyable interfaces from games go back to the early 1980s (Malone 1980, 1982). More recently, researchers have tried to identify design patterns that might afford joy of use under the moniker “funology”, explicitly drawing inspiration from game design (Blythe et al. 2004). In a related vein, the study of motivational affordances of computer-supported collaborative work (Jung et al. 2010) has delineated principles and patterns that are congruent with research on the motivational psychology of video games (Ryan et al. 2006). Another relevant branch of research concerns “games with a purpose”, in which human problem solving is piggybacked to enjoyable game-like tasks for purposes such as text and image recognition (von Ahn and Dabbish 2008). In persuasive technology (Fogg 2002), video games and game aspects have been studied as potential means to shape user behavior in directions intended by the system designer (Lockton and Stanton 2010, Niebuhr and Kerkow 2007), or to instill embedded values (Barr, Noble and Biddle 2007). Social psychological studies on the motivational dimensions of online communities or recommender systems arrived at conclusions that chime with core design properties of video games (Ling et al. 2005, Rashid et al. 2006). Finally, HCI researchers have also begun to explore the significant role of social contexts in the constitution of video game play experience (Kort and Ijsselsteijn 2008), which immediately raises the question of whether and how the transfer of game design elements into ‘alien’ social contexts might significantly alter their experiential affordances. At the CHI 2011 conference in May, the authors are running a workshop that will bring together diverse researchers from the HCI community working on gamification-related topics (Deterding et al. 2011). The goals for this workshop are to synthesize a shared picture of pertinent existing and current research surrounding gamification, to identify potential new aspects and research opportunities opened by the current upsurge of gamified applications, and to clarify the dialogue around what gamification might be in relation to similar areas, such as serious games or pervasive games. While the CHI and DiGRA communities overlap to some extent, they also diverge, as was exemplified by the many CHI workshop submissions received that position gamification as a potentially useful tool in services of utility. In contrast, gamified applications have received a predominantly skeptical reception both in the game industry and game studies, arguing that in their current shape, they either misuse or misunderstand core properties of games (e.g. Bogost 2010, Robertson 2010). To clarify what gamification is, or could become, we think it essential to bring in game studies perspectives. Conversely, we believe that an examination of gamified applications could further our understanding of video games in general, both in their motivational qualities and in their nature between designed artifact and social construct or context. At this point in time the game studies community would benefit from an exposure to and a critical examination of the perspectives of the HCI community. At DiGRA 2011, we therefore propose to run a 90 minute session, split into a report from CHI and an open round table discussion. First, the authors will provide an overview of the outcomes of the CHI 2011 workshop, synthesizing the position papers and presenting a summary of its daylong discussions. Following that, we will open the floor to a moderated session in which all attendants can contribute, debate, challenge, and further shape understandings of gamification from a game studies perspective. To ensure a varied and lively debate, we will invite relevant selected researchers to the session ahead of time, but not designate a special status like ‘respondent’ to them. The results from the session will be documented and used in a – planned – journal special issue devoted to gamification. Through this process, we seek to identify how the DiGRA community can contribute to, and complement, the existing body of research around gamification.