Theories of Games and Interaction for Design (10: 3 Queries)

Approximate Reading Time: 4 minutes

These are public postings of my writings for the first course of the Graduate Certificate Program in Serious Game Design and Research at Michigan State University.

Each week, we are also required to post three questions for the rest of the class. These are mine.

Please note: these posts are not intended as any kind of commentary on or assessment of the course I’m taking, or its instructor, OR of Michigan State University or the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, or the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media. They are solely my thoughts and reactions that stem from the readings.

Feel free to comment, disagree, or what have you.

Week 10

These are the readings for the week (Topics: Games for social change; Theories of persuasion; Culture):

  • Oinas-Kukkonen, H., & Harjumaa, M. (2008). A systematic framework for designing and evaluating persuasive systems. Paper presented at the The 3rd International Conference on Persuasive Technology (Persuasive ’08), Oulu, Finland.
  • Atkin, C.K. (1994). Designing persuasive health messages. In L. Sechrest, T.E. Backer, E.M. Rodgers, T.F. Campbell, & M.L. Grady (Eds.), Effective Dissemination of Clinical and Health Information. Rockville, MD: U. S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. (AHCPR Pub. No. 95-0015).
  • Abraham, C., & Michie, S. (2008). A taxonomy of behavior change techniques used in interventions. Health Psychology, 27, 379-387.
  • Bogost, I. (2011). Persuasive Games: Exploitationware. Gamasutra, May 3. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/134735/persuasive_games_exploitationware.php
  • Optional: Khaled, R., Barr, R., Biddle, R., Fischer, R., & Noble, J. (2009). Game design strategies for collectivist persuasion. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 2009 ACM SIGGRAPH Symposium on Video Games (Sandbox ’09), New Orleans, LA.
  • Game: Dr. Transplant www.doctortransplant.org
  • Game: Sweatshop www.playsweatshop.com
  • Game: Harpooned harpooned.org

Question1: [Week 10 KB Q 1/3] What kind of design framework are you looking for?

I wrote my first computer program in 1978 (in FORTRAN on punch cards, no less). I’ve been designing courses since 1982 (my supervisor had me design and teach a course as part of my CS Master’s). I haven’t been designing games for very long (less than a decade). Although I rarely look at design templates for programs anymore, and I tend to use previous course designs as templates for new ones, I STILL like to have some sort of design framework in mind any time I start a major project.

A group of researchers at Saskatoon did a major literature review a while back to look at what instructional designers actually do and discovered that while they do use ID models, they tend not to follow any one model closely (Kenny, Zhang, Schwier, & Campbell, 2005). For my part, I tend to look to design frameworks much less as I gain more experience, but I am still in search of viable design frameworks for games – especially serious ones, and I think there is plenty of room for new ones.

So the question to you is, what kinds of design frameworks do you use, if any, in the design work that you do now? What kinds of frameworks do you prefer? Visual process models that look like flowcharts? Waterfall models? Lists of principles like those offered by people like Jim Gee or Harri Oinas-Kukkonen and Marja Harjumaa? Concept maps?

Question2: [Week 10 KB Q 2/3] What’s in a name?

The term ‘gamification’ was apparently first used in the digital media industry in 2008 and it has become popular in the last couple of years (Deterding, Dixon, Khaled, & Nacke, 2011). However, people tend to have pretty strong feelings about it (Bogost, August 8, 2011). I think that a lot of the real potential in ‘gamification’ actually isn’t new, but I find the term to be a handy way to organize all these ideas together. I suspect that the term will stick because the marketing types seem to be flocking to it like the proverbial flies to S#%$. Lee Sheldon says he hates the term and prefers to use Massively Multiplayer Classroom in his book of the same name (Sheldon, 2012).

What do you think are some of the aspects now associated with ‘gamification’ that have the most potential to enhance serious causes?

Question3: [Week 10 KB Q 3/3] Is it possible to invent an ideal design template?

Some years ago I was at a software engineering (SENG) conference, sitting at a table with several other attendees. (I have very strong opinions about SENG) I told my tablemates that I thought there were actually 5 key elements required in SENG:

  1. Engineering Principles
  2. Scientific Principles
  3. Knowledge of Programming
  4. Craft / Creativity
  5. Talent

I told them I thought we would never be able to get a solid grip on the last two – these last two cannot be written into any kind of template or recipe. Their response was: “If that’s true, then we’re DONE.” I suspect they were trying to imply that I was wrong, and that given enough time, they will indeed be able to find a pattern, or process, or recipe that will take the ‘human’ aspect out of the creation of software. I would really love for that to be true, but I have seen time and time again that you can’t actually teach the last two. You can go so far, but if the people involved don’t have that spark to begin with, they will never be able to build really good software.

I am convinced that the same holds true for game design. Do you agree? Why?

  • Bogost, I. (August 8, 2011). Gamification is Bullshit. http://www.bogost.com/blog/gamification_is_bullshit.shtml
  • Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., & Nacke, L. (2011). From game design elements to gamefulness: defining “gamification”. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments.
  • Kenny, R. F., Zhang, Z., Schwier, R. A., & Campbell, K. (2005). A review of what instructional designers do: Questions answered and questions not asked. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 31(1), 9-26.
  • Sheldon, L. (2012). The multiplayer classroom : designing coursework as a game. Austrailia ; Boston, Mass.: Course Technology/Cengage Learning.
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