Playful design

Because play is important work!

The sociologist Johan Huizinga argues that play is the basis for all ritual, myth, art and wisdom, and as our working lives become entwined with our social lives the boundary between work and play is increasingly blurred. The public digital space offers unique opportunities for research and in designing digital technology for the experience of play we create rich humanistic experiences that are enjoyable, pleasurable, playful, fun and engaging. Play encourages people using digital technologies to find and make their own experiences as part of the sense making that happens between user and design.

Play as a concept is explored in a breadth of different disciplines and play and playful design is increasingly unpicked by the HCI community.  However, bringing this multi-disciplinary research together has resulted in ambiguities and gaps in the knowledge of playful design that need addressing: In designing for an experience of playfulness purposely designed parameters may undermine the key properties of playfulness such as spontaneity, exploration and surprise. Equally, questions are raised by the debate of narratology vs the study of games: ludology. There is an argument whether narratology is suitable: can it communicate the richness of gameplay? These uncertainties are particularly evident as we use narrative to describe experiences of playfulness. Since there are no goals or objectives in what Roger Caillios described as paidic games the shift of narratology must move to the setting and characters. 

As we design for playfulness we need methods, best practices and methodologies. A deeper understanding of this area will let interaction designers and game designers create rich experiences that are more about playing, than doing. This PhD will create and analyse a set of digital prototypes and drawing from multi-disciplinary research on play, games studies, literature-theory and narratology it will attempt to further unpick playfulness. Shakespeare wrote: All the world’s a stage; and as we play more, we assume: All the world’s a game.