On Participatory Design

Q: Participatory Design (PD) is rooted in a real concern people have that technology and design will overshadow them.  They basically want to have a say in how they conduct their lives and how design choices will affect them.

But an argument could be made that games are-in a sense- voluntary.  People don’t have to play them, at least not in the same mandatory way they have to deal with design choices made in their workplace environment. Thus, the design of games may need not have the kind of political overtones that PD automatically gives off.
But is this true?  Agree or Disagree?  Is this more or less applicable for some types of games than others?  Discuss.A: Isaac apologizes for the question, I think it would be nice to forgive him… this time.

Alright, returning to the question: When it come to participatory design, the general idea is to have the game created by treating the user as either a muse or a co-creator. If the user is a muse, then he will inspire most of the design of the game but he will not be responsible for creation or design of any content, just the generation of ideas. Should the user be treated as a co-creator, then the degree of participation will be greater, as the designer will then come with guidance for the user, based on his experience, while the user will come with ideas into what he thinks will be useful for him, as well as being the creative motor behind it, as Sanders mentions: “The authors take co-creation to refer to any act of collective creativity, i.e., creativity that is shared by two or more people. Co-creation is a very broad term with applications ranging from the physical to the  metaphysical and from the material to the spiritual, as can be seen by the output of search engines. By  co-design we indicate collective creativity as it is applied across the whole span of a design process, as  was intended by the name of this journal. Thus, co-design is a specific instance of co-creation. Co-design refers, for some people, to the collective creativity of collaborating designers.” (Sanders, 2).

Such interesting design pieces come for instance in the popular Dungeons and Dragons, where each user describes his actions orally with the game master who is also a player taking the story into different directions. Here the rules are only meant to keep the game rooted somewhere and provide a certain framework, while the players themselves take the creative actions, with the game master responsible for connecting the creative actions with the stats, practically connecting the art with the math. Another example is the Forum Theatre as mentioned by Brandt: “Here a group of factors play a conventional piece of theatre. The audience are asked to suggest changes in the play according to their preferences, and after a debate the play with incorporated changes is performed again.” (Brandt,3)
This term however, can not apply to other types of games, for instance arcade games, board games or other games that require complex gameplay mechanics. Such games may actually come out worse through the efforts of co-design, due to their complex elements. However, most of the games might actually benefit from it, and by the way it is practiced today, it might be very useful, as Sanders points out: [it] “is focused more on the exploration and identification of presumably positive future opportunities than it is on the identification and amelioration of adverse consequences.” (Sanders, 4)
After looking through these arguments, one would think “why should we not give it a try?” The only drawback might come from the time needed to spend with the co-designer but in a world that is becoming more and more consumed by technology, that slowly starts looking somewhat like the silent film Metropolis (1927, Fritz Lang), communication to create might actually be more of a breath of fresh air that could help the creativity and possibilities of a game, even an app.

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