Part 2: Play a game?

Marcus Winter's picture

This is the second part in a series of blog post discussing findings from our literature review about complex game-based crowdsourcing. Today we'll take a closer look at what a game is and how we implement it in 10 Most Wanted (TMW). (Check out Part 1: What is crowdsourcing?)       

Part 2: Play a game?

Games are being researched in a wide range of contexts, all of which have different perspectives and offer their own definitions and terminologies. For instance, Jon Orwant [1] defines games from an anthropological perspective as all leisure activities that are not play or sport, with play having no explicit goal and sport involving a test of physical ability, while Marc Prensky [2] defines games from an educational perspective as a subset of play that is organised and helps us to learn. 

Play and game are clearly related, with some languages even using the same word for both, e.g. the phrase "to play a game" would be "jouer un jeu" in French and "ein Spiel spielen" in German [3]. However, while the meaning of play is by and large the same across cultures, games are understood differently throughout different cultures, and what might be considered a game in one country might not be considered a game or even appropriate in another country [4].  

TMW as a game

Acknowledging these different perspectives, TMW uses a loose and inclusive definition of game synthesised from [2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12] that reflects our pragmatic approach to games as a means to motivate and engage volunteers.

A game consists of actors, resources, and a set of structural elements:

  • Framework of agreed constraints and/or rules     >>>    TMW: guidelines, procedures and acceptable quality standards
  • Challenge/Opposition/Competition, either with oneself or others   (discussed below)
  • Management of resources and/or time     >>>    TMW: implicit necessity for volunteers using their own time and resources
  • Pursuit of objectives and goals     >>>    TMW: tasks set by curators and overall project goals
  • Outcomes and feedback     >>>    TMW: findings and feedback from the community and the project team
  • Representation or story     >>>    TMW: context, metaphors and problem descriptions in which tasks are framed
  • Emotional attachment     >>>    TMW: belonging to a community and identifying with the project goals

Challenge/Opposition/Competition usually "translates into game features like timed response, score keeping, player skill level, high- score lists, and randomness" [13] - at least for casual games. Serious games [14], by contrast, often have more complex and qualitative reward structures reflecting their complex goals. This difference is also mentioned by Caroline Haythornthwaite [15] who suggests that for Heavy Weight Peer Production qualitative reward structures reflecting the level and quality of participants' engagement might be more effective. 

Our Rewards

Keeping this in mind we will have different kinds of rewards in TMW, ranging from personal thank you notes to special privileges on the project website. One of the main reward mechanisms will be roles/titles which players can acquire through quality contributions, and which reflect their experise and status in the community. The other involves being credited for original contributions and becoming part of the evidence trail for discovered facts - immortality at last!

Catch up on Part 1: What is crowdsourcing? 
Check back next week for Part 3: Why do people help?       


[1] Orwant, J. (2000). EGG: The Extensible Graphical Game Generator. PhD Thesis, MIT. Available
[2] Prensky, M. (2001). Digital game-based learning. New York: McGraw-Hill.
[3] Parlett, D. (1999). The Oxford History of Board Games. New York: Oxford University Press.
[4] Hinske, S., Lampe, M., Magerkurth, C., and Röcker, C. (2007). Classifying Pervasive Games: On Pervasive Computing and Mixed Reality. In  Magerkurth, C., Röcker, C. (eds). Concepts and technologies for Pervasive Games - A Reader for Pervasive Gaming Research. Vol. 1, Shaker.
[5] Dempsey, J.V., Lucassen, B.A., Haynes, L.L. and Casey, M.S. (1996). Instructional applications of computer games. Paper presented to the American Educational Research Association, 8–12 April 1996, New York. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 394 500.
[6] Fabricatore, C. (2000). Learning and videogames: an unexploited synergy. Available
[7] Costikyan, G. (2002). I Have No Words & I Must Design. Proceedings of Computer Games and Digital Cultures, Tampere University Press, pp. 9-33.
[8] Lindley, C. A. (2002). The gameplay Gestalt, narrative and interactive storytelling. Proceedings of Computer Games and Digital Cultures, Tampere University Press, pp. 1-11.
[9] Crawford, C. (2003). Chris Crawford on Game Design. Thousand Oaks, CA: New Riders Publishing.
[10] Klabbers, J. (2003). The gaming landscape: a taxonomy for classifying games and simulations. In Copier, M. and Raessens, J. (eds) Level Up: Digital Games Research Conference Proceedings. Utrecht: Universiteit Utrecht, 2003, pp. 54-67.
[11] Juul, J. (2003). The Game, the Player, the World: Looking for a Heart of Gameness. In Copier, M. and Raessens, J. (eds.) Level Up: Digital Games Research Conference Proceedings. Utrecht: Universiteit Utrecht, 2003, pp. 30-45.
[12] Salen, K. and Zimmerman, E. (2003). Rules of play: the fundamentals of game design. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
[13] Von Ahn, L. and Dabbish, L. (2008). Designing games with a purpose. Communications of the ACM, 51(8), 58-67.
[14] Abt, C. (1970). Serious Games. New York: The Viking Press.
[15] Haythornthwaite, C. (2009). Crowds and communities: Light and heavyweight models of peer production. Proceedings of the Hawaii International Conference On System Sciences, pp. 1–1