N.29, Summer 2016

Table of contentsAuthor index



Introduction to focus section:  Player and Learner eXperience



• PaLX Origins


In recent years, game-based learning  or gamification of learning  have gained momentum in the areas of interaction design and instruction design as well. In gamebased learning, learning contexts are enhanced with games for learning in an interactive and playful manner, e.g., [3]. Alternatively, gamified learning contexts are enhanced with game elements (e.g., badges, leaderboards), are re-structured by following with game design principles, e.g., [1,4]. In general, games or gamification are inserted into a learning context for achieving a learning goal, and rely on play for engaging individuals across the learning experience, e.g., [2,5].

In game-based learning and gamification, learners are thus regarded as players. However, can design for learning and for playing be in tension with one another? Are there specific tasks, environments, characteristics of people or other factors that make it risky or difficult for designers to always treat learners as players? Once game-based or gamified concepts or solutions are created, how should their success be evaluated? Finally, what are existing successful or unsuccessful game-based or gamified solutions for learning that designers can learn from (sic)?

The Player and Learner eXperience (PaLX) focus section aimed at critically discussing such issues and, more generally, the equation “learners as players”, often given for granted or not sufficiently pondered over in the design of game-based or gamified solutions. The focus section originated from the PaLX workshop held at CHItaly 2015, in Rome, and capitalised on the information acquired through this. Specifically, the focus section aimed at critically reflecting on how to design for a learner and player experience, how to evaluate it, and what designers can learn from existing game-based or gamified solutions or experience reports.


• PaLX Contributions


The PaLX focus section was advertised through open calls worldwide. In total, the focus section received 13 submissions: 11 were from European countries, and the others from USA. Papers were first pre-screened for ensuring that they would be within the focus section scopes. Each paper, passing the pre-screening stage, received at least two independent reviews, and a third in case of conflicting opinions. The topics proposed in the PaLX call for papers were reflected in the reviewed papers, and are reported here below:


PaLX call for paper: game-based or gamification topics


Learner and player experience design guidelines or patterns

Design guidelines or patterns for users with special special needs

Game design and gamification principles for learning

Feedback design for playing and learning

Collaboration and competition design for playing and learning

Engagement design in playing and learning

Learner and player experience evaluation methods

Learner and player experience evaluation instruments

Learner and player experience case studies

Engagement evaluation in playing and learning

Learner and player experience products

Games for learning

Gamified objects, tasks or environments for learning

Smart gamified objects or environments for learners

The internet of gamified things for learners



The diversity in submissions was however also evident, which positively speaks of the vitality of the PaLX research area. Submissions referred to different theories or methodological approaches to the design of game-based or gamified solutions. Authors assessed the outcomes of their work from different and varied perspectives, reflecting the multi-disciplinary nature of research in the area, e.g., medicine, pedagogy, psychology. Most interestingly, submissions addressed further topics than those expected in the call for papers.


The topics that were addressed by the papers accepted in the PaLX focus section can be clustered into three main themes, discussed as follows.


Game-based or gamification and learners. Answering the PaLX challenge of reflecting on the equation “learners as players”, several submissions considered how to coherently integrate learning and play, for instance, how to merge player models (e.g., the Bartle model) and existing learning models, or how to conduct game design with learners. In this focus section, the paper by Lærke Weitze reports a framework and the author’s extensive PhD experience concerning gamified design of games for learning. The paper shows that engagement and motivation are crucial factors in learning contexts. Similar concerns are shared by the paper by Tran and Smørdal, reported in this focus section. Using achievement theory of motivation as reference framework, the authors do a fine-grained analysis of motivations to play and learn, and report their experience with a science museum game.


Game-based or gamification and educators or other education stakeholders. Several other submissions addressed teachers’ life-long learning and game based learning. In this focus section, the paper by Talamo et al. addresses the issue of fostering the creativity of teachers through the design of game-based learning scenarios. The paper by Pozzi and Persico tackles the issue of motivating teachers through gamification through an exploratory study: their paper shows how the authors gamified an already existing environment to motivate and sustain teachers in their design of collaborative learning activities for their students.


Finally, it is worth noticing that all articles of the focus section adopted a reflective attitude on the proposed game-based and gamified solutions, as solicited in the PaLX call for papers. We hope that their insights will help researchers, educators and practitioners design novel game-based or gamified solutions for learning.


Acknowledgments. The guest editors wish to thank all reviewers, who did a careful, time-consuming review work, and without whom this focus section would not have been possible. The guest editors also deeply thank all authors who submitted their work for revision to PaLX, and hope that the received reviews were useful to them all. Last but not least, the PaLX guest editors wish to thank the IxD&A Scientific Editor, Carlo Giovannella, for supporting them throughout the editorial work.


Rosella Gennari , Monica Divitini , Gabriella Dodero




1. Dodero, G., Gennari, R., Melonio, A. and Torello, S. Towards Tangible Gamified Codesign at School: Two Studies in Primary Schools. In Proceedings of CHI PLAY '14. ACM, New York, NY, USA, pp. 77–86 (2014). DOI=http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2658537.2658688

2. Kapp, K. M. The Gamification of Learning and Instruction. Pfeiffer (2012).

3. Mayer, R. E. Computer Games for Learning: An Evidence-Based Approach. M.I.T. (2014)


4. Mora, S., Fagerbekk, T., Di Loreto, I. and Divitini, M. Making Interactive Board Games to Learn: Reflections on AnyBoard. In Proceedings of Make2Learn 2015, CEUR-WS, pp. 29–36 (2015)

5. Seaborn, K., and Fels, D. Gamification in Theory and Action: A Survey. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 74, pp. 14–31 (2015).