Strengthening gamification studies: Critical challenges and new opportunities

  in Special Issue   Posted on August 13, 2017

Information for the Special Issue

Special Issue Call for Papers:

Gamification is now a well-established technique in HCI and games research, it is a way of embedding design elements taken from games within “serious” contexts, with the intention of driving people’s motivation to engage with products and services. Gamification has already been employed in fields as diverse as Human Resource Management, fitness tracking, mental health and wellbeing interventions and higher education. Scholarship in HCI on gamification has largely been able to design gamified products and services and evaluate their effectiveness and usefulness. Progress has also been made on understanding the behavioral effects of gamified elements. Such advancements have brought along the idea that gamification has reached its maturity.

Despite this progress, gamification research is currently facing a variety of empirical and theoretical challenges, which, if not deeply explored and solved, risk to undermine its impact on the HCI community. On the one hand, gamification still employs a limited set of game elements, such as points, badges and leaderboards, scarcely exploring diverse and more complex design solutions coming from games. On the other hand, user studies of gamified systems continue to focus on individuals’ short-term involvement and behavioral improvements, leaving apart other, and perhaps more important aspects: for example, impacts of game elements on people’s social relationships, influences of contextual factors and individuals’ idiosyncrasies on designs’ effectiveness, as well as gamified interventions’ side-effects on users’ motivation are not receiving similar attention. There is also a need of more rigorous empirical studies, both quantitative and qualitative, to determine the kind and the size of the effects gamification has on individuals, and how such effects unfold. Moreover, there is a lack of theoretical and ethical reflections on the societal impacts of gamification, which may contribute to question a variety of assumptions related to games, when they are applied to “serious” contexts.

Many research questions related to gamification , therefore, have not yet been addressed by HCI researchers. For example: What kind of game elements can be experimented to create novel, more enjoyable, immersive, and pleasurable gamified systems? How, and to what extent, does gamification produce psychological effects on individuals? Is gamification more effective than other design techniques? Are there fields in which gamification should not be employed? Is gamification implicitly reinforcing some aspects of our society (e.g. consumerism, individualism) or negatively affecting individuals in the long term (e.g. increasing addiction, escapism, hedonism)? How can gamification afford spaces and opportunities for reflection and experiential learning regarding our own behavior?

The primary aim of this Special Issue is to provide a focus for people working on these types of research questions by supporting reflection on how to move gamification studies a step forward. We invite submissions presenting original research in the form of deployed gamified systems embedding novel game elements, as well as rigorous quantitative and qualitative user studies, which may also explore theoretical and ethical reflections grounded in empirical results. We also encourage contributions that provide provocative and critical perspectives, such as “research through design” projects, and “design fictions”, which create a discursive space where different types of future can be explored, investigating at the same time the present condition. Submissions can also focus on game jams, alternate reality games and serious games, where recreational and serious aspects are merged together.

We encourage submissions that include but are not limited to the following topics:

i) Strong quantitative studies on psychological and behavioral consequences of gamification design, e.g. reporting effect sizes, employing control groups, longitudinal designs, or comparing gamification techniques with other approaches;

ii) High-quality qualitative studies that explore how gamification affects individuals, e.g. in their social relationships, motivation and engagement;

iii) Thought-provoking designs of gamified applications, serious games, alternate reality games and game jams embedding novel game elements and mechanics;

iv) Critical insights on side-effects and long-term consequences of gamification, serious games, game jams, and alternate reality game design, triggered by real and “fictional” prototypes;

v) Rigorous theoretical contributions regarding societal impacts and ethical issues of gamification (e.g. when gamified technologies and games are employed for behavior change purposes), grounded in empirical studies

Submission guidelines

Submissions to the special issue must include original research. Papers must be new and should have not been published or submitted to other venues. Submissions should be prepared according to the IJHCS Guide for authors, and should be submitted online according to the journal’s instructions. The IJHCS Guide for authors and online submission are available at http://www.elsevier.com/journals/international-journal-of-human-computer-studies/1071-5819/guide-for-authors.

Authors must select \”SI: Gamification\” when they reach the \”Article Type\” step in the submission process. 

All submitted papers will be peer reviewed by three referees drawn from a committee of experts in this domain.

Important dates

  • March 15th, 2017: Beginning paper submission
  • September 15th, 2017: Deadline for paper submission
  • December 15th, 2017: First round of review notifications
  • February 15th, 2018: Revisions of papers due
  • May 15th, 2018: Final papers due
  • July 15th, 2018: Expected publication date

Guest editors

Amon Rapp, University of Torino
Frank Hopfgartner, University of Glasgow
Juho Hamari, Tampere University of Technology and University of Turku
Conor Linehan, University College Cork
Federica Cena, University of Torino

For inquiries regarding the special issue please email Amon Rapp: amon.rapp@gmail.com

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