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It's the Autonomy, Stupid: Autonomy Experiences Between Playful Work and Workful Play

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A core tenet of traditional play theories is that play is voluntary. This view has been troubled by recent empirical phenomena of "instrumental play" and "playbour": instances where play is mandatory, has serious consequences attached or is done as gainful labour, such as goldfarming. Similarly, people are increasingly using game design elements in non-game contexts like work to make them more playful and engaging. This talk suggests that the conceptual troubles of playbour and gamification can be resolved by focusing on autonomy as a psychological state: how much autonomy people experience informs whether they understand and a label an activity as "work(-like)" or "play(ful)". Drawing on a qualitative interview study with participants engaging in instrumental play, the talk will tease out how social and material features of gaming and work situations support and thwart autonomy experience and thus, their understanding as "work" or "play."

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It's the Autonomy, Stupid: Autonomy Experiences Between Playful Work and Workful Play

  1. 1. it’s the autonomy,stupid!autonomy experiences between playful work and laborious play Sebastian Deterding / @dingstweets Digital Creativity Labs, University of York February 21, 2017 c b
  2. 2. Then: »Enriched environments«
  3. 3. Marian Diamond »The combination of toys and friends was established early on as vital to qualifying the environment as ›enriched‹.« qtd. in stuart brown, play (2009: 39)
  4. 4. play!
  5. 5. all about the box
  6. 6. what about the context?
  7. 7. now: »games«
  8. 8. <1> a puzzle
  9. 9. the standard folk theory play work Malaby 2006
  10. 10. the standard folk theory play work voluntary involuntary inconsequential consequential autotelic instrumental unregulated preregulated “fun” not “fun” Malaby 2006
  11. 11. »First and foremost, all play is a voluntary activity.« homo ludens (1938/1950: 7) Johan Huizinga
  12. 12. »There is also no doubt that play must be defined as a free and voluntary activity […]. A game which one would be forced to play would at once cease being play.« roger caillois man, play, and games (1958/2001: 6)
  13. 13. Goldfarming “play” voluntary inconsequential autotelic unregulated “fun” ?
  14. 14. professional (e-)sports voluntary inconsequential autotelic unregulated “fun” ? ? “play”
  15. 15. instrumental play voluntary inconsequential autotelic unregulated “fun” ? ? “play”
  16. 16. serious games in school voluntary inconsequential autotelic unregulated “fun” ? ? “play”
  17. 17. gamification at work voluntary inconsequential autotelic unregulated “fun” ? ? “play”
  18. 18. work experienced as play
  19. 19. work experienced as play
  20. 20. work experienced as play “work” involuntary consequential instrumental preregulated not “fun”
  21. 21. play behaviours at work “work” involuntary consequential instrumental preregulated not “fun”
  22. 22. ???
  23. 23. »As Stevens [in Work and Play: A False Dichotomy?] recognized, we cannot empirically sustain “play” as a label ... By rejecting play as a supercategory of activity for games, we free the game concept for rethinking, and that is the aim here.« thomas malaby beyond play: a new approach to games (2006: 102)
  24. 24. »Roger Caillois claims that games are voluntary. The problem is that it is quite unclear what this means. Is it not a game if social pressure forces the players to play? Because human motivation is too complex to be explained in terms of its being voluntary/involuntary, I believe that it is not possible to meaningfully describe whether games are voluntary or not.« jesper juul half-real (2005: 31–3)
  25. 25. in other words: stay inside the box!
  26. 26. but this doesn’t go away
  27. 27. What is this? play? work? Something else?
  28. 28. how do we (as researchers and everyday people) make sense of this?
  29. 29. <2> perspective & method
  30. 30. perspective: socio-material constructivism
  31. 31. from essences to construction processes What is a nation? What is crime? How and from what is “nation” made and stabilised? How and from what is “crime” made and stabilised? What is play? How and from what is “play” made and stabilised?
  32. 32. method: Qualitative episodic interviews • Semi-structured episodic interviews, 90-120 min. length • 19 interviewees gaming in presumed high-voluntariness “play” contexts and presumed-low voluntariness “work” contexts: game journalism, game design, game research, e-sports • Interviewees invited to narrate experiences of high/low autonomy, voluntariness, choice, consequence; then compare contexts and situations • Coding and analysis of transcribed interviews with MAXQDA following grounded theory Corbin & Strauss 2008, Flick 2008
  33. 33. organising questions 1. How is “voluntariness” practically accomplished in“play” versus “work-like play” situations? 2.How are “play” situations practically accomplished? 3.How do “voluntariness” and “play” relate?
  34. 34. <3> accomplishing “voluntariness”
  35. 35. »Roger Caillois claims that games are voluntary. The problem is that it is quite unclear what this means. Is it not a game if social pressure forces the players to play? Because human motivation is too complex to be explained in terms of its being voluntary/involuntary, I believe that it is not possible to meaningfully describe whether games are voluntary or not.« jesper juul half-real (2005: 31–3)
  36. 36. Edward Deci, Richard Ryan »To be autonomous means to behave with a sense of volition, willingness, and congruence; it means to fully endorse and concur with the behavior one is engaged in.« motivation, personality, and development (2012: 85)
  37. 37. autonomy in self-determination theory • Action is energised and directed by three basic psychological needs: autonomy, competence, relatedness • All motives range from controlled to autonomous • We are energised by multiple motives at once; sum determines overall autonomy experience -> autonomy need satisfaction Ryan & Deci 2002, Deci & Ryan 2012
  38. 38. spectrum of motives Deci & Ryan 2012 Perceivedexternal locusofcausality Perceivedinternal locusofcausality External extrinsic introjected extrinsic internalised extrinsic integrated extrinsic intrinsic overall controlled: sense of “having to”, pressure, coercion overall autonomous: sense of “wanting to”, ease, enjoyment
  39. 39. autonomy experience is part of game enjoyment Deen 2015, Przybylski et al. 2012, Rigby & Ryan 2011, Sheldon & Filak 2008
  40. 40. game design supports autonomy experience • Meaningful choice in goals, strategies, actions • Customisation • Open explorable worlds • Ability to create and inhabit “ideal self” Deen 2015, Przybylski et al. 2012, Rigby & Ryan 2011, Sheldon & Filak 2008, Turkay 2013, Weinstein et al. 2009
  41. 41. Su & Reeve 2011 context supports/thwarts autonomy in school etc.
  42. 42. Lopez 2011, cf. Heeter et al. 2011, Mollick & Rothbard 2013 first evidence that contexts matters: but how?
  43. 43. #1 norm of autonomous/intrinsic enjoyment
  44. 44. »Because that has a different meaning for me, that- if I play in that moment, then I would have fun with this thing.« »[In WoW] I said at a certain point, that I don’t want to partake regularly in battles. And when […] I say: <<I don’t want this to become an obligation for me>>, then I am representing in that situation the position, then it’s no longer play, and they represent the position: <<Why? It’s fun>> ((laughs)). Then the definitions are different.« #1 norm of autonomous/intrinsic enjoyment
  45. 45. #2 license to reconfigure & leave situation
  46. 46. »Apart from Counterstrike I would never play any game when I don’t want to. [...] When Diablo 3 comes out, I will really want to play it, so I will play it very much. But if I don’t want to play it […] then I will not play it« »At the office, [...] I have to focus on the game analytically, and not say, I let myself go and play the whole day, and at the end no results. That would be inappropriate.« »When I in principle have no time limit, that is, when I can say, I can play until I say: <<I don’t want to anymore.>> No appointments and no obligations, both inside the game and outside of the game, then I find, that’s an experience of freedom.« #2 license to reconfigure & leave situation
  47. 47. #3 relaxed spatiotemporal field
  48. 48. Interviewer: »So that’s the usual process, that you, that you pick a day, and then on that day start in the afternoon and stop in the evening? Interviewee: »If it is that way and I can focus on the afternoon, then I also plan it like that, such that I have finished everything until then, until that point, that could make me go to the door or interrupt the game.« »in my private rooms, then I can show any emotion, because there would be nothing inappropriate in doing so, because I wouldn’t offend anyone with it« [With a Nintendo DS] I am then mostly in a public surrounding, loud screaming or throwing that thing in the corner are not an option. Although you would really want to do it, you have to restrain yourself a bit there and, let’s put it this way, appear a bit more suited for public.« relaxed spatiotemporal field #3
  49. 49. #4 minimised socio-material consequence
  50. 50. »[When money is involved] there's the pressure that you have to win. Of course, everybody who plays wants to win somehow. […] Bu::t when it's about money, that's a real thing, and that you have to work hard for. That wouldn't have a playful character for me then.« »when you fail and know: <<I can’t write the review tomorrow>>, because you actually haven’t reached these and these things, [...] the consequence then means for instance, that you have to get up in the morning two hours early to start the game again. And that can be incredibly infuriating.« minimised socio-material consequence #4
  51. 51. »I need to be very routinized; I mustn’t let myself drift.« »I hammer it through.« »Often, you have to force yourself to do it.« »You’re under real pressure.« »My friends usually cannot comprehend how stressful this is.« play lacking these features feels (self-)controlling #5
  52. 52. »Especially with WoW you somehow had [...] a social coercion behind it. Because as I said, this reputation and then also the social contexts that you maintained through it. Or found there. [...Y]ou don’t feel like training in the evening, or something, and you still go there. Because you feel socially obliged somehow.« »[When playing with friends not alone] the considerateness for the friends dominates, for the people with whom I’m sitting there. So then it’s less the case, that I focus on the game and say: <<I am now, now I am free and can determine this.>> Instead it’s also more about me being the host, and being a guest of somebody and still take regard of that.« in leisure play, this is driven by regard for others #5a
  53. 53. private solitary play is highly autonomous play #5b
  54. 54. autonomy construal is a meta-process Activity becomes controlled when afforded choices mismatch spontaneous interests and perceived- controlling motives keep us from changing or leaving the situation #6
  55. 55. »In::: 95 percent of the cases no. It's still a hobby. You- it's still a passion. You enjoy playing it, also because something like:: a professional level comes in, money and you get around and you get to know new people. That's nice, no question. And those remaining five percent, those are the percentages where you say: <<Hm, not training again from seven to ten pm? Now I could have gone to the movies with my girlfriend.>> For example. Where you would say: <<I so would have wanted to go with her to the movies. Damn, damn, damn. Why do I have to train now?>>« #6 autonomy construal is a meta-process
  56. 56. Intrinsically motivated gameplay License to (dis)engage & configure situation Minimized social and material consequence Salient autonomous motives Salient controlled motives + + + – – Construal of action as autonomous + – Temporal field cleared from outer demands Spatial field shielded from public observers + Self-regulation of attention & emotion display Autonomy need satisfaction + +– Spatial field cleared from distraction – + –
  57. 57. <4> accomplishing “play”
  58. 58. »Roger Caillois claims that games are voluntary. The problem is that it is quite unclear what this means. Is it not a game if social pressure forces the players to play? Because human motivation is too complex to be explained in terms of its being voluntary/involuntary, I believe that it is not possible to meaningfully describe whether games are voluntary or not.« jesper juul half-real (2005: 31–3)
  59. 59. »Roger Caillois claims that games are voluntary. The problem is that it is quite unclear what this means. Is it not a game if social pressure forces the players to play? Because human motivation is too complex to be explained in terms of its being voluntary/involuntary, I believe that it is not possible to meaningfully describe whether games are voluntary or not.« jesper juul half-real (2005: 31–3)
  60. 60. »There is also no doubt that play must be defined as a free and voluntary activity […]. A game which one would be forced to play would at once cease being play.« roger caillois man, play, and games (1958/2001: 6)
  61. 61. »There is also no doubt that play must be defined as a free and voluntary activity […]. A game which one would be forced to play would at once cease being play.« roger caillois man, play, and games (1958/2001: 6)
  62. 62. »First and foremost, all play is a voluntary activity.« homo ludens (1938/1950: 7) Johan Huizinga
  63. 63. a basic distinction object activity Game Gaming Toy Playing Tool Working etc. etc.
  64. 64. we play with many objects
  65. 65. we engage games in many ways debugging playtesting/reviewing making a machinima testing screen resolution a scientific study learning (serious games) sports (e-sports) work (goldfarming)
  66. 66. objects afford activities …
  67. 67. … but activities can redefine objects
  68. 68. so how to make ‘x’ into a certain type of activity?
  69. 69. »I assume that when individuals attend to any current situation, they face the question: What is it that’s going on here?« erving goffman frame analysis (1986: 8)
  70. 70. A frame is »the definition of a situation«: »principles of organization which govern events ... and our subjective involvement in them.« erving goffman frame analysis (1986: 10-11)
  71. 71. key tenets of frame analysis • Frames are socially shared organisational principles for types of situations • Frames organise situations epistemically (how we experience, interpret, expect X), normatively (how we demand and sanction X to be), and practically (how we structure matter and practice) • Framing is the process by which co-present actors constitute a situation as the instantiation of a frame through material configuration, routine performance, meta-communication Goffman 1986, Deterding 2014
  72. 72. 70 »playing« is a multitude Deterding 2014
  73. 73. »When I’m playing reviewingly … I am somehow taking part cognitively in a different way. That means, beforehand I’m already in this mood: <<Okay, I do, I work now, and I try to grasp intellectually what is going on here now.>> And in a normal non-reviewing gaming situation exactly that is a great advantage for me, that I don’t try to grasp things intellectually, but instead let myself be drifted by the sensual impressions« people distinguish and label different keys
  74. 74. »And if for instance there is only fooling around, then I also have said, Hey guys, pull yourself together now, we have the chance to get the title on the weekend. This here is no fun or so, this is, we want to get the title! Now into training, pull yourself together.« »I would recognise [review play] after ten minutes at most, because up to now really all video game journalists I have observed reviewing have a notepad with them and take notes in an interval of, I don’t know, ten minutes, quarter of an hours, about something they have seen.« »When I play for the job, then it’s this goal-oriented. So there I wouldn’t play if I could get directly to the point I want to get to. The activity of playing is more purely utilitarian, or a necessary evil. Yes perhaps also to ruin the game with walkthroughs, save games, or cheat codes.« keys have different norms, setups, practices
  75. 75. Keyings are »conventions by which a given activity, ... meaningful in terms of some primary framework, is transformed into something patterned on this activity but seen by the participants to be something quite else.« erving goffman frame analysis (1986: 43-44)
  76. 76. e.g., a rehearsal
  77. 77. a second distinction frame keying as work as play etc. Playing Working etc.
  78. 78. <5> relating “voluntariness” and “play”
  79. 79. mark twain »If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.« the adventures of tom sawyer (1876)
  80. 80. »It’s still a game as such, and defined as such, but I would not say that *I* play it at that moment, because that has a different meaning for me.« »sometimes you just have to play, you have to get further, no matter whether you want to or not. And then, then that is, then playing is indeed work.« »Whenever you’re forced to do something, then in becomes more work.« »Then it feels like working, […] <<I have to do this now. Do it as productively and quickly as possible.>>« autonomy experience drives ‘work’/‘play’ labelling
  81. 81. framing/keying as work/play (in)congruence autonomy expectations autonomy affordances autonomy experience
  82. 82. <6> conclusions
  83. 83. Accomplishing autonomy • Autonomy can replace the conceptual muddle of “voluntary”, “free”, “autotelic”, “inconsequential” with a causal model and established constructs • Game design affords autonomy through meaningful choice; open worlds • Leisurely play contexts afford autonomy through license to configure and leave situation, relaxed field, minimised consequence • Obligations to others can make leisurely play controlling
  84. 84. accomplishing play • Everyday people distinguish objects (games), frames (playing), and keys (reviewing play) in their lived experience and practice • Leisurely play can be experienced as controlling, play-as-work as autonomous; autonomy experiences drive people’s labelling of an activity as ‘work’, ‘play’, ‘feels like work’, etc. • Distinguishing objects, frames, and keys and understanding them as practical accomplishments solves the theoretical issues posed by goldfarming, e-sports, play experiences at work, etc. • Framing drives autonomy expectations and affordances; autonomy experience partakes in (dis)confirming framings
  85. 85. Fun Voluntarygames
  86. 86. Fun Voluntary autonomy Fun, play games
  87. 87. how to support autonomy in gamified work?
  88. 88. how to make serious games in school playful?
  89. 89. outside this design box
  90. 90. outside this theoretical box
  91. 91. outside this methodological box
  92. 92. sebastian@codingconduct.cc @dingstweets codingconduct.cc thank you.
  93. 93. “play” is like “sex/gender” Burghardt 2005; Henricks 2015 overformed by natural categories found beyond human culture social categories made in human culture
  94. 94. »Alle Spel is allereerst en bovenal een vrije handeling« Johan Huizinga homo ludens (1950: 36)
  95. 95. »Il n’y a pas de doute que le jeu ne doive être défini comme une activité libre et volontaire, source de joie et d’amusement. Un jeu auquel on se trouverait forcé de participer cesserait aussitôt d’être un jeu.« roger caillois les jeux et les hommes (1967: 36)

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