Close but Not Too Close: Distance and Relevance in Designing Games for Reflection

Ioanna Iacovides, Joe Cutting, Jen Beeston, Marta E. Cecchinato, Elisa D. Mekler, Paul Cairns

    Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Reflection is an important precursor to attitude and behavior change, but existing advice on designing for reflection in games is mixed and requires further empirical investigation. We report on the design and evaluation (n=32) of a game to prompt student reflection on work-life balance. Participants played as themselves or a third person character (Alex). An inductive qualitative analysis of post-play interviews, and a follow-up one week later, resulted in four themes relating to how gameplay facilitated reflection: making (sensible) consequences visible; it's like MY life; the space between Alex and I; and triggers in everyday life. A deductive qualitative analysis also indicated that while both games resulted in different forms of reflection for the majority of players, those who role-played as Alex appeared more likely to experience higher levels of reflection. Through exploring the ways in which the two versions of the game succeeded, and failed, to support reflection, we highlight the importance of providing a relevant context to players (so the game feels close to their experience), and allowing them to role-play as someone other than themselves (but not too close).
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalProc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact.
    Issue numberCHI PLAY
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022


    • role-play
    • evaluation
    • reflection
    • work-life balance
    • game design


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