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Gamification and Us: Social Promises and Challenges of a Gameful World

Apr 03, 2015
1:30 pm
Alumni Center


Join us for a conversation between Sebastian Deterding, Co-editor and Northeastern Assistant Professor in Game Design and Eric Gordon, Associate Professor of Visual and Media Arts and Director of the Engagement Lab at Emerson College. This event is part of the CAMD Book Club series, which celebrates new publications by faculty in the College of Arts, Media and Design.

Nike+, Foursquare, Opower, Khan Academy: More and more products, services, and organizations are being gamified – infused with design elements taken from games and play. While some visionaries claim that gamification can energize millions of volunteers to solve mankind’s toughest challenges, others fear that these algorithmic incentive systems will become our new robot overlords – or contend that gamification is nothing more than a marketing buzzword for dressing up old technologies with a new veneer.

But few ask: What are the promises and challenges of this gameful world for us – as citizens, coworkers, customers, students, patients, everyday people? This is the question The Gameful World, out now with MIT Press, set out to answer. In this book club, co-editor Sebastian Deterding will engage in a dialogue of talks and debate with Eric Gordon, director of the Emerson College’s Engagement Lab, to chart the major societal potentials and challenges of gamification.

by Ivo Näpflin

Sebastian Deterding

Dr. Sebastian Deterding is a researcher and designer working on playful, gameful, and engaging design. He is an assistant professor in Northeastern University’s Game Design Program,  associate of the international design agency Hubbub, and founder and organiser of the Gamification Research Network. As a game and user experience designer, he has created engaging experiences touching millions of people for clients including the BBC, BMW, Deutsche Telekom, Greenpeace, Novartis, Otto Group, and numerous startups. His work has been covered by The Guardian, The New Scientist, and the Los Angeles Times among others. An internationally sought after speaker, he is frequently invited to keynote and present at venues like GDC Online, Google, Games Learning Society, IDEO, Interaction, Lift, Persuasive, Playful, UX London, or Web Directions, and has been featured on TED. He lives online at


Eric Gordon

Eric Gordon is an associate professor in the department of Visual and Media Arts at Emerson College where he is the founding director of the Engagement Lab. He is also a faculty associate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.  Eric studies civic media and public engagement within the US and the developing world. He is specifically interested in the application of games and play in these contexts. In addition to being a researcher, he is also the designer of award winning “engagement games,” which are games that facilitate civic participation. He has served as an expert advisor for the UN Development Program, the International Red Cross / Red Crescent, the World Bank, as well as municipal governments throughout the United States. In addition to articles and chapters on games, digital media, urbanism and civic engagement, he is the author of two books: Net Locality: Why Location Matters in a Networked World (Blackwell 2011, with Adriana de Souza e Silva) and The Urban Spectator: American Concept Cities From Kodak to Google (Dartmouth 2010). His edited volume (with Paul Mihailidis) entitled Civic Media: Technology, Design, Practice will be published by MIT Press in 2016. He received his Ph.D. in 2003 from the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California.