2. Game-Design Models for Digital Social Knowledge Creation

Social knowledge creation has the potential to grow and flourish in the Web environment through social networking models, crowdsourcing, folksonomic tagging systems, collaborative writing platforms, cloud-based computing, and a variety of many-to-many communication methods. Similarly, video games continue to evolve in exciting ways, especially in the context of ubiquitous networked computers, smartphones, and tablets. Although game studies, as a field, is discussed widely, the ways in which digital scholarship and game studies overlap and relate to each other are not always clear. As digital humanities practices (including multimodal communication, collaborative writing, modelling and prototyping, and hands-on making) become more widespread, the possibility for sharing lessons and insights between game studies and digital humanities increases. Certain scholars may be skeptical of such intersections, but game-based pedagogy projects and humanities-related serious games indicate that overlap has already taken place. This section of the annotated bibliography includes a selection of texts on game design models, as well as definitions, discourses, and best practices relevant to social knowledge creation.

The application of game-based models in digital scholarship is unsurprising. Games are known for their potential to capture the player’s attention, encourage focus and concentration, facilitate collaboration among large groups, and express complex stories and topics in intuitive, experiential ways. As digital humanities practitioners, in particular, develop scholarly and pedagogical environments, these benefits will become increasingly valuable. Perhaps the most widely known game-design approach that is applied in non-game environments is gamification. Gamification falls into a peculiar position within the game-studies/digital humanities relationship: its genesis in the gaming world positions it in the realm of game studies, but its application and definitions necessarily diversify this position. While the term is often used in an ambiguous sense, referring to all game-like or gaming inspired instances in non-gaming contexts, many scholars differentiate justly between gamification, serious games, playful design, and other related approaches. Sebastian Deterding et al. (2011) offer a well-articulated definition, stating that gamification is “the use of game design elements in nongame contexts” (9), but they also note that gameful design may be a better term for use within academic contexts, since it comes with less baggage than gamification (14). In addition to the negative connotations associated with gamification, the particular focus on implementable game mechanics and elements may limit the potential of the approach. For this reason we use the terms gameful design, game-design models, game-design thinking, or game inspired approaches to refer to the broader potential of applying such methods in the development of non-game environments. We hope that this approach resists the reduction of game-design to common game elements and instead aims to apply broader game-design practices and approaches in the development of non-game environments.

Humanities scholars often eschew game-design approaches because of the exploitative reputation of gamification, which is particularly popular in corporate and consumer-facing environments that aim to increase user engagement with a site, program, or application. Because games are so effective at capturing attention and driving engagement, companies and organizations can apply gamification methods to encourage forms of free, immaterial labour from users, and to apply covert methods of driving profits and success rates. In this way, gamification is a prime example of the blurring between play and labour that critics such as Ian Bogost, Alexander Galloway, Trebor Scholz, McKenzie Wark, and Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter study. However, rather than assuming that all game-design-inspired approaches are exploitative across all contexts, this section aims to open up the discourse to acknowledge and engage with critiques of socioeconomic and academic structures. Concurrently, this bibliography draws attention to innovative and practice-based texts on game studies and game design that may inspire scholars to develop game-based responses and solutions.

While certain game-design applications in non-game environments may seem reductive, we believe that a game-inspired design approach can, in fact, help to design sophisticated, self-reflexive environments. These environments benefit from the iterative prototyping process of game design, and also apply procedural rhetoric and effective game mechanics in order to communicate complex arguments in practice. In a social knowledge creation context, game-design models are still in their early stages, and scholarly work on the topic is scarce. As such, the selections below focus on specific areas that aim to offer insights into the critical discourse regarding socioeconomic and institutional practices related to game-design models and social knowledge creation. Ideally, the selections will inspire interested scholars and practitioners  to  use  game-design  methods  to  overcome  challenges in social knowledge creation environments. We recommend that readers approach the selections in this section with the above-mentioned vision of game-design-inspired thinking in mind, and consider its potential in the design of social knowledge creation tools and environments. While a number of texts listed below do not discuss game-design methods directly, they cover important issues, concepts, and theories that offer relevant considerations for practitioners who plan to study or implement game-design approaches.

This section of the bibliography consists primarily of sources from the past decade, although a few exceptions were made for particularly relevant texts. The majority of the selections fall under the purview of scholarly, humanities-related work; we have, however, included selections from other areas to reflect accurately the interdisciplinary nature of the proposed gamedesign inspired practice. Our intention is to provide scholars and practitioners with a present-day survey of popular, widely studied game-design practices while offering a snapshot of discourses and concerns regarding academic humanities practices, video games and game-design studies, and related aspects of the digital landscape and economy. Examples of relevant video games, social networks, and applications also make up a portion of the bibliography. Rather than attempting to cover all relevant video games and applications or offer a history of video games, we include select examples that are either referenced widely, offer particular insight into the origins and practices of game-design applications in non-game contexts, provide inspiring examples from the indie game development movement, or provide a unique, stimulating indication of how games can be applied for scholarly or pedagogical purposes. Additionally, a small number of texts from other industries warranted inclusion based on reception and topical relevance (see Zichermann and Cunningham). The bibliography has been organized into the following six sections consisting of 105 entries, followed by a complete alphabetical list:

  1. Game-Design Models in Scholarly Communication Practices and Digital Scholarship
  2. Game-Design-Inspired Learning Initiatives
  3. Game-Design Models in the Context of Social Knowledge Creation Tools
  4. Defining Gamification and Other Game-Design Models
  5. Game-Design Models and the Digital Economy
  6. Game-Design Insights and Best Practices
  7. A Complete Alphabetical List of Selections

The initial categories provide a basis for scholarly practices and challenges concerning social knowledge creation. Scholarly communication is an evolving and much-debated activity, and related discourse ranges from issues of tenure track, peer review, and engagement in the digital humanities to the ways in which knowledge and history are presented via Web 2.0 practices and the opportunities social data collection heralds for initiating change. Based on current changes in and criticism of scholarly communication practices and digital scholarship, “Game-Design Models in Scholarly Communication Practices and Digital Scholarship” considers how game-design-inspired engagement, task definition, goal orientation, and collaboration practices can offer new ways of tackling the changes taking place in the humanities. Within the realm of digital scholarship, scholars have begun to consider digital editions as unique spaces for gameful design to be applied. Rather than, for instance, suggesting the simple placement of game-design elements—such as points systems or badges—into a social edition environment, the 22 sources in this section offer critical and conceptual considerations for approaching social knowledge creation from a game-design perspective. The 10 entries in the “Game-Design-Inspired Learning Initiatives” category look at different learning spaces in relation to game-design inspired approaches and models from game environments (such as Massively Multiplayer Online Games [MMOGs] and Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games [MMORPGs]) in order to demonstrate how they can create collaborative, engaging, and goal-oriented interactive learning environments. The instructional potential of and possibility for learning through games is not a new concept in the realm of pedagogy and teaching. Scholars and teachers have long recognized that engaging students in certain gameplay activities can capture attention, encourage focused and strategic thinking, and teach skills and knowledge. Beyond the actual playing of games, however, game-design thinking can also contribute to the structuring of successful learning environments.

The third category, “Game-Design Models in the Context of Social Knowledge Creation Tools,” outlines a select overview of gamification and game-related approaches in particular tools and environments. This category contains a sampling of 26 texts on and examples of social knowledge creation tools, social networks, game platforms, game types, and social literary-analysis environments. It aims to offer an overview of applications and practical insights on the potential of game-design models in the development of social knowledge creation tools. Covering an array of environments, the selections indicate not only how gameful design can encourage user engagement and participation, but also the possible interoperable effects of game environments in the context of social knowledge creation. As Johanna Drucker, Steven Jones, Alan Liu, Jerome McGann, and Geoffrey Rockwell indicate, game interfaces can inspire critical awareness, enable learning by doing (or by modelling, as Jones notes), and integrate otherwise disparate components and interactions, thus provoking deeper forms of collaboration.

The fourth category, “Defining Gamification and Other Game-Design Models,” contains 10 selections that discuss the much-debated terminology and definitions of gamification and related approaches. A wide range of fields, from marketing to pedagogy to human resources, apply, study, define, and discuss gamification. While Zichermann and Cunningham (2011) offer a fairly broad definition of gamification as “game-thinking and game mechanics to engage users and solve problems” (xiv), Deterding et al. (2011) differentiate gamification from similar approaches by defining it as “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts” (9). For the purpose of specificity in the context of this bibliography, we follow Deterding’s definition and use “gameful design,” “game-design thinking,” and “game-inspired approaches” to refer to our suggested broader use of game-related methods and strategies in non-game environments. The definitions in this category and their relation to similar approaches provoke debates about terminology, especially because the word “gamification” holds negative connotations associated with marketing tactics. Many scholars, including Deterding and Bogost, argue for alternative terminology in order to distance academic uses of gamification from controversial or exploitative examples.

“Game-Design Models and the Digital Economy” discusses certain key concerns and risks associated with current socioeconomic structures and cultural habits. Within academic discourse, gamification has provoked heated debates and strong criticism. This is not surprising, as video games, and particularly the objectives of gamification, epitomize the play/labour dichotomy. The 15 texts in this category offer varying views of the digital economy with the aim of engendering critical approaches to potential implementations of gamification. While some scholars are highly skeptical of gamification, we believe that game-design models can be used in an ethical and transparent manner. Rather than applying game approaches in an exploitative manner, we see the potential for game-inspired design practices to offer methods that encourage self-reflexivity, critical thinking, and creative engagement. The digital economy in general, and video games in particular, often face challenges as to how to engage scholars and the public in an ethical manner—especially concerning the blurring boundaries between labour and play, entertainment and payment. Furthermore, social shifts in the value and forms of attention are taking place (see Jonathan Beller 2006, N. Katherine Hayles 2007), and the study of game environments is being reformulated and problematized by approaches such as object-oriented ontology and procedural rhetoric (Bogost 2012). Taking these discourses into consideration, the challenge will be to develop uses of gameful design that not only overcome these issues, but contain responses and solutions to them.

Building on the critical base of the previous sections, the final focus on “Game-Design Insights and Best Practices” consists of a selection of gamedesign-related approaches and practices intended to inform the more practical requirements of developing social knowledge creation tools and environments that incorporate game-design-inspired approaches. The 16 selections cover game-design approaches, best practices, models, and how-tos. Salen and Zimmerman’s Rules of Play, Bjork and Jussi’s Patterns in Game Design, and Galloway’s Gaming offer extensive overviews of video game studies and game design, providing insights into practices from game studies and the gaming industry. The selections in this section of the annotated bibliography, Game-Design Models for Digital Social Knowledge Creation, aspire to provide a broad overview of examples, instructions, and approaches to inform practitioners of the possibilities of game-design thinking in social knowledge creation tools and environments, and to assert that game-design-inspired approaches have the potential to offer critical responses and solutions, if applied conscientiously.