CHI 2015 Workshop

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Researching Gamification: Strategies, Opportunities, Challenges, Ethics

Important Dates
January 2 19, 2015: Submission deadline
February 2, 2015: Notification of acceptance
April 19, 2015: Workshop: Room 322, located at the South side of the 3rd floor of the COEX building.

From social sciences to biology, gamified applications and games are being increasingly used as contexts and tools of research: as “petri dishes” for observing behavioral dynamics; as sources of ecologically valid and/or “big” data on user behavior; as crowdsourcing tools for research tasks; or as means to motivate participation. However, their use also entails many open questions and deep ethical ramifications. This one-day workshop, co-located with CHI 2015 in Seoul, Korea, invites HCI and game researchers as well as industry practitioners and ethicists to advance the practice of using gamified systems and games as research contexts and tools in an ethical manner.


To maximize shared discussion and work, papers and presentations are offloaded into shared pre-workshop documents. After playing the Privacy card game to facilitate initial thoughts and discussion about ethical issues, we will elicit and cluster questions and issues on prepared posters. These structure the day along the main topics of this workshop. In a semi-structured design activity, groups will design ideal research setups using games or gamified applications for given research goals and contexts that maximize research value. Groups then challenge each other’s designs, identifying as many challenges and ethical issues as possible. Based on this, opportunities, challenges, ethical issues, and design strategies for dealing with each are collected. Among other things, we intend to publish a workshop report and best papers in a journal publication.


We invite interested authors to submit a 3-4 page position paper in the CHI extended abstract format or a presentation, both together with a 50-word biography, via Easychair at The organizing committee will select 15-20 submissions based on relevance, quality, and diversity of inputs. Papers, slide decks, and biographies will be published online on the workshop site. Details can be found under How to submit.


As with previous CHI conferences, workshop participants are required to register for the workshop and at least one day of the main conference. Registration should soon be possible through the CHI 2015 main site. For a rough idea of conference rates, see the CHI 2014 site.

Workshop Background

Gamification, the use of game design elements in non-game contexts, is being rapidly adopted across industries and domains. One such domain is research itself: Early on, market researchers became interested in gamifying surveys and other online market research tools to increase participant motivation and thus, survey completion rates. Gamified self-tracking applications are viewed as a major means of generating crowdsourced large-scale health data sets. Participatory sensing platforms likewise have explored gamification to motivate citizens to collect pollution and green behavior data. Maybe most prominently, “citizen science games” or “games with a purpose” like Foldit, Galaxy Zoo or EyeWire have used the engaging qualities of games to mobilize millions of citizens to contribute their time and cognitive resources and solve computationally hard-to-automate information tasks like protein folding or image recognition. Based on the observation that in-game behavior often closely “maps” onto real life behavior, other researchers have explored using games as giant “petri dishes” for macro-social and macro-economic dynamics or as platforms to collect ecologically valid granular datasets.

The potential benefits of using gamified systems and games for research are manifold: their engaging nature can increase participation; as computational environments, they allow automatic fine-grained tracking and manipulation; they can generate large-scale data sets; and deployed on personal tracking devices, smart phones, or through the browser at home, they can collect ecologically valid behavior data. However, many empirical studies involving gamified systems show significant methodological shortcomings and face questions like potential selection effects and biases introduced by game design elements. There are no established best practices so far.

In addition, while there has been some discussion in research communities around research ethics for online and virtual environments, the recent controversy around the Facebook emotion manipulation study showed that large-scale experimental manipulation and tracking of user behavior – characteristic for using games and gamified systems for research – opens new (or newly relevant) ethical issues: Does the playful veneer of games and gamified systems lead users to unwittingly share more data than they otherwise would? How can they be made aware of and give informed consent to tracking, experimental manipulation, and the third party use of their data? To what extent might data or cognitive resource contributions in science games present exploitation? How to ethically handle collaboration with industry partners collecting data?

Against this background, we see an immediate need to bring together HCI and game researchers as well as industry practitioners and ethicists to (a) advance the practice of using gamified systems and games for research by mapping current strategies and best practices, opportunities and challenges, and (b) chart ethical issues and potential solutions in dialogue between academia, industry, and ethicists. Whereas the last two CHI gamification workshops focused on understanding and designing gameful systems, respectively, this workshop explores how to use gameful systems and games in research in an ethical manner:

  • Strategies: What established and new forms of gamifying research exist? What are methodological best practices and open questions?
  • Opportunities: What untapped opportunities do gamified applications and games provide as research contexts and tools? What special kinds of data can they deliver, what kinds of research questions can they uniquely answer?
  • Challenges: Are there audience selection effects, data biases, or other specific challenges in using gamified systems and games as research contexts and tools?
  • Ethics: What ethical issues arise in gamifying research? What are ways and tools for designing ethically conscious gamified research?


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