Shaping Attitudes Across Realities: Design Research at the Crossroads of Persuasive Games, Empathy, and Immersion.
Kors, M. J. L. (2022). Shaping Attitudes Across Realities: Design Research at the Crossroads of Persuasive Games, Empathy, and Immersion. [PhD Thesis]. Eindhoven University of Technology.
Games are no longer designed exclusively for entertainment purposes, but increasingly often to shape how players think and feel about issues in reality. Shaping Attitudes Across Realities offers a design-oriented perspective into the fascinating universe of persuasive games, from describing their unique characteristics, surveying example cases, exploring design and development, assessing resulting player experiences, to distilling practical design insights. In particular, this work focuses on the strategic combining of an appeal to empathy and the employment of immersive technologies in the design of socially aware persuasive games, with two research through design projects demonstrating a variety of ways designers may leverage these two powerful factors to achieve intended empathic and attitudinal effects.
A Breathtaking Journey. Appealing to Empathy in a Persuasive Mixed-Reality.
Kors, M.J.L., Ferri, G., van der Spek, E.D., Ketel, C., & Schouten, B.A.M. (2021). A Breathtaking Journey. Appealing to Empathy in a Persuasive Mixed-Reality. In T. de la Hera, J. Jansz, J. Raessens, & B. Schouten (Eds.), Persuasive Gaming in Context (pp. 95-118). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press.
Certain socially aware games depict players as members of marginalized communities, encouraging them to see the world through their eyes. At the same time, game designers are using system-immersion to allow players to temporarily embody another person’s experiences and perceptions. We believe that these converging approaches create a new and unexplored space for games that combines empathy, persuasion, and system-immersion. To explore this space, we developed A Breathtaking Journey, a mixed-reality game that offers players a first-person perspective of a refugee’s journey. Through a qualitative study, we identified key elements that stimulate empathy and offer insights into empathic experiences. This study also revealed three design opportunities: visceral engagement, reflective moments, and affective appeals.
The Curious Case of the Transdiegetic Cow, or a Mission to Foster Other-Oriented Empathy Through Virtual Reality.
Kors, M. J. L., van der Spek, E. D., Bopp, J. A., Millenaar, K., van Teutem, R. L., Ferri, G., & Schouten, B. A. M. (2020). The Curious Case of the Transdiegetic Cow, or a Mission to Foster Other-Oriented Empathy Through Virtual Reality. Proceedings from CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’20), Honolulu, HI, USA. https://doi.org/10.1145/3313831.3376748
Socially aware persuasive games that use immersive technologies often appeal to empathy, prompting users to feel and understand the struggles of another. However, the often sought-after standing in another’s shoes’ experience, in which users virtually inhabit another in distress, may complicate other-oriented empathy. Following a Research through Design approach, we designed for other-oriented empathy – focusing on a partaker-perspective and diegetic reflection – which resulted in Permanent; a virtual reality game designed to foster empathy towards evacuees from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. We deployed Permanent ‘in the wild’ and carried out a qualitative study with 78 participants in the Netherlands and Japan to capture user experiences. Content Analysis of the data showed a predominance of other-oriented empathy across countries, and in our Thematic Analysis, we identified the themes of ‘Spatial, Other, and Self -Awareness’, ‘Personal Accounts’, ‘Ambivalence’, and ‘Transdiegetic Items’, resulting in design insights for fostering other-oriented empathy through virtual reality.
You; the Observer, Partaker or Victim. Delineating Three Perspective to Empathic Engagement through Immersive Technologies.
Kors, M. J. L., van der Spek, E. D., Ferri, G., & Schouten, B. A. M. (2018). You; the Observer, Partaker or Victim. Delineating Three Perspective to Empathic Engagement through Immersive Technologies. Proceedings of the 2018 Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play. Melbourne, Australia. https://doi.org/10.1145/3270316.3271547
A commonality in socially-aware persuasive games is the strategy to appeal to empathy, as a means to have players feel and understand the struggles of another. This is particularly evident in the expanding use of immersive technologies, lauded for its ability to have players more literally ‘stand in another’s shoes’. But despite the growing interest, empathic engagement through immersive technologies is still ill-defined and the design thereof complicated, with questions like “who is the player?” and “with whom does the player empathize?”. We contend that a better understanding of the different perspectives to empathic engagement – the observer, partaker, and victim – and the gap between realities can be insightful, and resulted in a framework to support future research and design.
The Case of This War of Mine: A Production Studies Perspective on Moral Game Design.
De Smale, S., Kors, M., & Sandovar, A. (2017). The Case of This War of Mine: A Production Studies Perspective on Moral Game Design. Games and Culture. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412017725996
This article reports on a study with 11 bit studios and their game, This War of Mine. Rather than a formal analysis of the game, our objective was to situate the research in game production studies by documenting the design context (gamework) and designer perceptions about the game that inform morally complex gameplay. The research was conducted with four team members of 11 bit studios: a senior game designer, a writer, a senior writer (with stakes in marketing), and a quality assurance lead. We employed reflective interviewing techniques and visual methods to better understand how moral gameplay was designed. Our analysis illustrates the roles underlying narratives in the design process and balancing everyday work negotiations play in the design of moral gameplay, how a designer’s research informs the vision to create emotional realism in the game, and the importance of a player-centered iterative design process to produce morally engaging gameplay.
A Breathtaking Journey. On the Design of an Empathy-Arousing Mixed-Reality Game.
Kors, M. J. L., Ferri, G., van der Spek, E. D., Ketel, C., & Schouten, B. A. M. (2016). A Breathtaking Journey. On the Design of an Empathy-Arousing Mixed-Reality Game. Proceedings of the 2016 Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play, 91-104. Austin, TX, USA. https://doi. org/10.1145/2967934.2968110
Persuasive games exist for a wide variety of objectives, from marketing, to healthcare and activism. Some of the more socially-aware ones cast players as members of disenfranchised minorities, such as migrants, prompting them to ‘see what they see’. In parallel, a growing number of designers has recently started to leverage immersive technologies to enable the public to temporarily inhabit another person, to ‘sense what they sense’. From these two converging perspectives, we hypothesize a still-uncharted space of opportunities at the crossroads of games, empathy, persuasion, and immersion. Following a Research through Design approach, we explored this space by designing A Breathtaking Journey, an embodied and multisensory mixed-reality game providing a first-person perspective of a refugee’s journey. A qualitative study was conducted with a grounded theory/open coding methodology to tease out empathy-arousing characteristics, and to chart this novel game design space. As we elaborate on our analysis, we provide insights on empathic mixed-reality experiences, and conclude with offering three design opportunities: visceral engagement, reflective moments and affective appeals, to spur future research and design
Occasionally a Dull Moment. Designing for Introspection and Retrospection in Persuasive Games.
Kors, M. J. L., van der Spek, E. D., Ferri, G., & Schouten, B. A. M. (2016). Occasionally a Dull Moment. Designing for Introspection and Retrospection in Persuasive Games. 1st Joint Interest Conference of DiGRA and FDG 2016 Workshop: Morality Play: The Design of Games for Moral Engagement. Dundee, United Kingdom
Games are often designed to be challenging, leading to a state of Flow, but this may not be conducive for empathy, or the elaboration needed to change or reinforce a player’s attitude. Following a recent study, we found indication that seemingly dull moments might actually help to improve introspection and retrospection in persuasive games. In this paper we will reflect on this, explore several persuasive games and open an opportunity space to design and research these, maybe after all not so dull moments.
Towards Design Strategies for the Persuasive Gameplay Experience.
Kors, M. (2015). Towards Design Strategies for the Persuasive Gameplay Experience. Proceedings of the 2015 Annual Symposium on ComputerHuman Interaction in Play, 407-410. London, United Kingdom. https://doi. org/10.1145/2793107.2810281
Games are increasingly used for purposes that stretch beyond their primary strength as medium for entertainment, including games used for training, education and critique. Among this stretch we also find games that argue a particular point of view; to shape attitudes and shift perspectives towards real-world concepts or objects. Unlike most contemporary media to persuade games are unique in their interactive affordances; providing players with the ability to evaluate given arguments to a system that responds, and essentially allows the player to engage in an indirect discussion with the designer(s). Although persuasion through games is not a new venue of research, the discipline unfortunately still lacks practical game design strategies aimed to aid designers in maximizing the persuasive potential of their games. The presented research is therefore concerned with how to design for persuasive gameplay and what strategies (models, frameworks, guidelines, methodologies, etc.) could support the designer throughout this design process.
Foundation for the Persuasive Gameplay Experience.
Kors, M., van der Spek, E., & Schouten, B. (2015). A Foundation for the Persuasive Gameplay Experience. Proceedings of the 10th Foundations of Digital Games Conference. Pacific Grove, CA, USA.
Games are being utilized for purposes that go beyond their primary function as a medium of entertainment. Due to their interactive nature, games offer players a unique opportunity to engage with complex societal issues on a more personal level than other forms of media. This makes games an ideal platform for persuading players to adopt specific viewpoints on real-world events. Despite the existence of games designed for persuasion over the past decade, there is a dearth of concrete design strategies to analyze persuasive gameplay or guide designers in embedding persuasive messages into gameplay. Therefore, the focus of this paper is to develop strategies that aid in persuasive game design. The Attitudinal Gameplay Model is presented as the foundation for the Persuasive Gameplay Experience, outlining game elements that can be used for persuasion, their interrelation, and the important mental processes of players to take into account.
van der Spek, E. D., Kors, M., & Schouten, B. (2014). Serious games – A quest to defeat the oxymoron. IFIP 13th International Conference on Entertainment Computing Workshop: Workshop on Entertainment in Serious Games Games and Entertaining Serious Purposes, Sydney, Australia
Since the advent of digital games, educators have recognized their potential for facilitating learning. Unlike traditional instruction, games offer an engaging and fun environment where players can learn new patterns, form strategies, and overcome obstacles. However, despite efforts to make serious games more effective for learning, there is still little conclusive evidence that serious games are more engaging than traditional instruction. Serious games are expensive and inefficient learning tools without their engaging qualities, which makes it imperative to understand the factors and mechanisms that make serious games entertaining. Therefore, in this article we propose that research must be conducted in the psychometrics of engagement, systematic experiments in factors that contribute to engagement without harming the learning efficacy of serious games, the psychological correlates of the play state, and finally persuasive mechanics that align the extrinsic goals with the player’s intrinsic motivation.
Presentations, Workshops, Media Outlets, and Demonstrations
Presentation: Shaping Attitudes Across Realities: Design Research at the Crossroads of Persuasive Games, Empathy, and Immersion.
PhD Dissertation defense at the Eindhoven University of Technology in Eindhoven, the Netherlands
Presentation: The Curious Case of the Transdiegetic Cow, or a Mission to Foster Other-Oriented Empathy Through Virtual Reality.
Presented online at the CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’20) in Honolulu, HI, USA.
Presentation: On the Design of Persuasive Games.
Presented online at the 2017 Persuasive Games in Context Conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Presentation: The Art of Persuasive Game Design.
Presented at the Dutch Embassy in Tokyo, Japan.
Workshop: Arguing on the holodeck. Designing immersive interactive entertainment with persuasive intent.
Kors, M. J. L., Millenaar, K., van der Spek, E. D., Ferri, G., Schouten, B., Sandovar, A., Ketel, C., & Dormans, J. (2017). Arguing on the holodeck. Designing immersive interactive entertainment with persuasive intent. In Extended Abstracts Publication of the Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play, 667-671. Amsterdam, the Netherlands. https://doi. org/10.1145/3130859.3131444
Games are designed with different objectives in mind. Some primarily for entertainment, others also to educate, motivate or persuade its players. Games with the latter objective, that of persuasion, are designed not only to be entertaining, but also with the intent to shape how players think and feel about issues in reality. However, despite the growing interest in persuasive games, we still lack the design insights and strategies that support their production, particularly for those using immersive technologies. To address this gap, we organize a hands-on workshop and bring together academic and industry experts to explore persuasive game design. Through making we generate knowledge in the form of insights and examplar work, and subsequently formulate best-practises and design strategies for future design and research.
Workshop: Shaping attitudes across realities. Exploring strategies for the design of persuasive virtual, augmented and mixed reality games.
Kors, M. J. L., Millenaar, K., Van der Spek, E. D., Ferri, G., Schouten, B. A., & Marsh, T. (2017). Shaping attitudes across realities. Exploring strategies for the design of persuasive virtual, augmented and mixed reality games. In International Conference on Entertainment Computing, 497-501. Springer, Cham. Tsukuba, Japan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-66715-7_71
Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality technologies are embraced by designers, scholars and charities alike, some primarily for their entertaining properties, others also for the opportunities in education, motivation or persuasion. Applications with the latter objective, that of persuasion, are designed not only to be entertaining, but are also designed (or framed) to shape how players think and feel about issues in reality. However, despite the growing interest in the persuasive opportunities of these immersive technologies, we still lack the design strategies and best-practices that could support in the design of these ‘immersive persuasive games’. To address this still-unexplored and fragmented design space, we organize a design-oriented workshop that brings together academia and industry. The workshop is informed by a Research through Design approach in which the primary focus is to generate knowledge through designing. Participants design and evaluate ideas on-the-spot in an iterative manner using low-fidelity, life-size, prototyping and role-playing techniques, thereby mimicking an embodied interactive immersive environment. By reflecting on design practices and player experiences, we construct a body of knowledge, built exemplar work and distil best-practices to formulate design strategies for the design of immersive persuasive games.