Persuasive Games Competition: Creating Games That Make People Think

The winners were announced in May 2014 - the games are now hosted on the Errordiary games page.



Is designing games your thing? Do you think games can contribute to the understanding of science? If this sounds like you, we’d love to see you at the Persuasive Games Competition!

The CHI+MED project (which involves researchers from Queen Mary University, City University, Swansea University and UCL) invites teams of students to design a game that will be made freely available on errordiary.org. Prizes will be awarded at the final showcase, including £1000 for first place, £500 for runner up and £500 for the people’s choice. Get started by registering here for our kick-off event, taking place on Feb 1st 2014 at UCL.

The problem:

The CHI+MED project is investigating how to improve the safety of interactive medical devices, such as infusion pumps in an effort to reduce errors and thus save lives.  When disaster strikes people often look for an individual to blame, whether to the pilot of an airline that crashed or to the nurse who delivered a fatal dose of medication. A key concept that CHI+MED project aims communicate is the need to move beyond a blame culture towards more sophisticated appreciation of human error. The main goal of the competition is to produce a game that can raise awareness of blame culture and get players to reflect on how individuals are blamed even when the wider system is at fault. The final product will be hosted on the Errordiary website as part of the Discovery Zone section to provide an interactive way for people to consider the causes of human error. Further, the game should inspire curiosity about the other sections within the Discovery Zone e.g. materials within the Learning section.

More reasons to get involved:

Apart from contributing to a research project and the chance to win one of the prizes, taking part in a collaborative design competition will look great on your CV. Plus, coming along to the kick-off day will give you a chance to learn something new and get you to think about about games as being more than just a bit of fun.

Organising committee:

The competition organisers consist of members from UCL, Queen Mary University London and the Mobile Collective.

Competition chair:  Jo Iacovides (i.iacovides@ucl.ac.uk)
Organisers: Katarzyna StawarzAnna Cox, Margaret Gold, Brian Fuchs, Sarah Wiseman, Chrystie Myketiak.

If you have any questions about the competition, please email the competition chair. 

Kick-off event

The competition begins with a kick-off day for students on Feb 1st 2014 at UCL - please register here. The event is free but you will need to register in advance to book a place. The event is only open to students (at any level of higher education, from any institution, and in any area) so please remember to bring your student ID to confirm your student status. Registration is open until Jan 27th, places are limited so make sure to register soon to avoid disappointment.

Event poster

We’ll have a series of mini-talks by domain experts who will present perspectives that relate to key aspects of our research including: human error, blame culture and working within healthcare. We’ll also have an exciting session on designing persuasive games. At the Q&A session, you can fire your questions at our panel of experts. After lunch, we’ll get people started on developing ideas with a workshop on novel game mechanics. This will be your chance to dive in, find teammates and explore ideas for the competition.

Location: UCL, Wilkins Old Refectory, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT

To take part in the competition, teams need to register by Feb 14th. Teams can register here. Only one person needs to register each team but you will need to have the following information for each of your team members: full name, university, department, course and email address.


Teams can consist of between 2-6 members, where at least 1 team member needs to have attended the initial kick-off day. All team members must be students (at any level of higher education, from any institution, and in any area). Cross-disciplinary collaboration is strongly encouraged. Teams are also encouraged to ensure they have considered a diverse audience of players and have carried out some form of play testing during the design process. You are advised to looks the Sources of Inspiration section and the submission form before starting out. Your game needs to be a web application (e.g. HTML/JavaScript), and should be playable in all major web browsers (Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Opera). Game engines, such as Unity, can also be used though please ensure that the game will be browser-based as opposed to something players will have to download.


The deadline for submissions will be April 5th. Your team must complete the submission form and send it to Jo Iacovides by the competition deadline. This form will include a description of how the game was developed, including any iterative play testing that was carried out. Proof of student status for each team member (e.g. a photocopy of your student ID or a letter from your tutor) must also be sent to the competition organisers before the deadline - otherwise your entry will be disqualified. You will be expected to share your final project on Github, while the game will hosted on the Errordiary website subject. By submitting your game to the competition, you will be agreeing that it cannot be used for commercial purposes and that others are free to share and adapt it, as long as they credit the original creators.

You can download the submission form here - please email this to Jo Iacovides (i.iacovides@ucl.ac.uk) along with proof of student status, when you submit your entry.


The domain experts from the kick-off day and members of the organising committee will judge the final entries and the games will be play tested with a number of players. The evaluation will consider how easy the game is to play, how engaging it is, if it gets people to think about about human error and blame culture, and whether playing it makes people curious to find out more about these issues via errordiary.org

Prize-giving and showcase event:

Teams will be invited to the UCL campus for a prize giving event and to showcase their entries on the evening of May 22nd. Spaces will be provided for each team to display their game (teams will should bring their own devices to display the game on). Attendees will be able to play the games available and to vote for their favourite. Invited teams will be asked to make a short presentation about the game and their design process before the winners are announced and the prizes awarded. Prizes include £1000 for first place, £500 for runner up and £500 for the people’s choice. Drinks and nibbles will be provided. The event is free and open to the public, though places will be limited and registration required.

Important dates and deadlines:

  1. Deadline for kick-off registration: 24/01/14
  2. Competition kick-off event: 01/02/14
  3. Deadline for competition registration: 14/02/14
  4. Deadline for game submission: 05/04/14
  5. Judging and user-testing: 05/04/14-15/05/14
  6. Deadline for showcase registration: 15/05/14
  7. Prize giving & showcase event: 22/05/14
Games to try
  1. Hush: Set 1994 Rwanda, during a Hutu raid on a Tutsi community but instead of being a soldier, you take on the role of a mother trying to hush her child to sleep. Described as a vignette the game uses rhythm game mechanics in a novel way to influence the player’s emotions.
  2. Sweatshop: Sweatshop is a good example of a game that tackles a controversial subject matter in a way that makes players think. However, it is rather text heavy and it can take a while for the point to come across.
  3. Passage: Now part of the Museum of Modern Art in New York video game collection, Passage is a game that encourages introspection about our life’s journey and end.
  4. Execution: Execution will only take a few moments to try out, please download it and give it a go before you read anything else about it. Once you have, have a look at this blog post
  5. Papers please: In Papers Please, you take on the role of border control office in a fictional eastern European country. The game does take a while to get in to but has been described as a “a post-modern spin on the old ‘I was only following orders’ defence” that people reflecting about another controversial subject matter.
  6. 19 games about understanding, empathy and the self: if you need more inspiration have a look at these!
Interesting reading and watching
  1. What it’s like to be nurse: blog post
  2. 66% of nurses report not having enough time to comfort & talk to patients: 'Care left undone' report
  3. Human error and blame culture: Errordiary learning zone
  4. Critical Play by Mary Flanagan: specifically the chapter on the critical play design process
  5. Values@Play project: integrating values into the design process
  6. Persuasive Games by Ian Bogost: an introduction to the concept
  7. Brenda Brathwaite’s TED talk: Gaming for Understanding 

Page last modified on 17 dec 13 17:24 by Ioanna Iacovides