CHI 2011 Workshop

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Gamification: Using Game Design Elements in Non-Gaming Contexts

May 7, 2011, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Download the workshop abstract: Extended Abstract (PDF)

“Gamification” is an informal umbrella term for the use of video game elements in non-gaming systems to improve user experience (UX) and user engagement. The recent introduction of ‘gamified’ applications to large audiences promises new additions to the existing rich and diverse research on the heuristics, design patterns and dynamics of games and game-based information systems and the positive UX they provide. However, what is lacking for a next step forward is the integration of said existing diverse research endeavors. Therefore, this one-day workshop brings together researchers and practitioners to develop a shared understanding of existing approaches and findings around the gamification of information systems, and identify key synergies, opportunities, and questions for future research.

Workshop Background

Following the success of the location-based service Foursquare, using game design elements in non-game contexts to increase user activity and retention has rapidly gained traction in interaction design, spawning an intense debate within the professional community as well as the development of numerous ‘gamified’ applications – ranging from productivity to finance, health, sustainability, news, user-generated content (UGC), and tutorials.

To wit, the use of game design and game elements in other contexts is an old topic in human-computer interaction (HCI): The first heuristics for enjoyable interfaces derived from games date back to the early 1980s, and since then, researchers have repeatedly pointed out the potential of applying game design elements in user interfaces to create more motivating and engaging computer-supported collaborative work (CSCW) and computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) environments, the most recent sustained effort in this direction being “funology,” a research movement studying design for fun, pleasure, and enjoyment.

At the same time, we see a growing body of work on “games with a purpose” piggybacking game play behavior to solve human information tasks. Researchers in HCI and management sciences have identified design principles and patterns that enhance the motivational affordances of information and communication technologies (ICT) and CSCW. These principles and patterns are in congruence with research on design patterns and the motivational psychology of video games. The same can be said for HCI research on recommender and reputation systems and usage motivations in online communities that draw their inspiration from social psychology or economics (e.g., incentive-centered design). The reward and reputation systems with points, badges, levels and leader boards that are nowadays offered as a “gamification layer” by service vendors are almost ready-made laboratory case studies to such approaches; indeed, some vendors directly reference social psychology and research on incentive schemes in their advertising material.

Against this background, CHI 2011 is an ideal time and place to convene a workshop on “gamification”. The recent and rapidly spreading introduction of gamified applications and services to broad mass consumer audiences provides at least three opportunities to the CHI community:

Firstly, these gamified systems ‘in the wild’ provide new objects of inquiry for the study of hedonic and motivating UX related to games, game-based and game-like interfaces – objects in an unprecedented variety and with an unprecedented data quality and scale.

Secondly, work on pervasive computing, pervasive games and video games in general increasingly foregrounds the constitutive role of social, situational contextualisations for the affordances and eventual usage and UX of digital technologies. Again, with gamified applications taking game elements into different, ‘alien’ (e.g. work) contexts, they provide a valuable new research angle to this issue.

Thirdly, gamified applications bring our attention to the very fact that highly similar research endeavors have taken place in by-and-large disconnected sub-communities of HCI. Although there is a wealth of existing research, methodologies and theoretical approaches with high potential synergies (if not overlap), there is little in terms of synthesis and integration. We consider the establishment of such a shared baseline to be a highly fruitful next step from which meaningful and innovative future research can move forward. Gamified applications provide an ideal conversational focus and ‘boundary object’ for such an integrative effort.

Workshops in past conferences have already touched on many issues listed above; yet none of them has taken an integrative approach. Therefore, we consider a workshop taking stock of current and existing HCI research pertinent to gamification would be of high interest and relevance to HCI researchers in the aforementioned fields (funology, persuasive technology, communities, motivational affordances, game UX, etc.), as well as researchers working on the increased blurring of (digital) life, work, and play in general.

The goal of the workshop is to bring together HCI researchers from academia and industry to (a) take stock and synthesize a shared picture of pertinent existing and current research surrounding gamification, and (b) identify potential new aspects and research opportunities opened by new gamified applications. The workshop shall cover conceptual approaches as well as empirical findings on the UX, motivational psychology, social dynamics, design features, principles and patterns of gamified information systems to address the following questions:

  • What is the current state of research surrounding gamification? How might we integrate it?
  • Which existing approaches are well-suited to study and model gamified information systems?
  • Do gamified applications feature specific or novel characteristics not covered by previous research?
  • What happens when game design elements are transferred into non-game social contexts?
  • Which promising (new) research topics and data sources do gamified applications provide?

Overview | Call for Papers | Schedule | Papers | Participants | Organizers