2010 CRC PhD Student Conference
Designing a Climate Change Game for Interactive Tabletops
Supervisors Dr. Robin Laney
Status Visiting Research Student
Probation viva n.a.
Starting date February – June 2010
During my 4 months visiting studentship I am developing a game that utilises the
affordances of multi-user interaction with tabletop surfaces for a persuasive goal.
Players' beliefs about some of the risks of man-made global climate destabilisation
should be influenced in a way that supports more responsible behaviour.
Persuasive games for personal computers are widespread in practice, and there
is abundant literature suggesting theoretical frameworks and design guidelines.
Similarly, designing applications for interactive tabletops is an active field of
research. However, there are currently not many persuasive games for interactive
tabletops, and emerging design issues have not been fully addressed in the literature.
With a growing awareness of the persuasive potential of computer games, and
interactive tabletops becoming increasingly affordable, it is to be expected that more
game designers will address this medium in the near future. Beyond usability
questions, designers will face questions resulting from contradicting paradigms.
While the affordances of tabletops to support multi-user collaboration are
permanently highlighted, the computer game area is only just emerging out of a
long tradition of single-user and competitive gameplay. Currently the vast majority
of persuasive games are designed for browsers and mobile phones, aimed at single
users. Fogg explains fundamental differences in the way persuasion works in single
user interaction as opposed to group interaction, and this can be incorporated into
design for tabletops.
This research aims to contribute towards understanding some of the apparent points of
friction between two media and two areas of research. With this in mind, my research
question can be summarised as follows:
Do players perceive a game's moral message differently depending on whether they
engage in collaborative, cooperative, or competitive gameplay?
As the single message of the game, I chose out of the vast climate change discourse a
fact which is commonly accepted to be true, can be easily conveyed to a broad
audience in a small amount of time, but at the same time is not over-advertised in the
media. The message is as follows: Architectural designs with most of the window area
facing the sun help to save heating energy, thereby supporting CO2 mitigation and
lowering the risk of climate change effects.
Page 45 of 125
2010 CRC PhD Student Conference
I am planning to develop three versions of the tabletop game which all share the same
interface, aesthetic, mechanics, and message. Differences should focus on the
supported gameplay: collaborative, cooperative, or competitive respectively. Here we
define the three concepts according to : Collaborative gameplay implies that goals,
rewards, and penalties are shared among players. Cooperative gameplay differs in that
each player eventually wants to reach their individual goal and reward, but they may
occasionally choose to collaborate, if the collaboration supports their individual goal.
Competitive gameplay means that “the goals of the players are diametrically opposed”
. For the sake of simplicity all three versions of the game are designed for two
A quantitative user study will be conducted to assess the different impacts on players'
opinions, depending on which version of the game they have played.
Experiments could take place in a public space or in the laboratory. I am planning an
experiment with 30 pairs of players, divided into 3 balanced groups, each group
engaging with a different type of gameplay: 10 pairs play the collaborative game, 10
pairs play the cooperative game, and 10 pairs play the competitive game. Before and
after playing, players should answer questionnaires similar in content to those in the
American Climate Values Survey. Using a Likert scale, results can be analysed
quantitatively. For more qualitative results, a second experiment could be done with
the same participants at the same place and time. After a pair has played their game
and completed the questionnaires, they are invited to play the other games as well and
give statements about their impressions of whether and how their opinions have
changed in relation to different types of gameplay.
 I. Bogost. Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. MIT Press,
 E. Hornecker, P. Marshall, N. Dalton, Y. Rogers. Collaboration and interference:
Awareness with mice or touch input. In: Proceedings of the ACM 2008 conference on
Computer supported cooperative work, 8-12 Nov 2008, San Diego, CA, USA.
 J. P. Zagal, J. Rick, I. Hsi. Collaborative games: Lessons learned from board
games. SIMULATION & GAMING, Vol. 37 No. 1, March 2006 24-40. Sage
 B. J. Fogg. Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think
and Do. Morgan Kaufmann, 2003
 ECOAMERICA.NET. The American Climate Values Survey.
Available at http://www.ecoamerica.org/docs/ecoAmerica_ACVS_Summary.pdf
Last Accessed 26 Mar 2010.
Page 46 of 125