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A breathtaking journey. On the design of an empathy-arousing mixed-reality game

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Persuasive games exist for a wide variety of objectives, from marketing, to healthcare and activism. Some of the more socially-aware ones cast players as members of disenfranchised minorities, such as migrants, prompting them to 'see what they see'. In parallel, a growing number of designers has recently started to leverage immersive technologies to enable the public to temporarily inhabit another person, to 'sense what they sense'. From these two converging perspectives, we hypothesize a still-uncharted space of opportunities at the crossroads of games, empathy, persuasion, and immersion. Following a Research through Design approach, we explored this space by designing A Breathtaking Journey, an embodied and multisensory mixed-reality game providing a first-person perspective of a refugee's journey. A qualitative study was conducted with a grounded theory/open coding methodology to tease out empathy-arousing characteristics, and to chart this novel game design space. As we elaborate on our analysis, we provide insights on empathic mixed-reality experiences, and conclude with offering three design opportunities: visceral engagement, reflective moments and affective appeals, to spur future research and design.




Kors, M. J. L., Ferri, G., Van Der Spek, E. D., Ketel, C., & Schouten, B. A. M. (2016). A breathtaking journey. On the design of an empathy-arousing mixed-reality game. In CHI PLAY 2016 - Proceedings of the 2016 Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play (pp. 91–104). Association for Computing Machinery, Inc.

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