Media Studies Online

Professional Inquiry Project (EDT 520)

[ Description | Course Connections | Annotated Bibliography | Discussion |
Recommended Resources | Next Steps | Work Log | Works Cited ]

Project Description

Several years ago I was attending a party and spoke to someone who worked for a large marketing firm in Boston. She shared her experiences working with a casino that was looking to increase their appeal to younger audiences by making their casino games look more like mobile video games. The casino executives viewed video games as just as potentially habit-forming as more traditional casino games and just as profitable as well. These executives’ vision was likely quite astute. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), young people in their early 20s and adolescents are the fastest growing group of gamblers (Sohn, 2023). While I do not deny the connection between specific game features and addictive behavior, I also have maintained an intuitive understanding that manipulative games as a means to control or influence behavior is not that same as (and is at odds with) good game design.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of these manipulative design strategies (Sohn, 2023; Goodstein; 2021). Over the past few years, I have become increasingly concerned with the similarities between addictive “freemium” games marketed to children and the educational games used in our schools. Popular general interest games aim is simply to make money: as dramatically illustrated in the numerous headlines of children running up their parents’ credit card bills on their favorite game (see: Bird, 2023; “How teen spent,” 2020; Tims, 2021). Educational game creators also aim to generate a profit of course, but from the educator’s perspective, the goal is ostensibly the more benevolent aim of engaging students in learning and demonstrating their proficiency with curricular content. However, if these games use similar strategies that may lead to addictive or unhealthy behavior, as educators, we ought to carefully consider what kind of games and applications we give to our students.

While educational video games have existed for decades (many people of my generation may have fond memories of playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego [1985] or Oregon Trail [1990]), “gamification” as a concept has arisen just in the past ten years. Although “gamified” educational applications have been widely embraced in many school settings, in the gaming world and within the fields of games studies and user interface (UX) design, gamification has been quite controversial and subject to harsh criticism. This project aims to develop a better understanding of the controversy and criticism of gamification through engaging in scholarship from several disciplines including educational technology, games studies, psychology, and dark patterns (or deceptive design). Through this research, I hope to develop the tools necessary to analyze how educational games or “gamified” educational apps employ “dark patterns” and manipulative design practices.

Guiding Question

How might we apply research in games studies, user experience design, and motivation psychology
to better understand educational opportunities and limitations of video games?

Course Essential Question

How might we advocate for appropriate use of technology in teaching and learning? (Leadership)
This project is concerned with advocating for appropriate use of technology for teaching and learning, specifically in regards to “gamification” and game-based mechanics in education through building a better understanding of user experience design, motivation psychology, and game studies research.

Course Outcomes

Articulate a personal philosophy of educational practice that demonstrates awareness of educational psychology, cognitive principles, conceptual models for technology integration and learning theory (Learning Environments)
This project seeks to integrate educational psychology and cognitive principles into broader understandings of “gamification” and game mechanics in education. I will demonstrate mastery of this outcome by synthesizing research from different disciplines to craft a position and next steps for learning and advocacy.
Read and synthesize literature and research on educational technology to support personal experiences and deepen conceptual knowledge (All)
This project seeks to synthesize research from three different fields of study: games studies, psychology of motivation, and educational technology in order to better understand the implications of “gamification” in education and the use of “game mechanics” in non-game settings. I will demonstrate mastery of this outcome through my annotated bibliography and discussion.

Annotated Bibliography

Games Studies

Bogost, I. (2007). Persuasive games: The expressive power of videogames. MIT Press.

Ian Bogost is an influential theorist and scholar in games studies, and a noted critic of “gamification.” More generally, Bogost is concerned with how we approach video game criticism and analysis. In Persuasive Games, Bogost aims to offer a model for analyzing video games that is distinct from comparisons to other media, and more specifically how video games mount arguments and influence players. To this end, Bogost draws from the tradition of rhetoric and develops what he calls procedural rhetoric, or “the art of persuasion through rule-based representations and interactions rather than the spoken word, writing, images, or moving pictures” (p. ix).

Calleja, G. (2011). In-game: From immersion to incorporation. MIT Press.

Calleja’s work presents the player involvement model developed through three years of qualitative research. Calleja sought to address the need for a model for understanding player involvement (or “immersion”) in virtual game environments, and begins by explaining that the “basic assumption made here is that whatever we decide to call this phenomenon, it will not be a single, monolithic form of experience, but will emerge from the combination of these forms of involvement” (p. 34). Calleja identifies six dimensions of involvement, each considered relative to temporal phases: the macro (or “off-line” game involvement) and the micro (or in game play involvement). The six dimensions of player involvement are kinesthetic, spatial, shared, narrative, affective, and ludic. Importantly, Calleja explains that “dimensions should be seen as layered and transparent in nature. This means that one dimension influences how another is perceived and interacted with” (p. 38).

Deterding, S. (2010). Pawned. Gamification and Its Discontents. Playful 2010. London.

Sebastian Deterding breaks down gamification in this 2010 presentation, first introducing the idea of “gamification,” then considering common misconceptions, what can go wrong when you add game mechanics to an interaction and finally, what gamified applications are missing about games. The first point of confusion Deterding notes is that games are not (necessarily) fun, i.e., there are plenty of bad and poorly designed games. Put differently, “Video games are not fun because they’re video games, but if and only if they are well-designed.” Another problem is “gamification” engaging in “pop behaviorism,” or rewarding the user with badges (sugar pellets) for clicking the right button (hit the correct lever). In contrast, the joy found in well-designed games arises from mastery, not external rewards. Deterding also draws from James P. Carse and Johan Huizinga in arguing that freedom and voluntariness are constitutive for play.

Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., & Nacke, L. (2011). From Game Design Elements to Gamefulness: Defining “Gamification.” 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments, 9–15.

In this oft-cited 2011 conference paper, Deterding, Dixon, Khaled and Nacke offer their proposed definition of “gamification” as “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts” (p. 10, emphasis in original). The authors note “gamification” as a highly contested term, both in the game industry and game studies community, which still seems to be the case today (see: Alsawaier, 2018). After introducing the proposed definition, the authors further explain that “gamification” relates to games, but not play (or playfulness). They also explain that “gamified” applications are not full-fledged games, but incorporate elements of games, such as mechanics (e.g., turns, time constraints), interface (e.g., leveling, badges), and heuristics (e.g., clear goals, variety of game styles). The authors also conclude that “It is not possible to determine whether a given empirical system ‘is’ “a gamified application” or “a game” without taking recourse to either the designers’ intentions or the user experiences and enactments” (p. 14).

Games & Learning

Alsawaier, R. S. (2018). The effect of gamification on motivation and engagement. The International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, 35(1), 56-79. DOI 10.1108/IJILT-02-2017-0009

This 2017 literature review by Raed Alsawaier covers conceptualizing gamification, theoretical connections to gamification, motivation and engagement, player types and gamification features. Alsaweaer concludes that literature on the effect of gamification on motivation and gamification is still limited and that there is a gap between theory and practice in the study of gamification. Alsaweaer also notes that the meaning and definitions of the phrases “gamification,” “educational games,” and “game-based learning” are often blurred and there appears to be no clear consensus. Alsaweier lists gamification features as including avatars, quests and challenges, badges, and points and levels. Alsawaier also cites a study that found that students that are already motivated to learn experience loss of motivation when forced to use game features.

Cruz, L, & Penley, J. (2014). Too cool for school?: The effects of gamification in an advanced interdisciplinary course. Journal of Teaching and Learning with Technology, 3(2). 1-11.

This 2014 case study was published right around the time that gamification really started to take hold, particularly in education. For this study, the researchers identified an existing, free-to-use online text-based quest platform in combination with a series of databases created and maintained by the university. The researchers note that one of the primary assumptions in support of gamification is that students will find the game elements attractive and engaging because these mimic the games they already play. However, while the study found that over half of participants indicated significant experience with online games, nearly a third expressed no experience or interest in such games. The researchers attribute the relative success of the project to the interdisciplinary nature of the particular course, and further explain that in survey responses, “students highlighted the ability to navigate their own paths through the quests, which allowed them to choose those quests that fit best with their major, their interests, or their skills” (p. 8). Interestingly, the handful of students who chose not to participate in the game aspects were among the highest-performing students in the class. These students cited lack of interest, especially in the competitive aspect, as their reason for not participating.

Facey-Shaw, L., Specht, M., van, R. P., & Bartley-Bryan, J. (2020). Do Badges Affect Intrinsic Motivation in Introductory Programming Students? Simulation & Gaming, 51(1), 33-54.

This is a more recent case study than Cruz and Penley (2014) cited above. This study included undergraduate introductory programming students over a four-year longitudinal study and issued digital badges to participating students for various achievements such as Course Newcomer, Self-Learner, and Motivator. The researchers explain that the findings are inconclusive in that the quantitative and qualitative data collected seems to be in opposition. Pre- and post-test surveys show only minimal growth in motivation and interest; the researchers note that since students began with quite high scores, there was not much room for growth. The direction of growth for the control group scores was also largely the same as the experimental group. Interestingly, though, the qualitative data collected from participants showed positive reception of the badges.

Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. Palgrave Macmillan.

James Paul Gee is a linguist who has contributed research in areas such as literacy, multiliteracies, and discourse analysis. In this book, Gee is not discussing educational games, gamification, or game-based learning, rather, he is examining video games as a medium and as a multimodal virtual learning environment for the player. Gee writes that that video games “situate meaning in multimodal space through embodied experiences to solve problems and reflect on the intricacies of the design of imagined worlds and the design of both real and imagined social relationship and identities in the modern world” (p.40-41, emphasis in the original). Gee examines the ways in which players decode meaning and gain mastery within the game with particular emphasis on video games as inherently multimodal.

Hamari, J., Koivisto, J., & Sarsa, H. (2014). Does Gamification Work? -- A Literature Review of Empirical Studies on Gamification. 2014 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 3025–3034.

The authors of this 2014 literature review begin by noting the dramatic increase in academic papers related to “gamification” between 2011 and 2013. Altogether, 24 empirical studies were identified and examined for the literature review. The authors found that a few commonalities arose in the literature, such as motivational affordances, psychological and behavioral outcomes, reported results, and contexts of gamification. In an attempt to answer the question “Does gamification work?” the literature review suggests yes, but with some caveats. First, the quantitative studies found positive effects only in part of the considered relationships between gamification elements and studies outcomes. Further, the qualitative studies “revealed that gamification as a phenomenon is more manifold than the studies often assumed” (p. 5).

Reich, J. (2020). Failure to disrupt: Why technology alone can’t transform education. Harvard University Press.

Justin Reich’s 2020 book Failure to Disrupt is a really interesting examination of several educational technology movements from the past few decades, revisiting the promises of these movements and what actually happened. Reich discusses massive open online courses (MOOCs), adaptive tutors and computer-assisted learning, networked learning communities, and learning games. On gamification, Reich borrows an analogy of “chocolate-covered broccoli” from games researcher Brenda Laurel and argues that the “ process of pouring behaviorist chocolate over instructionist broccoli is often described as gamification,’ and these practices have a broad foothold in schools” (p. 129). Reich further writes that “Gamified learning exercises are simple to use and short to play, making them easy to assign in class in lieu of similar kinds of activities. They take worksheet problems and add game elements to them” (p. 130). On the use of Minecraft in education, Reich argues that “For most players, Minecraft is fun because they can do whatever they want: building structures, inventing arbitrary challenges (harvesting enough diamonds to build a full set of armor), or just exploring to see if there are any llamas around the next corner. The Minecraft: Education Edition projects constrain some of this creativity; in order to teach specific content, they ask students to do what teachers want them to do” (p. 138-9).

Behaviorism & Dark Patterns

Brignull, H. (2023). Types of deceptive pattern. Deceptive Design.

Harry Brignull is a UX (user experience) practitioner and director. The site Deceptive Design (formerly Dark Patterns) was launched in 2010 in order to highlight and expose the growing issue of deceptive design practices in the digital world. The site outlines several types of deceptive design practices or dark patterns, including fake scarcity, social aspects, nagging, and others. Brignell’s work has been influential in this field of research, including applications to games.

Goodstein, S. (2021). When the Cat’s Away: Techlash, Loot Boxes, and Regulating “Dark Patterns” in the Video Game Industry’s Monetization Strategies. University of Colorado Law Review, 92(1).

In this comment from the University of Colorado Law Review, Scott Goodstein delves deeper into the backlash (or “techlash”) of video game loot boxes to examine dark game design patterns from a legal and legislative perspective. Goodstein argues that rather than focusing on loot boxes as a form of gambling, concerned parties should instead focus on dark patterns in games. Goodstein draws from the work of Brignull (above) and Zagal, Björk, and Lewis (cited below), in defining and describing dark patterns. Goodstein also notes that common dark patterns have been “been adapted for use in freemium games marketed to children” (p. 296). And further notes that dark patterns developed from behavioral psychology are designed to hook users and be highly addictive, “particularly for vulnerable groups like children” (p. 307).

Kohn, A. (1993). Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise and other bribes. Houghton Mifflin.

In this influential book, Alfie Kohn draws upon decades of research to debunk what he calls “pop behaviorism” and illustrate that rewards (or “do this and you’ll get that”) do not work and can be quite detrimental to both performance and motivation. Kohn is critical of B. F. Skinner, the father of behaviorism, writing that Skinner “could be described as a man who conducted most of his experiments on rodents and pigeons and wrote most of his books about people” (p. 6). Kohn examines the ethics of rewards and behaviorism, the effectiveness, and then delves into the reasons why rewards do not work across a variety of settings and with different populations. Kohn argues that behaviorism is fundamentally intended to control behavior and treats people like animals. Kohn draws from decades of empirical research to effectively argue that rewards and incentives do not work. Although proponents may present anecdotal evidence that rewards generate interest and motivation, the research overwhelmingly suggests that the long-term effects are negative. Kohn describes five reasons why rewards fail: 1.) rewards and punishments are two sides of the same coin, that is, not received the rewards becomes the punishment; 2.) rewards damage relationships and create or exacerbate power imbalances; 3.) rewards are usually brought out when something isn't going well and ignore the reasons why 4.) rewards discourage risk-taking, and 5.) “extrinsic motivators are a poor substitute for genuine interest in what one is doing” (p. 69).

Linehan, C., Kirman, B., & Roche, B. (2014). Gamification as Behavioral Psychology. In S. P. Walz & S. Deterding (Eds.), The Gameful World: Approaches, Issues, Applications (pp. 81-105). MIT Press.

This chapter provides an interesting analysis of gamification mechanics in relation to behavioral psychology. In short, the authors argue that gamification mechanics, such as badges, points, and levels, are functioning as reinforcers in operant conditioning. The authors compare the utopian vision of gamification proponents such as Jane McGonigal and Jesse Schell in which all of life and work becomes game-like and rewarding with B. F. Skinner’s Walden Two, the behavioral psychologist’s science fiction novel which tells the story of a utopian society that is bound together by a strict set of rules and rewards of positive behavior. While much of the chapter seems to positively affirm that gamification mechanics are an effective means of influencing behavior through the model of behavioral psychology. In the conclusion, however, the authors note that “Skinner did indeed concentrate most of his attention on animal research and never conducted a single experiment on humans” (p. 99) and that the critics of behaviorism were correct, “Humans were more complex than animals,” (p. 99). Finally, the authors acknowledge that behavioral psychology often provokes unease due to its focus on controlling behavior, which “raises questions regarding who is designing that society, what values are inherent in that design, and who is judging what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate behavior,” (p. 100), and argue that the gamified world envisioned by proponents “is one in which a designer decides on these exact issues, perhaps we should be careful to hold these game designers to account in much the same way that behavioral psychologists have been,” (p. 101).

Zagal, J. P., Björk, S., & Lewis, C. (2013). Dark patterns in the design of games. Foundations of Digital Games Conference, FDG 2013, May 14-17, Chania, Greece.

This conference paper draws from the work of Harry Brignull (cited above) in deceptive design patterns to define and describe dark game design patterns. Their “proto definition” for dark game design pattern is “a pattern used intentionally by a game creator to cause negative experiences for players that are against their best interests and happen without their consent” (p. 3). The authors identify three categories of dark game design patterns: Temporal Dark Patterns, including grinding and playing by appointment; Monetary Dark Patterns, such as pay to skip, pre-delivered content, and monetized rivalries (or “pay to win”); and Social Capital-Based Dark Patterns, including social pyramid schemes and impersonation.


To better understand the function and implications of contemporary educational games and “gamification,” this project draws from scholarship in several distinct but overlapping disciplines including educational technology, games studies, psychology, and dark patterns (or deceptive design). For this discussion, I will first provide some background about the features and promises of gamification, particularly in the realm of education. I will then draw in scholarship from games studies with a special focus on how players become involved in the game. After establishing the mechanics of gamification in contrast to more complex models for understanding video games as a medium, I will shift to analyzing gamification mechanics through the application of scholarship into behaviorism and more recent research into dark patterns.

Both of the gamification literature reviews (Alsawaier, 2018; Hamari et al., 2014) and the two case studies (Cruz & Penley, 2014; Facey-Shaw et al., 2020) considered here draw from the work of Sebastian Deterding (particularly a 2011 conference paper with co-authors Dixon, Khaled, and Nacke) for their definition of “gamification.” Deterding et al. offer their proposed definition of “gamification” as “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts” (p. 10). These selected studies also identify a few specific features of gamification: user avatars, quests and challenges, badges, and points and levels (Alsawaier, 2018; Cruz & Penley, 2014; Facey-Shaw et al., 2020; Hamari et al., 2014). Both of the case studies are concerned with motivation. Cruz and Penley (2014) applied a “home-grown” text-based quest platform in an upper level interdisciplinary course. This study found that participating students highlighted the ability to choose their own quests and navigate their own paths as an appealing feature of the gamified structure. Overall, the study results was mixed, the authors concluded that “This sobering reality should remind us, then, that no single form of instructional design or delivery is likely to serve as a panacea, but rather it underscores the complex, extensive, and diverse nature of the Gordian knot that is student learning and motivation” (p. 9). Face-Shaw et al. (2020) awarded badges to first-year programming students over a four-year period. The results of this study were also mixed. Student motivation score growth for the experimental group (with badges) and the control group (no badges) were largely the same. In their feedback, however, students generally reported positive associations with the badges. Results from both studies suggested that high-performing and highly motivated students were less likely to show interest in the gamification aspects introduced with the study.

One of the challenges for games studies as a new discipline has been developing new models for understanding and analysis that adequately account for video games as distinct from other forms of media (Engenfeldt-Nielsen, et al., 2013). Ian Bogost has written quite extensively in this area, notably in his 2007 book Persuasive Games. Bogost argues that video games have a unique capacity for a new kind of persuasive and expressive rhetoric which Bogost terms procedural rhetoric. Bogost explains that “Procedural rhetoric is a technique for making arguments with computational systems and for unpacking computational arguments others have created” (p. 3). In one fascinating example, Bogost considers the 2002 game America’s Army, a multiplayer first-person shooter game produced by the United States Army as a recruitment tool. Through design choices such as reducing blood and violence and only allowing players to play as U.S. Soldiers who strictly adhere to rules of engagement, America’s Army presents a singular “truth” of military conflicts: “Our perspective is not only right, but there is no explanation for the opposition’s behavior save wickedness” (p. 78). Gordan Calleja’s (2011) player involvement model draws from three years of qualitative research and provides insight into the ways in which players become incorporated in game worlds through six overlapping dimensions of involvement: kinesthetic, spatial, shared, narrative, affective, and ludic. These six dimensions of player involvement are each relative to two temporal phases: the macro and the micro. The macro here refers to all those “off-line” activities outside of the actual playing of the game, and the micro is the moment-to-moment involvement during gameplay. Through these dimensions of player involvement, the player may achieve incorporation, defined by Calleja as “the absorption of a virtual environment into consciousness, yielding a sense of habitation, which is supported by the systemically upheld embodiment of the player in a single location, as represented by the avatar” (p. 169). James Paul Gee approaches his analysis of video games as multimodal texts in which meaning is highly contextualized. Gee describes teachers quickly becoming frustrated when reading video game manuals and strategy guides; “They have no experience in which to situate the words and phrases of the texts. All they get is verbal information, which they understand at some literal level, but which does not really hang together” (p. 99). Gee writes that video games “situate meaning in multimodal space through embodied experiences to solve problems and reflect on the intricacies of the design of imagined worlds and the design of both real and imagined social relationships and identities in the modern world” (p. 40-41).

Video games are complex, multimodal media texts. How does gamification compare? Several of the authors cited here have likened gamification mechanics to behaviorism (Bogost, 2007; Deterding, 2010; Reich, 2020; Linehan, et al., 2014). Kohn (1993) described pop behaviorism as “do this, and you’ll get that.” In 1993 that most often meant “do this worksheet and you’ll get a sticker” or “read this many books and you’ll get a free pizza.” Gamification proponents have described gamified applications as employing user avatars, quests and challenges, levels and points, and badges. In practice, this often looks like “read this text passage and you’ll get ten coins” or “complete this online lesson and you’ll get a digital badge.” Kohn (1993) drew from decades of research to emphasize that rewards systems based on pop behaviorism are not only ineffective, but harmful. Similarly, Linehan and co-authors (2014) argue that gamification is a re-packaged form of pop behaviorism that aims to manage and control behavior. Unfortunately, there may be even more strategies at work within gamified educational apps than pop behaviorism and “do this, and you’ll get that.” Drawing from the work of Harry Brignull (2023) in user interface design, Zagal and co-authors (2013) began the task of identifying “dark patterns” in games. Zagal and co-authors offer their “proto definition” of dark game design patterns as “a pattern used intentionally by a game creator to cause negative experiences for players that are against their best interests and happen without their consent” (p. 3). Scott Goodstein further argues that “Much like the dark patterns used by large online operators and businesses which are ‘drawn from extensive behavioral psychology research,’ the video game industry’s dark patterns rely on behavioral psychology in order to hook users and promote microtransaction spending” (p. 302), and notes that children are particularly vulnerable to these tactics.

To better illustrate how dark game design patterns may appear in an educational game, I will consider one of the most popular educational games on the market, Duolingo:

Temporal Dark Patterns

Monetary Dark Patterns

Social Capital-Based Dark Patterns

Recommended Resources

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee
St. Martin's Griffin; 2nd Edition (December 26, 2007)

James Paul Gee is a linguist and educator who was a member of The London Group which authored “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures” (1996). Gee approaches video games very differently than many other authors. Gee was introduced to video games through his children, but his interest was one of curiosity rather than judgment. As an educator and parent turned gamer, his insights and contributions to games studies are quite unique, and he is also able to speak to a broader audience than other authors in the field. Gee’s background in multimodalities and multiliteracies is also especially conducive to analyzing video games. This book is a great introduction to developing a stronger understanding of how video games work (well beyond badges and points) and the learning process that is inherent to the experience of video games.

Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education by Justin Reich
Harvard University Press (September 15, 2020)

Education, and educational technology in particular, seems to be especially susceptible to the bandwagon effect. Reich writes that “In education technology, extreme claims are usually the sign of a charlatan rather than an impending breakthrough” (p. 71). Reich provides a thorough and interesting analysis of several educational technology trends from the late 2000s and early 2010s. Reich provides an overview of the revolutionary promises of these technologies and then discusses what actually happened after attention to the trend leveled out. Reich is an associate professor of digital media and Director of Teaching Systems Lab at MIT, so to be clear, neither he nor the book are “anti-technology” or traditionalist. In his critique of MOOCs and “flipped learning” pioneered by Sal Khan, Reich argues that these would-be revolutionary technologies are little more than pre-recorded traditional lectures. Reich suggests that “Given the breathless enthusiasm with which new learning technologies are introduced, one of the most useful dispositions in evaluating edtech is to regularly ask the question, ‘What’s really new here?’” (p. 32). This is a thought-provoking work that may help educators develop a more critical eye for evaluating educational technology.

Deceptive Patterns by Harry Brignull, Mark Leiser, Cristiana Santos, and Kosha Doshi
Testimonium Ltd

Harry Brignull’s site Deceptive Patterns (formerly Dark Patterns) was launched in 2010 in order to highlight and expose the growing issue of deceptive design practices in the digital world. The site outlines several types of deceptive design practices or dark patterns, including fake scarcity, social aspects, nagging, and others. Brignell’s work has been influential in this field of research, including applications to games. The site is easily navigable and provides a good introduction to the concept of dark patterns or deceptive design practices. The site also provides information about legal cases, additional reading, and a “hall of shame.”

Dark Patterns Games

Dark Patterns Games was launched in 2019 and draws from the work of Harry Brignull, Zagal et al. (2013), as well as the work out of the UX Pedagogy and Practice (UXP2) Lab at Indiana University. Dark Gaming Patterns uses the categories suggested by Zagal et al. (2013): temporal, monetary, and social dark patterns, as well as psychological dark patterns as suggested by Chris Lewis (2014), one of the paper's co-authors. Dark Patterns Games uses this research to analyze mobile games. Since the site is using real-world examples, Dark Patterns Games allows for a more practical understanding of how dark patterns work in games.

Next Steps

Looking forward, I would like to continue this line of inquiry and further develop a method for evaluating educational games and apps in relation to behaviorism and dark patterns. For the purpose of this project, I had to pare down the sources I reference quite significantly. While there is quite a bit of existing scholarship examining gamification generally, scholarly interest in dark patterns in game design is quite new and limited. With the popularity of educational games and gamified educational apps along with increased gambling habits and addictive behaviors observed in young people, this area warrants further research. I hope to continue this research and create a practical method for evaluating educational games and apps and develop an article for publication in an academic journal.

Work Log

Date Time Activity
6 Oct 2023 3 hours Question development and resource collection
11 Oct 2023 2 hours Course connections and outline
12 Oct 2023 1 hour Reading
13 Oct 2023 1 hour Outline, resource collection, reading
25 Oct 2023 30 min Description and outcomes
26 Oct 2023 2 hours Professional Inquiry Introduction
1 Nov 2023 2 hours Reading and annotated bibliography
2 Nov 2023 1 hour Reading, annotated bibliography, course connections
6 Nov 2023 2 hours Reading
15 Nov 2023 4 hours Writing
25.5 hours Total

Works Cited

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