Arguing on the Holodeck

A CHI Play 2017 Workshop on

Designing Immersive Interactive

Entertainment with Persuasive Intent


Important Dates

August 14, 2017  Submission Deadline
August 28, 2017 Acceptance Notification
October 7, 2017 Last-Minute Participation
October 14, 2017 Workshop


Amsterdam, the Netherlands


€150,-, or  €50,- for ACM CHI Play 2017 Visitors. Participants of the workshop receive free access to the Persuasive Gaming Conference on October the 15th (limited seats, first comes first served!)

Workshop Focus

Games are designed with different objectives in mind, some primarily for entertainment, others also to educate, motivate or persuade its players. Games with the latter objective, that of persuasion, are designed not only to be entertaining, but also with the intent to shape how players think and feel about issues in reality. However, despite the growing interest in persuasive games, with particularly those using immersive technologies, we still lack the design insights and strategies that support their production. With the ‘Arguing on the Holodeck’ workshop we aim to address this issue.

Workshop Approach

With this hands-on design-oriented workshop we bring together academic and industry experts to advance persuasive game design. Together we explore traditional and contemporary design opportunities for (immersive) persuasive games, and subsequently generate exemplar work, best-practices and design strategies through making, play-testing and reflecting.

Example of a Mixed Reality game with Persuasive Intent: A Breathtaking Journey



About a decade ago Bogost, grounded in Murray’s concept of procedurality [18], pointed at the unique persuasive properties of games, coining ‘procedural rhetoric’. Procedural rhetoric is seen as “the art of persuasion through rule-based representations and interactions rather than the spoken word, writing, images or moving pictures” [4]. Through rules and procedures, in particular how simulations play out, games can covertly present players with enthymemes framed to tell something about issues in reality. A classic example of a persuasive game is Darfur is Dying; a “viral video game for change” that “was created in 2006 to put you [the player] in the shoes of a displaced Darfurian refugee” [20]. And as Bogost’s work suggested, the interactive component of the game has indeed shown to improve its persuasive capacity [19,25]. In the same vein we see that empathy can be used as a persuasive appeal [23], with games being particularly interesting for their role-taking affordances [19]. And as Boltz et al. [5] argue, “well-designed empathy games can also encourage us [the players] to evaluate choices and consequences, and to question the system a game represents”.

Several scholars have also pointed at the more holistic persuasive potency of immersive experiences [2,7,12,14,15], possibly resulting in a similar ‘suspension of disbelief’ known from narrative persuasion [6], in which the player is so deeply engaged with the content that she is less inclined to think critically about presented arguments.

Novel Opportunities

A decade after Bogost’s seminal work on persuasive games the objective to ‘put the player in the shoes of someone else’ as means to raise empathy and shape attitudes, is still very much alive. Artists like Milk [17] have already dubbed virtual reality (VR) the “ultimate empathy machine”, and situated at the crossroads of procedurality, empathy, and presence we see an increasing interest in ‘immersive persuasive games’. This is exemplified with recent projects like Project Syria [8], DeathTolls Experience [9] and A Breathtaking Journey [14], which, just like Darfur is Dying, are designed with the intent to raise empathy and shape attitudes towards refugees. 


With this hands-on design-oriented workshop we bring together academic and industry experts to advance persuasive game design. We explore traditional and contemporary design opportunities for (immersive) persuasive games, and subsequently generate best-practices and design strategies through making, play-testing and reflecting. This workshop will be held as a single-day event and is organized around a series of guided iterative design cycles. No technical or game design experience is required as we use physical prototyping techniques, balance the teams in advance, and provide support by academic and industry experts (from 11 bit studios [1], FourceLabs [11] and Ludomotion [26]). 

Workshop Planning

Below you will find a preliminary planning for the workshop including the presentation of submitted abstracts, argument iterative prototyping, reflection, and formulation of best-practices and design strategies for persuasive game design.

09:00 - 09:20 | Introduction to Workshop

9:20 - 10:30 | Pecha Kucha

After a brief introduction to the workshop, we ask each participant to present a PechaKucha presentation [13] based on their submitted abstract; including a short biography, their work, and the outlined design opportunities or issues. As a group, we will summarize the opportunities or issues, which will serve as input for the design sessions.

10:30 - 10:50 | Presentation by Wojciech Setlak

Wojciech Setlak is writer at 11 bit studios and worked on the award-winning games ‘This War of Mine’ and ‘This War of Mine: The Little Ones’. In his presentation, he wil provide us with insight into the development of both games and shares some tips and tricks to design games with a message.

10:50 - 12:00 | Attitude Mapping and Ideation

We divide the group into teams of 3 participants. Each team will receive a document outlining the topic and persuasive message; including background stories, a persuasive game design toolkit and prototyping material. Each team is tasked to explore the topic, formulate preferred attitudes, arguments, personas and player experience.

12:00 - 13:00 | Lunch Break

A short lunch break to refresh and be socially awkward.

13:00 - 16:15 | Defining Gameplay and Prototyping

Each team will have three timed sessions to work on their prototype. With the provided materials and tools the teams are asked to iteratively create a low-fidelity version of their game.

16:15 - 17:30 | Playtesting

We use role-playing [24] to evaluate player experience. During these evaluations the team members will act as the game’s mechanics, while someone from another team acts as the player.

17:30 - 18:00 | Formulating Design Insight

We will discuss insights and formulate possible strategies, techniques and best-practices that were supportive for the creation of a game with persuasive intent.

18:00 - | Drinks TBD

Workshop Pilot in May, 2017

We will be prototyping on a life-size scale, to mimic contemporary immersive technology without the need for technical ‘know-how’. Some inspiration:

The inspiration images belong to their respective owners

Location & Date

The workshop will be hosted in conjunction with the CHI Play 2017 Conference on Saturday October 14, 2017.

The workshop is hosted one day earlier than other CHI Play 2017 workshops as it directly connects to the  Persuasive Gaming satellite conference. We are currently looking into the possibility to provide workshop participants with free access to the closed Persuasive Gaming conference (depending on available seats)

Call for Participation

Workshop Participation

We accept two types of submissions: Extended Abstracts and Letter of Interests.

Extended Abstract submissions should be a maximum of 3 pages long in the ACM Extended Abstract Format (excl. references). Accepted Extended Abstracts submissions will be included in the workshop proceedings and hosted on the workshop’s website.

Letter of Interest submissions should be a maximum of 250 words with a motivation for joining the workshop. The Letter of Interests will not be included in the workshop proceeding and not hosted on the workshop’s website. The Letter of Interest is primarily meant for those interested in Persuasive Games and Immersive Technology but are not able to submit an Extended Abstract. 

Both submissions should include a biography of the author(s) and cover one or more of the following topics:

  • Theory, design or analysis of an (immersive) persuasive game, prototype or concept.
  • (Immersive) persuasive game design strategies, techniques or best-practices.
  • The use of novel technologies, particularly immersive technologies, in a persuasive game.
  • Interview or ethnographic study related to the development of an (immersive) persuasive game.

Submissions (in .PDF format) should be sent to and (co-authors in CC) with the subject CHI Play 2017 AotH Workshop – ‘title of abstract’ – ‘name first author’ by August 14, 2017. Submissions should not be anonymised and will be reviewed by the organizers based on their relevance, quality, and contribution to the workshop. We will send a notification of acceptance on August 28, 2017. Last-Minute Participants can still send in a Letter of Interest up to October 7, 2017. Participants have to register to the CHI Play 2017 conference in order to join (with a workshop registration fee of €50,-). For those who do not plan to visit the CHI Play 2017 conference, there is a €150,- ticket available. Participants of the workshop receive free access to the Persuasive Gaming Conference on October the 15th (limited seats, first comes first served!)

For questions please contact Martijn Kors at


Martijn Kors

Martijn Kors

Main Organizer

is a doctoral candidate and game designer at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and the Eindhoven University of Technology. In his design-research he studies the design of interactive entertainment with persuasive intent.

Karel Millenaar

Karel Millenaar

Main Organizer

is a game designer who supports research as a resident designer and lecturer at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. He also designs serious games for change with his company FourceLabs.

Erik van der Spek

Erik van der Spek


is an assistant professor of game design at the Eindhoven University of Technology. He researches the design of games and play for learning, motivation and attitude change.

Gabriele Ferri

Gabriele Ferri


is a postdoctoral researcher at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. He pursues a research agenda focusing on the use of urban games as design tools to empower minorities.

Ben Schouten

Ben Schouten


is a full professor in playful interactions at the Eindhoven University of Technology, and lector in Play and Civic Media at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Alyea Sandovar

Alyea Sandovar


is a researcher at Fielding Graduate University. Her PhD research focuses on the relationship between game designers’ cultural perceptions and their designs.

Participating Industry

Wojciech Setlak

Wojciech Setlak

11 bit studios

is working at 11 bit studios and has worked on This War of Mine and This War of Mine: The Little Ones as a writer. Currently he is writer and narrative designer for the company’s upcomming game Frostpunk.

Cas Ketel

Cas Ketel

Freelance VR/AR Developer

is a freelance virtual reality and augmented reality developer working at the VR Base in Amsterdam.

Joris Dormans

Joris Dormans


is the lead designer at Ludomotion and lecturer in game studies at the Leiden University


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  2. S. J. Ahn, J. Bailenson, C. I. Nass, B. Reeves, S. C. Wheeler, and Stanford University Department of Communication. 2011. Embodied Experiences in Immersive Virtual Environments: Effects on Pro-environmental Attitude and Behavior. Stanford University.
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