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DAC 305: Choice and Agency in Gamification

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As part of teaching the course DAC 305 at the University of Waterloo, Dr. Nacke dives deep into the underlying mechanisms of choice and agency in this lecture.

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DAC 305: Choice and Agency in Gamification

  1. 1. CHOICE AND AGENCY DR. LENNART NACKE Associate Professor, HCI Games Group, Department of Drama and Speech Communication DAC 305: DESIGN FOR INTERACTIVE GAMES
  2. 2. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION INTERACTIVITY ▸ Digital games allow humans to interact with an action and make their own choices ▸ In a movie, we can shout at the protagonist that they should look behind them or not go through that door, but we have no influence on their actions ▸ Interactivity and the resulting freedom of choice for players is a central aspect of digital games
  3. 3. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION CHOICE AND AGENCY ▸ Any moment in a game, where the player could perform two or more distinct actions, but has to pick some number of actions less than the total number available to execute (Portnow, 2013) ▸ This applies to game mechanics and narrative ▸ Without conflict, there are no choices (Portnow, 2013) -> Choices should not be obvious ▸ Agency: The feeling that your choices matter
  4. 4. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION CHOICE IN TETRIS ▸ Choice can be important without a narrative impact ▸ Clear lines early vs. waiting for a full Tetris/more points
  5. 5. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION AUTONOMY NEED SATISFACTION ▸ Autonomy: sense of volition or willingness when doing a task ▸ Defined in the following dimensions ▸ Identity: Amount of Avatar-Customization ▸ Activity: Actions (Quests etc.) in a game ▸ Strategy: Different ways of solving problems ▸ Volitional Engagement: Pursuing game goals because you want to ▸ Together with Competence an important predictor of Enjoyment and Immersion (Ryan, Rigby & Przybylski, 2006; Ryan & Rigby, 2011)
  6. 6. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION CUSTOMIZATION FOSTERS AUTONOMY ▸ Shown in studies of Kim et al. (2015), customization acts on game enjoyment via autonomy
  7. 7. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION DARK SOULS 2 ▸ Different from other RPGs, you can choose which skills to learn and which attributes to reinforce ▸ Challenges ▸ Shield run, fists run, etc. ▸ Class “The Deprived: ▸ “Unclothed, origin unknown. Has nothing to fight with, except life-affirming flesh.”
  8. 8. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION METAL GEAR SOLID 3 EXAMPLE ▸ Different ways out of the cell ▸ Either open cell door (via code) and take care of guard or… ▸ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDZ5WC9bZ3c
  9. 9. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION PARADOX OF CHOICE ▸ More choice is generally perceived as positive (because of autonomy and ownership) ▸ However, some findings from consumer psychology (Schwartz, 2004) point to too much choice being correlated with negative affect, little motivation to choose, and little satisfaction with the options ▸ More choice is perceived as enjoyable but more difficult and more frustrating
  10. 10. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION DISCUSS THE PARADOX OF CHOICE ▸ Can there be too much autonomy in a game? ▸ When would that be the case? Do you know examples? ▸ Does it matter which consequences your decisions have?
  11. 11. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION MEANINGFUL CHOICE ▸ Meaningful Choice: The player has to believe that what they choose will lead to different outcomes (Portnow, 2013) ▸ Choices that pull at players heart strings, that make them look deep inside themselves at their own character in real life, that they remember as deeply emotional experiences (Morrison, 2013)
  12. 12. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION CRITERIA FOR MEANINGFUL CHOICE 1. Awareness - The player must be somewhat aware they are making a choice (perceive options) 2. Gameplay Consequences – The choice must have consequences that are both gameplay and aesthetically oriented 3. Reminders – The player must be reminded of the choice they made after they made it 4. Permanence - The player cannot go back and undo their choice after exploring the consequences
  13. 13. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION MORAL DILEMMAS AND MEANINGFUL CHOICES IN GAMES? ▸ Do you know examples? ▸ The Walking Dead? Heavy Rain? ▸ How would you implement meaningful choices and moral dilemmas in your games?
  14. 14. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION SUMMARY OF CHOICE ▸ Choice and Agency can manifest in the game’s narrative and in the game mechanics ▸ Many digital games deliver just limited freedom of choice, but as long as we do not notice, we experience autonomy ▸ If players perceive their actions as steering the game procedures, they will feel that they have meaningful choices
  16. 16. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION LET’S TEST COOKIE CLICKER ▸ http://orteil.dashnet.org/cookieclicker/ ▸ Play this for 5 minutes, then let’s discuss your experience
  17. 17. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION WHAT IS GAMIFICATION? ▸ “the adoption of game technology and game design methods outside of the games industry” (Helgason, 2010) ▸ “the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to solve problems and engage users” (Zichermann, 2011) ▸ “a process of enhancing a service with affordances for gameful experiences in order to support user's overall value creation” (Huotari & Hamari, 2012) ▸ “the use of design elements characteristic for games in non- game contexts” (Deterding et al., 2011)
  19. 19. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION GAME DESIGN AND USER EXPERIENCE ▸ Malone wrote in 1982: ““…features of computer games can be incorporated into other user interfaces, [which then] can be made not only easier and more productive to use, but also more interesting, enjoyable and satisfying.”
  24. 24. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION WHAT SHOULD GAMIFICATION DO? ▸ Should gamification be used to persuade people to adopt a behaviour or should it enhance enjoyment?
  25. 25. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION WHAT HAPPENS WHEN GAMIFICATION GETS REMOVED? ▸ After removing incentives (points, badges, levels, leaderboards) much less users were active in the intranet social network of a company (Thom et al., 2012) ▸ Significantly less photos, lists, and comments ▸ Results are comparable for workers from the US and India ▸ Only extrinsically motivated
  26. 26. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION WHY DID THIS HAPPEN? SELF-DETERMINATION THEORY ▸ Theory of basic psychological needs ▸ Competence: “the perceived extent of one’s own actions as the cause of desired consequences in one’s environment “ ▸ Autonomy: “locus of causality is perceived internally” ▸ Relatedness: “the urge to interact, be connected to, and experience caring for others.”
  28. 28. CHOICE/AGENCY/GAMIFICATION DISCUSSION: IS GAMIFICATION ALWAYS BAD? ▸ Think about extrinsic and intrinsic drivers
  29. 29. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR ATTENTION THANK YOU Contact me: len@uwaterloo.ca @acagamic (Twitter) hcigames.com