Designing gamified information systems

Dr. Amon Rapp
Lecturer's institute: 
University of Torino
28.10.2019 10:00 to 29.10.2019 14:00

Monday, 28.10.19: 10-14 IT136, 14-16 IT106
Tuesday, 29.10.19: 8-14 SÄ126
Credit points:
For obtaining 2 ECTS, successful participation in all activities of this intensive course is required. The course is relevant at least for information processing science doctoral degree program within the ITEE doctoral program. If space is available, any other doctoral students can participate the course as well, but they are recommended to check from their own supervisor the suitability of this course for their doctoral studies.
The number of participants for the course is limited. Please register for the course via the contact person: [OASIS research unit].

Amon Rapp is a research fellow at the Computer Science Department at University of Torino, where he is a member of the Smart Interactive Objects and Systems group. He is currently the head of the Smart Personal Technology Lab at ICxT (Center for Innovation for Society and Territory). His research activity resulted in the organization of different workshops: “LinkQS” at Hypertext 2014 and “New Frontiers of Quantified Self” at UBICOMP 2015, 2016, 2017, “Fictional Design elements” at CHI PLAY 2016, “Data-Driven Gamification Design” at Mindtrek 2018, “Holistic User Modeling” at UMAP 2017, 2018, 2019. He teaches the Psychology of Human-Technology Interaction course at the Psychology Master’s Degree at the University of Torino. He authored more than 90 papers, publishing in international journals (e.g., TOCHI, Human-Computer Interaction, IJHCS, and Computers in Human Behavior) and peer-reviewed conferences (e.g., CHI, ISWC/UbiComp, UMAP). His scientific research is situated within the area of human-computer interaction. It relates to the investigation of the effects of interactive and intelligent technologies on people’s everyday lives, with a focus on behavior change technologies, gamification and game design, as well as on personal informatics systems. Before joining the University of Torino, he researched interactive TV systems and ubiquitous technologies for Telecom Italia S.p.A.

Games largely impact on players’ experience through their designs, by retaining them in the game world, modifying their habits and involving so that they can become addicted to them. For these reasons games have been largely used for behavior change interventions in health, sustainability and wellness domains. One of the key for producing an engaging player experience in games is personalization: games are personalized on the basis of the players’ personalities, play styles, skills, and so on. This fundamental factor in games, however, is still not widely exploited in one of the most recent and popular techniques that uses game elements for behavior change purposes. Gamification, a design method that employs game elements in non-game contexts, aims to reproduce the effects of games even in non-game applications and services.
In this course I will provide an overview on how games implement personalized features and how they impact on players’ experience. Then, I will outline how games can be used for behavior change purposes. Among these opportunities I will focus on gamification, as a novel design technique able to affect users’ motivation and behavior. I will illustrate how gamification works and explore how it can leverage personalized features in its designs. Finally, I will introduce design fictions as a design “tool” to reflect on future consequences of design and invite students to design a gamified system inserted in an imaginary world settled in a distant future.

Outline of the course:
Context and Motivation of the course: Games commonly employ personalized game elements to adapt themselves to players’ characteristics, such as personality, skills, playing styles and so on. This is one of the key aspects for providing an enjoyable experience capable of impacting on players’ motivation, engagement and behavior: the experience of the state of “flow”, for example, is largely produced because games are able to adapt their difficulty to the increasing abilities of the player during her game experience. For their capability of impacting on individuals’ motivation and behavior, games have been commonly exploited by Human-Computer Interaction researchers to change user’s behavior in a variety of contexts: to promote the adoption of healthy food habits and lifestyles; to improve physical activity or enhance the control on patients’ diseases; to raise awareness about sustainable behaviors or reduce energy consumptions.
This is certainly a symptom of a more general trend that is marking contemporary society, that is the growing importance that recreational activities are gaining into our life. Games are gradually breaking their traditional boundaries, spreading in a variety of areas connected to everyday communication and social interaction. Huizinga and Callois stated that one of the main peculiarities of games is to place the player in a separate world, which confines the game activities in well defined space-time borders. Now, the distance between the play world and the ordinary world is progressively decreasing. Some phenomena with an increasing impact are symptomatic: serious games merge serious and fun goals, offering a teaching tool, by joining games with education techniques; casual games reach segments of the population previously reluctant to play video games: they also pervade every aspects of the daily life, by being designed to be played at every time of the day and in every context; pervasive games embrace their contexts and environments, merging with the real world in which they take place. All these phenomena made game elements overflow into fields traditionally linked to the everyday life. This trend is also more and more visible in information system design: an increasing number of non-recreational applications and services leverage game elements to offer users a more involving experience. This phenomenon is called gamification, “the use of game design elements in non-game context”, which is spreading in a variety of domains, from learning and citizen science, to work, crowdsourcing, health, sustainable habits, and wellness.
Without requiring the design of full-fledged games, but putting to work only some of their elements, gamification offers a rapid tool for impacting users’ behavior: gamification is now commonly used to foster user engagement and motivation and, more and more, to drive users’ habits toward specific directions. This design technique has been employed to increase the daily average number of blood glucose measurements in children with diabetes, to enhance the compliance in the process of writing a pain diary in young cancer patients, to improve waste recycling behaviors and to push students to complete their homework. However, the use of personalized game elements in gamification is not yet well understood and only recently personalized game elements have started to be employed in gamification designs.
The course aims to provide both an historical and theoretical background of personalization design in games and gamification, focusing on how they can be employed for behavior change purposes. The theoretical material will be exemplified with the most relevant and recent state-of-the-art work in order to provide concrete use cases and examples. The hands-on session will focus on a design session in which the attendees could experiment with some design techniques.

Objective and organization of the course:
The course will be organized in three parts.
FIRST PART. The course will start with providing an historical and theoretical overview on how games have implemented personalized features over the years. I will present the diverse ways through which personalization has been implemented in games (on the basis of the players’ personality, players’ expertise, etc.). Then, I will outline a variety of game elements and mechanics that can be personalized. Finally, I will explain how personalization can enhance players’ motivation and engagement, as well as produce impact on their behavior.
SECOND PART. After this overview on games, I will present gamification techniques. I will explain how applications and services are currently exploiting game mechanics in order to meet different goals: enhancing motivation, increasing engagement, driving players’ behavior. These effects will be grounded in theories of motivations and behavior change (self-determination theory, flow theory, applied behavior analysis, etc.). I finally introduce the personalization theme to figure out how gamification can design personalized game elements to increase their impact on users’ motivation, engagement and behavior.
THIRD PART. The last part of the course will be devoted to a practical exercise in order to design gamified services exploiting personalized game elements. This session will be conducted as a design work group. To this aim, I will introduce “design fictions”, a design tool that encourages designers to reflect on the systemic and long-term consequences of their work. The final design output will be a “fictional story” depicting an imaginary world where a gamified information system has become pervasive shaping society and people’s everyday life.
Intended audiences:
Ph.D. students with or without previous experience in games, gamification, and behavior change elicited by playful experiences.
Learning objectives:
- to learn about personalization in games
- to be aware of the most important work in the state of the art and the evolution in the field of games used for behavior change
- to learn about gamification and its potentialities for design
- to experiment with design fiction technique for producing personalized gamified services and reflect on their long-term consequences on individuals and society

As a final outcome of the course, students will have to produce a fictional design prototype. The achievement of the learning objectives will be assessed through the presentation and discussion of this design output.

Last updated: 11.9.2019