Designing Game-Based Interventions for Subverting Normative Attitudes

  • Mikel Polzer
  • Helmut HlavacsEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10507)


The present study explores persuasive and interventional strategies for designing and evaluating low-threshold browser games that adequately aim for affording prejudice-reducing social impact in everyday life scenarios. Our investigation was guided by the premise that a covert persuasion approach is suited for also reaching out to otherwise adverse attitude holders. Building on a framework for embedding change-related messages into games by their design, and in combination with rhetorical techniques and subversive strategies from queer-theoretical philosophy and social psychology, we modified an existing impactful game about Coming Out so as to obfuscate its change-related content, and make it more approachable for a not-queer audience. The evaluation of the modified prototype suggests the efficacy of the employed strategies for facilitating and elevating emotional engagement based on group membership effects, which is linked to a greater potential for attitude change and prejudice reduction.


Social impact games Prejudice reduction Embedded persuasion Activist games Queer game design 


  1. 1.
    International Telecommunication Union (ITU): Measuring the Information Society (MIS) Report (2015).
  2. 2.
    Prot, S., Anderson, C.A., Gentile, D.A., Warburton, W., Saleem, M., Groves, C.L., Brown, S.C.: Media as agents of socialization. In: Grusec, J., Hastings, P.D. (eds.) Handbook of Socialization, pp. 276–300. Guilford Press, New York (2015)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Entertainment Software Association (ESA): Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry (2016).
  4. 4.
    Nakamura, L.: Race in/for cyberspace: identity tourism and racial passing on the internet. In: Trend, D. (ed.) Reading Digital Culture, pp. 226–235. Blackwell, Malden (2001)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hussain, Z., Griffiths, M.D.: Gender swapping and socializing in cyberspace: an exploratory study. CyberPsychology Behav. 11, 47–53 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bosson, J.K., Taylor, J.N., Prewitt-Freilino, J.L.: Gender role violations and identity misclassification: the roles of audience and actor variables. Sex Roles 55, 13–24 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Chambers, S.A.: An incalculable effect’: subversions of heteronormativity. Polit. Stud. 55, 656–679 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Klimmt, C.: Serious games and social change. Why they (should) work. In: Ritterfeld, U. (ed.) Serious Games: Effects and Mechanisms, pp. 247–270. Routledge, New York (2009)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Kaufman, G., Flanagan, M.: A psychologically “embedded” approach to designing games for prosocial causes. Cyberpsychology J. Psychosoc. Res. Cyberspace 9(3) (2015)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hlavacs, H.: Serious games must look like casual games. In: Entertainment in Serious Games and Entertaining Serious Purposes Workshop at ICEC 2014, Australia, Sydney (2014)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Geoff, K., Mary, F., Max, S.: Creating stealth game interventions for attitude and behavior change: an “embedded design” model. Divers. Play Games Cult. Identities 2(3), 173–193 (2016)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Bohner, G., Dickel, N.: Attitudes and attitude change. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 62, 391–417 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Bodenhausen, G., Gawronski, B.: Attitude change, pp. 957–969. Oxford Unversity Press (2013)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Brown, R.: Prejudice: Its Social Psychology. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester (2010)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Greenwald, A.G., Banaji, M.R., Rudman, L.A., Farnham, S.D., Nosek, B.A., Mellott, D.S.: A unified theory of implicit attitudes, stereotypes, self-esteem, and self-concept. Psychol. Rev. 109(1), 3–25 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Frey, D.: Recent research on selective exposure to information. In: Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, pp. 41–80. Elsevier BV (1986)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Dovidio, J.F.: Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism. Academic Press, Orlando (1986)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Brehm, J.W.: Control, its loss, and psychological reactance. In: Weary, G., Gleicher, F., Marsh, K.L. (eds.) Control Motivation and Social Cognition, pp. 3–30. Springer, New York (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Green, M.C., Brock, T.C.: The role of transportation in the persuasiveness of public narratives. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 79(5), 701–721 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Bogost, I., Games, P.: The Expressive Power of Videogames (MIT Press). The MIT Press, Cambridge (2007)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Butler, J.: Gender Trouble. Routledge Press, New York (1999)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Birtel, M.D., Crisp, R.J.: Psychotherapy and social change: utilizing principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy to help develop new prejudice-reduction interventions. Front. Psychol. 6, November 2015Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Turner, R.N., Hewstone, M., Voci, A.: Reducing explicit and implicit outgroup prejudice via direct and extended contact: the mediating role of self-disclosure and intergroup anxiety. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 93(3), 369–388 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Allport, G.W.: The Nature of Prejudice. Doubleday Anchor, Garden City (1958)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Stathi, S., Tsantila, K., Crisp, R.J.: Imagining intergroup contact can combat mental health stigma by reducing anxiety, avoidance and negative stereotyping. J. Soc. Psychol. 152, 746–757 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Case, N.: Coming Out Simulator (2014).
  27. 27.
    Appel, M., Gnambs, T., Richter, T., Green, M.C.: The transportation scale–short form (TS–SF). Media Psychol. 18, 243–266 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Lugmayr, A., Suhonen, E.S.J., Sendano, C.I., Hlavacs, H.: Serious Storytelling and Serious Entertainment - A Survey and Definition (2017). Accepted by Multimedia Tools and ApplicationsGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Entertainment Computing Research Group, Faculty of Computer ScienceUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

Personalised recommendations