It has been noted that HCI research shares the common assumption that technology and design will make people’s lives “more enjoyable, easier, better informed, healthier and more sustainable”. This premise leads researchers to focus on the singular, short-term consequences of their designs, while it has been largely recognized that technology affects both individual and society, with long-term impacts that are complex, emergent, ambiguous and linked to other changes.

This attitude can be also encountered in the current gamification debate, where gamification techniques are mostly discussed in terms of their effectiveness, usefulness, and by and large capability of producing positive effects on experience and behavior. However, this rhetoric appears to be informed by a variety of assumptions that are rarely put into questions: for example, that making an experience more enjoyable and engaging is per se a valuable outcome; that increasing the performances by exploiting “fun” elements is always desirable; that changing behavior by leveraging “gameful” reinforces makes the behavioral intervention more acceptable and somehow less questionable; that a game frame is applicable to every domains and that this, if well designed, will turn the experience to the better.

In this workshop, instead, we aim at deconstructing these and similar premises by highlighting the potential future, ambivalent and systemic consequences of gamification designs, in order to produce a critical discourse on gamification. A critical perspective on design, instead of reinforcing needs and values as they are presently interpreted in the present society, tries to disrupt and transgress such constructions, by embodying cultural critique in designs .

To answer these questions we propose to look at research through design and, in particular, at design fictions. They present “fantasy prototypes” in plausible near futures, on the assumption that designs can be usefully discussed without necessarily making them. These fictional designs create a discursive space where diverse kinds of future may emerge, exploring at the same time the present condition.

Design fiction examples

Joseph Lindley and Paul Coulton. 2015. Game of Drones. In Proceedings of the 2015 Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play (CHI PLAY ’15). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 613-618.

Ben Kirman, Conor Linehan, Shaun Lawson, and Dan O’Hara. 2013. CHI and the future robot enslavement of humankind: a retrospective. In CHI ’13 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’13). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2199-2208.


Shaowen Bardzell, Jeffrey Bardzell, Jodi Forlizzi, John Zimmerman, and John Antanitis. 2012. Critical design and critical theory: the challenge of designing for provocation. In Proceedings of the Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS ’12), 288-297.

Mark Blythe. 2014. Research through design fiction: narrative in real and imaginary abstracts. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’14), 703-712.

Juho Hamari, Jonna Koivisto, and Harri Sarsa. 2014. Does Gamification Work? – A Literature Review of Empirical Studies on Gamification. In Proceedings of the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS ’14), 3025-3034.

Conor Linehan, Ben J. Kirman, Stuart Reeves, Mark A. Blythe, Joshua G. Tanenbaum, Audrey Desjardins, and Ron Wakkary. 2014. Alternate endings: using fiction to explore design futures. In CHI ’14 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’14), 45-48.

Amon Rapp. 2015. Designing interactive systems through a game lens: An ethnographic approach. Computers in human behavior, doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.02.048