Designing Persuasively using Playful Elements

Alongside productivity and communication, computers are a valuable tool for diversion and amusement. Game Designers leverage the multifaceted world of computing to create applications that can be developed persuasively; designs can be formulated to compel users towards actions and behaviours which range from engaging in the game’s mechanics, micro-transactions, or in more complex manifestations such as encouraging reflection via the evaluation of the moral argument presented in the gameplay narrative. In my dissertation, I explore how to create compelling experiences during playful interactions. Particularly, I explore how design decisions affect users’ behaviours, and evaluations of the gaming experience to learn more about crafting persuasive mechanics in games. First, I present research on calibrating aspects of difficulty and character behaviour in the design of simple games to create more immersive experiences. My work on calibration of game difficulty, and enemy behaviour contribute insight regarding the potential of games to create engaging activities, which inspire prolonged play sessions. Further work in my dissertation explores how players interact with in-game entities they perceive as human and explores the boundaries of acceptable player interaction during co-located gaming situations. My early work gives rise to deeper questions regarding perspectives on co-players during gaming experiences. Specifically, I probe the question of how players perceive human versus computer-controlled teammates during a shared gaming experience. Additionally, I explore how game design factors in the context of a tightly-coupled shared multi-touch large display gaming experience can influence the way that people interact and, in turn, their perspectives on one another to ask: ‘how can games be used persuasively to inspire positive behaviours and social interaction?’. Issues of perspectives are a theme I carry forward in my work by exploring how game dynamics – in particular the use of territoriality – can be used to foster collaborative behaviours. Further, I discuss how my work contributes to the study of persuasive game design, games with purpose, and cement my findings in relation to the games studies and computer science literature. Last, I discuss future work, in which I discuss my ambitions for using persuasive design for social good via Games4Change.