Designing games in which change perceptions, opinions in addition to even players' real-life actions

In ‘Big Huggin,’ players control the action by giving affection to a teddy bear controller. Game by Lindsay Grace. Credit: Stacey Stormes, Author provided

In 1904, Lizzie Magie patented “The Landlord’s Game,” a board game about property ownership, with the specific goal of teaching players about how a system of land grabbing impoverishes tenants in addition to enriches property owners. The game, which went on to become the mass-market classic “Monopoly,” was the first widely recognized example of what is usually today called “persuasive play.”


Games offer a unique opportunity to persuade their audiences, because players are not simply listening, reading or interpreting the game’s message – they are subscribing to in which. To play a game, players must accept its rules in addition to then operate within the designed experience. As a result, games can change our perceptions, in addition to ultimately our actions.

In American University’s Game Lab in addition to Studio, which I direct, we’re creating a wide range of persuasive games to test various strategies of persuasion in addition to to gauge players’ responses. We have developed games to highlight the problems with using delivery drones, encourage cultural understanding in addition to assess understanding of mathematics.

in addition to we’re expanding the realm beyond education in addition to health. With support via the Knight Foundation, we’ve been researching ways to connect games in addition to journalism to engage people more deeply with issues within the news. (The Knight Foundation has also funded The Conversation US.) Our newest game, helping people in addition to news organizations differentiate between real news in addition to fake reports, is usually out currently.

Game play involves action

When talking about games as a persuasive tool, I often repeat the notion in which readers read, viewers watch in addition to players do. in which’s not a coincidence in which when sitting down to learn a fresh game, a prospective player most often asks, “What do you do?” Persuasive play offers people the opportunity to do more than merely read or watch – they can engage with the game’s subject matter in fundamentally valuable ways.

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In our work, we want to enhance people’s understanding of complex topics, change their perspective in addition to encourage them to think critically about the entire world around them.

For example, Game Lab faculty member Bob Hone worked with the National Institutes of Mental Health to create a game in which is usually currently in clinical trials as a treatment for anxiety without medication. The game, “Seeing the Great Side,” asks players to find numbers hidden in detailed drawings of classroom scenes. within the process, players practice calming themselves by looking around an entire space rather than focusing on one person’s anxiety-provoking angry face.

Games can relieve stress in different ways, too. A recent study we conducted with Educational Testing Service found in which a game we created to replace multiple choice standardized tests offered a more positive test-taking experience for students. In addition, students were better able to demonstrate their abilities.

Turning to the news

Persuasive play is usually most common in education in addition to health, however in which’s becoming more common in different fields too. We’ve been working on using game design techniques to get people to engage with the news. We’ve also proposed adapting lessons via gaming to attract in addition to retain audiences for news websites.

One project we did involved creating a game for WAMU, a National Public Radio affiliate in Washington, D.C. The station was covering public transportation failures within the city, specifically of the D.C. Metro subway in addition to train service. We designed a game to raise audience engagement with the material.

A game about reality: The beginning of a commuter’s day starts with an alarm clock. Credit: American University Game Lab, CC BY-ND

WAMU sent an experienced reporter, Maggie Farley, into the field to interview a variety of Metro riders about their experience. We aggregated those stories into an individual narrative in addition to then made in which story playable. In our “Commuter Challenge,” players have to make in which through a week on the Metro system as a low-wage employee within the D.C. Metro service area.

The problems facing players align with real-world trade-offs the reporter found people doing: Should a worker choose a pricey ride-share service to get to the daycare in time for pickup or save money by taking the train however risk incurring fees for being late? Should a worker trust the announcement in which the train will be only 15 minutes late or decline an extra shift because of rail service outages? Players have to balance their family, work in addition to financial demands, in hopes of ending the week without running out of money or getting fired for being late to work.

Boosting connections

WAMU found in which the game got four times more visits than different Metro-related articles on its site. in addition to people spent four times longer playing the game than they did reading or listening to the standard news coverage. People, in which seemed, were far more eager to play a game about the plight of Metro riders than they were to hear about in which.

Most recently, we released a game called “Factitious.” in which works like a simple quiz, giving players a headline in addition to an article, at the bottom of which is usually a link to reveal the article’s source. Players must decide whether a particular article is usually real news or fake. The game tells the player the correct answer in addition to offers hints for improvement. in which helps players learn the importance of reading skeptically in addition to checking sources before deciding what to believe.

In addition, for each article we can see how many people understood or misunderstood in which as real or fake news in addition to how long they took to make the decision. When we change headlines, images or text, we can monitor how players’ responses adjust, in addition to report to news organizations on how those influence readers’ understanding. We expect games like in which one become a design for getting honest feedback via the general population.

While the original “Monopoly” aimed to explain the drawbacks of land grabbing, contemporary persuasive play has even grander hopes. in which fresh generation of games aims to learn about its players, change their perceptions in addition to revise their behavior in less time than in which takes to build a hotel on Park Place.


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The Conversation

Designing games in which change perceptions, opinions in addition to even players' real-life actions

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