DOKK Library

A Game of Dark Paterns: Designing Healthy, Highly-Engaging Mobile Games

Authors Jacob Aagaard Kevin Doherty Miria Emma Clausen Knudsen Per Bækgaard

License CC-BY-4.0

  A Game of Dark Paterns: Designing Healthy, Highly-Engaging
                       Mobile Games
                                    Jacob Aagaard                                        Miria Emma Clausen Knudsen∗
                        Technical University of Denmark                                     Technical University of Denmark
                               Lyngby, Denmark                                                     Lyngby, Denmark
                                 IT Minds ApS
                             Copenhagen, Denmark

                                    Per Bækgaard                                                        Kevin Doherty
                        Technical University of Denmark                                     Technical University of Denmark
                               Lyngby, Denmark                                                     Lyngby, Denmark

ABSTRACT                                                                     1     INTRODUCTION
Gaming is a more accessible, engaging and popular past-time than             Gaming is today a source of pleasure and joy for many more among
ever before. Recent research highlights games as strikingly efective         us than ever before; an activity, hobby and culture at the same time
means of capturing and holding our attention — so efective, some             relaxing, stimulating, social and uplifting. The now near-ubiquitous
argue, to the point of deleterious efect. An impassioned CHI2021             nature of mobile devices in particular has transformed gaming from
panel discussion directed these eforts towards the ethics and adop-          an activity bound in large part to the home console or computer, to
tion of dark patterns. And yet, we know little as to how dark pat-           a means of passing the time accessible to many, anywhere and at
terns are perceived and arise in the design, development and use of          any time. Mobile gaming has proved a means and medium of en-
games. This paper seeks to address this knowledge gap by recount-            gaging all ages and demographics[41], accounting for a signifcant
ing fndings from a design-led inquiry comprising interviews and              percentage of all screen time, and in turn gaming market share;
workshops conducted with mobile game players, designers, devel-              generating vast profts for game development studios, and driving
opers, and business developers. We contribute an understanding               new, highly-engaging and lucrative game design paradigms, ‘gacha,’
of how dark patterns arise in the development, use and commer-               ‘casual’ and ‘hyper-casual’ in nature [41].
cialisation of mobile games, their efects on players and industry                While much research points to the benefts of gaming - as a past-
professionals, and means for the consideration, negotiation and              time like many others, relaxing, social, educational and even thera-
navigation of these strategies for gamer-engagement by design —              peutic - others have highlighted the capacity of highly-engaging
in support of healthier, highly-engaging game experiences.                   games to induce harm; adversely impacting individuals’ wellbeing
                                                                             in terms economic, social and psychological [9, 46].1 Recent public
CCS CONCEPTS                                                                 and policy attention has focused on game mechanisms considered
• Human-centered computing;                                                  to place players at increased economic risk; including in particular
                                                                             micro-transactions and loot-boxes now designated gambling in cer-
KEYWORDS                                                                     tain legal jurisdictions [6, 38, 59]. This public attention has equally
HCI, design, mobile, games, dark patterns, wellbeing, engagement,            highlighted the capacity of highly-engaging games to adversely
development                                                                  impact particularly vulnerable populations [9, 46]; surfacing numer-
                                                                             ous accounts of young children’s spending of tens of thousands of
ACM Reference Format:                                                        US dollars on casual mobile games [3, 14, 32, 39, 48, 50, 55], and the
Jacob Aagaard, Miria Emma Clausen Knudsen, Per Bækgaard, and Kevin Do-
                                                                             description of certain players as ‘whales,’ enthusiastically sought
herty. 2022. A Game of Dark Patterns: Designing Healthy, Highly-Engaging
                                                                             after by game studios for their vast monthly spending [16]. Many
Mobile Games. In CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Extended Abstracts (CHI ’22 Extended Abstracts), April 29-May 5, 2022, New   of these critiques can be related to broader criticisms of digital tech-
Orleans, LA, USA. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 8 pages.       nology as detracting from daily life, reducing autonomy, serving
1145/3491101.3519837                                                         as distraction, and manipulating thoughts and behaviour — often
∗ Both
                                                                             leading to polarised discussion of personal, social and corporate
         frst and second authors contributed equally to this research.
                                                                             responsibilities across public media, online fora, and the academic
                                                                             literature alike [43–45, 49].
                                                                                 Human-computer interaction (HCI) researchers attempting to
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution International     understand the design and impact of mobile games have turned
4.0 License.
                                                                             to the identifcation and description of ‘dark patterns’ employed
CHI ’22 Extended Abstracts, April 29-May 5, 2022, New Orleans, LA, USA
                                                                             1 The concept of technology - including gaming - addiction, although not our focus here
© 2022 Copyright held by the owner/author(s).
ACM ISBN 978-1-4503-9156-6/22/04.                                            and remains intensely debated, is broadly considered an unfounded and misleading                                      narrative by many HCI researchers [28, 29].
CHI ’22 Extended Abstracts, April 29-May 5, 2022, New Orleans, LA, USA                                                              Aagaard et al.

by designers and developers, collectively game creators (GCs), for        2   RELATED WORK
the engagement of players — design strategies yielding experiences        This work takes place at the intersection of three key HCI research
against users’ best interests and often eluding their awareness or        threads; concerning design for user engagement, the implementa-
consent [58]. Prior research has focused on the development of            tion and ethics of dark patterns, and digital wellbeing.
defnitions and ontologies of dark patterns [21], including not only          User Engagement. Much HCI research in recent years has focused
loot boxes but playing by appointment, grinding, reciprocity, and         on the engagement of users [15]. With respect to gaming alone,
many more. These design patterns are often posited as a result of         researchers have applied psychological theory to persuasive game
the nature of game development as not only a creative but com-            mechanics [31], studied engaging collaborative play [60], and ex-
mercial process comprising practices of design, implementation            plored players’ motivations for gameplay [23]. Within the gaming
and user testing driven by quantitative data and business metrics         industry, the realisation of highly-engaging game experiences is
including retention rates and lifetime value measures [7, 53]. The        the ultimate aim of most game creators, for reasons both creative
adverse efects of highly-engaging game experiences are often then         and economic. And it is through games, and strategies of gami-
described as an inevitable consequence of the adoption of dark            fcation, that we have often proved most successful at engaging
patterns in the pursuit of a proft motive. A richer understanding of      users [44]. User engagement design is supported by a wide vari-
the adoption, implementation and use of dark game design patterns         ety of strategies, measures and theories, including and often most
may yet however allow us to facilitate and prioritise the ethical         prominently, self-determination theory [17, 27] and fow theory
design and development of digital technologies of all kinds.              [24, 26, 35]. Cowley et al. posit that games are particularly suited to
   And yet, we currently know little as to how we might design            generating experiences of fow, noting that “games give immediate
to support healthy, highly-engaging game experiences. This is a           access to their inherent potential for optimal experience, and that
challenge signifcantly complicated by twin ethical dilemmas at            potential is facilitated by the structured nature of further game-
the heart of the experience and adoption of dark patterns. The frst       play” [11]. Gaming is therefore a domain in which we have proved
pertains to the degree of personal responsibility and autonomy            strikingly successful at designing for engagement.
granted to players in weighing questions of ethical engagement.              Dark Patterns. So successful in fact that some have begun to
As one indie game designer put it; “diferent kinds of experiences         worry about the ethical ramifcations, and practices of ethical decision-
are meaningful to diferent people, and . . . we shouldn’t judge peo-      making, entailed in the process of game design. Recent years have
ple for what is meaningful to them” [12]. The second, less studied,       seen increased attention devoted, in particular, to the topic of dark
concerns the involvement of multiple stakeholders in the design,          patterns [42]. Much of this work has focused on identifying, defn-
development and commercialisation of mobile games. While some             ing and categorising strategies considered misleading, manipulative
have argued that the only solution to the adoption of manipulative        or even coercive. And yet developing an ontology of dark design
design patterns is to “shame the developers away from using them”         patterns is itself far from an easy task; the efects of these strategies
[34], such moralising in practice tends not only to lead to polarised     dependent on a wide variety of individual characteristics, and their
conversations but may also serve to mask the complex combination          defnition morally-contingent. Zagal et al. comment, for example,
of values at play in the process of highly-engaging game design —         that game design patterns are best thought of as ‘value-neutral
an industry practice into which researchers currently possess little      tools’ yet admit that this “does not necessarily make them useful
insight. Industry professionals have commented that the “responsi-        for identifying problematic or unethical design choices made by
bilities (for digital wellbeing, ed.) lie everywhere and with everyone”   designers” [58]. Recent eforts by HCI researchers to further our
[33]. To what extent is this the case, and what might this look like      understanding of the relationship between GCs’ intentions and
in practice?                                                              players’ experiences include assessment of the impact of dark pat-
   This paper seeks to address this knowledge gap in support of           terns on users [13, 20, 36, 56] and the creation of new guidelines for
the design of healthy, highly-engaging game experiences, by devel-        GCs [1, 34, 47]. Lukof et al. suggest new design norms as means
oping an understanding of a) how dark patterns are experienced by         to mitigate the efects of dark patterns; including shaming compa-
mobile game players, b) the role of diverse industry stakeholders         nies which employ dark patterns, requiring GCs to articulate the
in crafting dark patterns, and c) how we might in fact design to          ethical values underlying their design practice, and incorporating
shape the adoption and experience of dark patterns in support of          material concerning dark patterns into design curricula. Fitton &
wellbeing. We recount fndings from a design-led inquiry compris-          Read similarly ofer a framework to support critical consideration
ing interviews and design workshops conducted with a diverse              of dark patterns in the creation of free-to-play games, to be em-
sample of mobile game players, GCs and business developers (BDs);         ployed during game design to “help creators of free-to-play apps
contributing an understanding of just how dark patterns arise in          focus on the experience and wellbeing of younger users even when
the development, use and commercialisation of mobile games, their         monetization is essential” [18].
efects on players and industry professionals, and means for the              Digital Wellbeing. Questions of ethical user engagement and de-
consideration, negotiation and navigation of these strategies for         sign then hinge on conceptions of what it means to be well. And
gamer-engagement by design — in support of healthier, highly-             much HCI research has focused on the topic of digital wellbeing
engaging game experiences.                                                in recent years, producing new measures [25, 37], implications for
                                                                          design [8, 19, 22, 40], and the application of new lenses to gam-
                                                                          ing research, including emotional regulation [10, 51, 54] and life
                                                                          satisfaction perspectives [57, p 16]. Signifcantly, studies suggest
A Game of Dark Paterns: Designing Healthy, Highly-Engaging Mobile Games             CHI ’22 Extended Abstracts, April 29-May 5, 2022, New Orleans, LA, USA

                                                 Figure 1: The Design Research Process Followed

that both positive and negative emotions alike shape and aid in           Table 1: Participant Demographic Characteristics (in order
producing good player experiences [30].                                   of participation)
   These overlapping research threads then together surface the
question: Is it possible, and how might we, develop game experi-                                                                Time spent
ences both ‘healthy’ and ‘highly-engaging?’                                    ID        Age      Gender       Location
                                                                                                                                playing daily

3    METHOD                                                                    PL1       33       Female       N. America       3-5hrs.
Through this work then, we aimed to develop an understanding                   PL2       22       Male         Europe           1-2hrs.
of players’ and GCs’ experiences of dark patterns, just how these              DV1       26       Male         Europe           5-10min.
design patterns come to exist, and how we might support and                    DS1       29       Male         Europe           1-2hrs.
practice design to realise healthy highly-engaging mobile game                 PL3       24       Female       Europe           30-60min.
experiences.                                                                   DS2       30       Male         Europe           10-30min.
   To generate and leverage insight into these complex problems,               DV2       25       Male         Europe           10-30min.
we adopted a design research approach entailing stages of quali-               PL4       37       Male         Asia             5-7hrs.
tative research, divergent ideation, convergent prototyping, and               DS3       35       Male         Europe           30-60min.
testing; inspired by the Stanford’s fve-stage model (See              DV3       28       Male         Europe           1-5min.
Figure 1). First, 16 individual semi-structured interviews allowed             PL5       28       Male         Europe           3-5hrs.
us to empathise and identify common themes across participants.                PL6       36       Female       N. America       30-60min.
Divergent brainstorming and mind mapping exercises then enabled                PL7       40       Male         N. America       10-30min.
the generation of concept solutions to the challenge of designing              PL8       25       Other        N. America       30-60min.
healthy, highly-engaging games. These were expanded and iterated               BD1       30       Female       Europe           10-30min.
upon together with stakeholders during the co-design workshops of              BD2       30       Male         Europe           30-60min.
phase 3 - four workshops conducted with participants in pairs - and            PL9       32       Male         Asia             5-7hrs.
then further developed and refned using knowledge and insight                  PL10      29       Male         Europe           3-5hrs
from these interactions during phase 4. In phase 5, stakeholders               PL11      24       Female       Europe           5-10min.
were again consulted during workshops for the iterative co-design,             PL12      24       Female       Europe           10-30min.
testing and validation of these concepts. And fnally, we added a               PL13      28       Male         Europe           1-2hrs.
sixth phase, during which a coherent strategy to support commu-
nication and translation of the outputs and design implications of
the research project at scale and in practice was developed.
   Participants for this project included 13 mobile game players          and BDs played games occasionally. Players, on the other hand,
(PLs), 3 professional game designers (DSs), 3 game developers (DVs)       all played multiple times a day, with the exception of three; two
and 2 BDs, recruited through social media (Reddit, ResetEra, Twit-        playing once a day and one only occasionally. All GCs and BDs
ter and Facebook), LinkedIn, university intranet, and convenience         resided in Europe, while only three players did so, four living in
sampling of personal, professional and academic networks (See Ta-         North America and one in Asia. All participant interactions took
ble 1). This was a diverse sample of stakeholders, the engagement         place over Zoom, and were organised using email and Discord,
of whom we considered an equally important design challenge in            as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We employed the virtual
the planning and conduct of this research.                                work-space tool Miro to support the creation and use of several
   Participants ranged in age from 22 to 40; with an average age of       novel visual research methods for the reciprocal activation and
30. On average, GCs and BDs played mobile games for 31 minutes            creative engagement of participants in co-design. This included, for
per day, while players played an average of 136 minutes per day.          example, an ice-breaker and needs-fnding exercise entailing the
Two GCs described playing games once a day, while the other GCs           sorting of dark patterns (See Figure 2), and another involving the
CHI ’22 Extended Abstracts, April 29-May 5, 2022, New Orleans, LA, USA                                                             Aagaard et al.

 Figure 2: Absolute Ranking of Dark Patterns’ Impact (showing the average ranking across all 4 workshop participant pairs)

interactive placement of initial concept solutions according to axes      The patterns most often identifed and discussed by participants
of perceived value and feasibility.                                       included Pay to Win mechanics, Playing by Appointment, Daily Re-
   Interviews and workshops were envisaged to last an hour al-            wards, Artifcial Defcit, Invested Value (Sunk Cost Fallacy), Gacha
though often ran longer, participants eager and willing to share          mechanics, and Loot Boxes [52]. Many participants spoke of these
their insights. All data captured was fully anonymised, and par-          mechanics as frustrating, eliciting a sense of being cheated, and
ticipants provided an information sheet communicating the re-             situated in the context of an adversarial relationship between game
search procedure, objectives, and handling of data as well as a           professionals’ striving for proft and players’ desiring to avoid ma-
short and anonymous demographic questionnaire in advance of               nipulative monetization. And yet, participants also commented
each study phase. Digital notes were taken by both participants           that not all patterns were equally ‘dark,’ and some only so when
and researchers during these workshop exercises, interviews audio-        implemented in combination with other mechanics, otherwise sup-
recorded, anonymised, transcribed in full, and analysed using a com-      porting positive and fun experiences; “there’s not a moment when
bination of visual network analysis and Braun & Clarke’s method of        like this is good and this is bad. The small tricks you make, and the
thematic analysis entailing the inductive and iterative generation        small economy changes you make to the prices and to the timing,
of codes followed by cross-cutting themes; as comprise the key            etc. [defne] how exploitative or harmful these things are” (DS3).
fndings articulated in this paper [4, 5].                                 Participants unanimously agreed however that gambling mechanics
                                                                          including loot boxes and practices of impersonation were among
4     FINDINGS                                                            the darkest patterns in mobile game experiences (See Figure 2). And
The fndings of this work highlight three themes in particular;            yet, many players admitted to willingly and often engaging with
players’ experience of mobile games and dark patterns, industry           loot boxes in their favourite games, enjoying the time spent with
professionals’ perceptions as to how dark patterns arise and who’s        these mechanics while warning others away.
responsible for them, and how knowledge of the presence of ten-
sion, confict and conversation at the heart of mobile game design         4.2    The Road to Dark Design Is Paved With
practices might enable us to move closer towards the design of                   Good Intentions
healthy, highly-engaging game experiences.                                This raises the question then as to how dark patterns arise, and
                                                                          who’s responsible for them. Some GCs argued that dark patterns
4.1     Gaming; A Guilty Pleasure                                         could simply be ‘stumbled’ upon or ‘fallen’ into, whereas others
Players spoke of mobile gaming as part of everyday life, past-time,       spoke of these patterns as intentional, immutable and inescapable
and identity; engagement motivated by social connection, relax-           design choices driven by market forces beyond their control; “We
ation, and a desire to escape reality. Many participants commented        have ads every 30 seconds. That’s a lot, right. We do it because
on the accessibility of mobile games as generating broader ap-            that’s what everyone else does. I cannot aford to only show an ad
peal, bringing “a lot of other people into gaming that otherwise          every minute” (BD1). This trend was therefore described by GCs
wouldn’t” (PL7), and even extending the target audience for hyper-        as motivated not by greed but a desire to remain working in the
casual games to “everybody from 10 to 90” (DS1). Although almost          mobile game industry. GCs and BDs also spoke of dark patterns as
all participants spoke of positive and fun experiences with mobile        arising as a result of data-driven engagement metrics, as surfacing
games, many shared also negative perceptions of the medium, com-          inevitably over time, as related to other drivers of engagement, and
menting on manipulative practices, ‘industrial greed,’ exploitative       as a consequence of a culture of disposable experiences; “I’m going
monetization and a feeling of ‘burnout,’ leading to a felt need to        to do everything I can to make sure that you stay here and you
limit playtime. Players then spoke as knowing, yet also striving to       click on [our game] again . . . I know that you don’t actually care
distinguish in practice, between healthy and unhealthy game expe-         about this stuf I’ve made, you just try to distract yourself” (DS2).
riences; “I wish I were playing them less. I’ve tried . . . I’m trying”      When it came to the attribution of responsibility however, percep-
(PL1).                                                                    tions varied signifcantly among stakeholders. For some, including
    Asked about dark patterns, many players expressed a lack of           players themselves, ‘dark patterns exist because they work,’ and
familiarity with the term, although were able to easily identify          would only evolve if players were to stop engaging with such games
mechanics meeting the defnition encountered during game play.             or legal frameworks were instituted against these practices. Some
A Game of Dark Paterns: Designing Healthy, Highly-Engaging Mobile Games            CHI ’22 Extended Abstracts, April 29-May 5, 2022, New Orleans, LA, USA

BDs defended certain patterns, including in-game purchases, as            voices heard, and in relation to the game economy in particular; one
increasing the options available to players; “It makes it possible to     designer describing “the majority [of mobile games]” as “healthy
create deeper layers inside of the game” (BD1). Others returned to        . . . just wrapped in unhealthy wrapping paper . . . in order to make
the inevitability of dark patterns given market forces, refecting         money” (DS1). Monetisation practices adverse to creators then in-
a difusion of responsibility possibly attributable to a bystander         evitably drain creativity and detract from the felt meaning of GCs’
efect [2]. A small minority of GCs however counted themselves             work; “you sorta lose the passion when you’re making those games”
responsible, and expressed deep discontent with “very exploitative        (DV3). This suggests the value of weighing monetization as a design
forms of game design” (DS3). DV3, in particular, spoke of a consis-       process and practice in itself, and of striving to create value through
tent pattern of what they considered ‘trickery’ in game design as         monetization — enabling game developers to innovate new, more
motivating their departure from the industry, “sick of developing         creative and potentially less predatory monetization strategies.
those games.” For the majority of participants however, respon-                 Several participants commented that monetization elements
sibility was to some extent shared among players, parents, GCs,           could even enhance the game experience, or add new aspects to a
and industry fgures, noting that it was not always a design pat-          game, as in the case of the ‘battle pass’ model which allows play-
tern that was itself dark by nature but rather its implementation.        ers to pay money to gain more rewards while playing, providing
Prior defnitions of dark patterns tend to relate their presence to        “constantly a feeling of earning something” (DS2). Players then also
intentional decisions autonomously made by technology creators            should equally not be excluded from these conversations — ethical
[58]. Participants’ comments suggest however that we might also           game development a user-centred process in itself.
fnd value in defning the ‘dark game design pattern’ as a pattern
or combination of patterns implemented in such a way that it drives       5     DISCUSSION
players towards experiences negatively afecting their wellbeing.          Dark patterns then shape not only players’ but GCs’ and BDs’ expe-
                                                                          riences of mobile games and their development. And, we undertook
4.3    A Lack of Communication Leaves Us All In                           this user-centred design research process with the aim not only
       The Dark                                                           of generating insight into these strategies and practices, but of en-
                                                                          abling and practising design to support healthy, highly-engaging
This process of research and design provided insight into the inner       mobile game experiences.
workings of the mobile game industry. And the development of
hyper-casual games in particular was found to present a variety
of highly-unique features. These are games often developed in a
                                                                          5.1    Practising Design to Support Healthy
period as brief as two weeks (DS1), each kept as simple as possible in           Highly-Engaging Game Experiences
terms of theme and gameplay, and focused around only one or two           The early phases of this process led to the proposal of numerous
gameplay mechanics; allowing these games to be easily understood,         unique tools, methods and materials in support of this goal. Discus-
and immediately satisfying to play. Such games were described by          sion, interaction and evaluation of 6 of which with stakeholders
creators as the result of a ‘super data-driven’ approach designed to      led to the selection and refnement of 3 fnal concept solutions
keep players in a hyper-casual loop, and easy to play to the extent       deemed feasible, valuable, and which might realistically be adopted
that winning becomes trivial.                                             and implemented in practice — each approaching the problem of
   Many hyper-casual game studios work under a publisher, which           healthy highly-engaging game design from a unique perspective.
additionally helps developers to inform their design choices using            A Dark Pattern Badge. Our frst concept entails an illustrated
data gathered from the “successes and failures of thousands upon          badge system, integrated across app stores to inform players of
thousands of games” (DS1). This further enables not only the dis-         the dark patterns present within a game before its download — en-
solution of responsibility for design choices, but makes it difcult       abling players to make more informed choices and preparing them
for individual stakeholders to make their voices heard. This was          for the mechanisms to which they are likely to be exposed. This
refected most starkly in participants’ comments as to the implemen-       concept then provides increased transparency around the design
tation of monetization in mobile games as a point of tension and          and impact of dark patterns, inspired by players’ comments as to a
confict between diferent professional roles within development            lack of awareness of the dark design patterns a game could contain
studios, as between studios and players. Many game designers and          (See Figure 3). Considerations in the design of this concept included
developers spoke openly of their games and gaming as being ‘cor-          prioritising core principles of glanceability and legibility, enabling
rupted’ by their colleagues in business development, and of fghting       access to multiple levels of information, and avoiding explicit moral-
against the inclusion of these practices; “every game . . . started out   isation. A unique icon was created for each dark pattern; the type
as people with a passion for a thing . . . and as it keeps going, it      of pattern (temporal, monetary, social or psychological) denoted by
turns into a company thing, ‘how do we make more money?’ ”                a coloured border, and these icons displayed as a stack. Clicking an
(DV2), “it was ‘us against the business guy’ ” (DS3). Although the        icon would result in the presentation of a more detailed description
implementation of dark patterns might therefore be characterised          to users, facilitating the education of players over time including
as a conversation, it is one in which GCs described themselves as         in regard to the efect of multiple patterns in combination — an
having little voice; “you know what I would say if they invited me.       interaction highlighted by players as key to their impact. By simply
That’s probably why I’m not invited” (DS2).                               listing those patterns present, this concept attempts to refrain from
   The creation of healthy, highly-engaging mobile game experi-           granting weight to the often-polarising nature of the public and
ences then hinges in part on each stakeholder’s ability to make their     professional debate regarding dark patterns.
CHI ’22 Extended Abstracts, April 29-May 5, 2022, New Orleans, LA, USA                                                                       Aagaard et al.

                                                                         questions posed to players and considered useful by developers as
                                                                         means to both generate knowledge and foster empathy with play-
                                                                         ers. During workshops, participants were asked to rank a variety
                                                                         of emotional states in regard to their value for informing game de-
                                                                         velopment. GCs selected as most valuable the negatively-valenced
                                                                         emotions ‘annoyed’, ‘disappointed’ and ‘manipulated’, and the pos-
                                                                         itive emotion ‘interested’. Participants highlighted ‘interested’ as a
                                                                         felt experience “very unique and hard to achieve,” (DS3) and there-
                                                                         fore an indicator of healthy engagement, and the negative emotions
                                                                         chosen as among “the most unintentional things that might happen
                                                                         in the game,” (DS3) noting that a game would never strive to entice
                                                                         such feelings in players, whereas other negative feelings, such as
                                                                         ‘frustrated,’ could often be intentionally elicited to drive further
                                                                         investment from players.

                                                                         5.2     Translating Insights & Implications into
                                                                         The value of these three concept solutions lies not only in their fnal
                                                                         form but in the shared vision of ethical game design they promote
                                                                         and support; to empower players through increased transparency of
                                                                         game mechanics, educate and raise awareness among GCs of dark
Figure 3: The Final Dark Patern Badge System Design. Top:                patterns, and better inform GCs of players’ experiences, through-
The stamp when no dark patterns are present. Middle: The                 out the conception, creation and consumption of mobile games.
store page when dark patterns are present. Bottom: The dark              We advise researchers seeking to support such practices by design
pattern badge information pop-up.                                        to; a) elevate game players’ capacity to transparently weigh the
                                                                         presence and impact of game design patterns, as a means to combat
    A Healthy Game Design Course. Findings of this work highlighted      manipulative monetization mechanics, b) empower all stakeholders
GCs’ striving to create and participate in conversations around more     of game play and design to make their voices heard, overcoming
ethical practices of monetization, yet also a lack of confdence and      siloed mentalities and adversarial relationships, in support of the
knowledge among GCs in contrast with BDs. Our second concept             development of an ethical gaming culture, and c) increase GCs’ ca-
takes the form of a Healthy Game Design Course designed to grant         pacity to access rich and diverse forms of knowledge about players’
GCs the knowledge, tools and skills to implement new and alter-          experiences, beyond data driven-design. The fndings and refec-
native monetization design patterns in co-operation with other           tions of this work are best considered one contribution to this very
industry professionals. This concept was communicated drawing            conversation, in support of new opportunities to realise healthy,
inspiration from standardised university course descriptions. Our        highly-engaging mobile game experiences.
workshop participants envisioned a workshop format as most ef-
fective, during which students would learn about dark patterns and       6     CONCLUSION
possible alternate monetization strategies, actively engage in design    This work is not only about gaming but about how manipulative
problems, analyse games containing dark patterns, and work on            patterns arise in technology design, shape our experiences, and
healthy alternatives in groups. This course would additionally make      might be surfaced and navigated through practices and processes
use of real-world examples to simulate production conficts, pro-         of communication, conversation, and co-design, bringing players,
viding creators the tools to participate in such discussions on more     developers, designers and business developers together, elevating
equal terms, and in this way contributing towards more ethical           consciousness of each stakeholder’s responsibilities, and in turn
practices of monetization.                                               supporting healthy, highly-engaging mobile game experiences by
    An Emotion Assessment Toolkit. GCs and BDs all agreed that           design.
it is core gameplay which ultimately comprises the heart of any
highly-engaging game experience, and that although mobile game           ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
design is often a ‘super data-driven’ process, GCs often lack insight
into the impact of their choices on players; which can lead to the       We would like to thank all of our participants for your time, energy,
inadvertent implementation of dark patterns. Our fnal concept            expertise and enthusiasm. This project is supported by the Novo
comprises an Emotion Assessment Toolkit designed to elevate de-          Nordisk Foundation, Grant Number NNF16OC0022038.
velopers’ knowledge of players’ experiences, leveraging not only
interaction logs and retention rates but ecological momentary as-        REFERENCES
sessments of players’ mental states as means to inform practices          [1] Lucy A. Sparrow, Martin Gibbs, and Michael Arnold. 2021. The Ethics of Multi-
                                                                              player Game Design and Community Management: Industry Perspectives and
of decision-making in support of healthy highly-engaging game                 Challenges. In Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Com-
experiences. Key considerations in the design of this tool were the           puting Systems. 1–13.
A Game of Dark Paterns: Designing Healthy, Highly-Engaging Mobile Games                              CHI ’22 Extended Abstracts, April 29-May 5, 2022, New Orleans, LA, USA

 [2] Robert D. Blagg. 2016. Difusion of responsibility.       [26] Sinh Huynh, Seungmin Kim, JeongGil Ko, Rajesh Krishna Balan, and Youngki
     topic/bystander-efect/Difusion-of-responsibility                                          Lee. 2018. EngageMon: Multi-modal engagement sensing for mobile games. Pro-
 [3] Hannah Boland. 2019. British children spending £270m a year on mobile game                ceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies
     ‘loot boxes’ and in-app purchases.                2, 1 (2018), 1–27.
     2019/08/28/british-children-young-11-spend-270m-year-video-game-loot-                [27] Fares Kayali, Naemi Luckner, Peter Purgathofer, Katta Spiel, and Geraldine Fitz-
     boxes/                                                                                    patrick. 2018. Design considerations towards long-term engagement in games
 [4] Virginia Braun and Victoria Clarke. 2006. Using thematic analysis in psychology.          for health. In Proceedings of the 13th international conference on the foundations
     Qualitative research in psychology 3, 2 (2006), 77–101.                                   of digital games. 1–8.
 [5] Virginia Braun and Victoria Clarke. 2019. Refecting on refexive thematic analysis.   [28] Simone Lanette, Phoebe K Chua, Gillian Hayes, and Melissa Mazmanian. 2018.
     Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health 11, 4 (2019), 589–597.                 How Much is ‘Too Much’? The Role of a Smartphone Addiction Narrative in
 [6] Gabriel A Brooks and Luke Clark. 2019. Associations between loot box use,                 Individuals’ Experience of Use. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer
     problematic gaming and gambling, and gambling-related cognitions. Addictive               Interaction 2, CSCW (2018), 1–22.
     behaviors 96 (2019), 26–34.                                                          [29] Simone Lanette and Melissa Mazmanian. 2018. The Smartphone “Addiction”
 [7] Paolo Burelli. 2019. Predicting customer lifetime value in free-to-play games. In         Narrative is Compelling, but Largely Unfounded. In Extended Abstracts of the
     Data analytics applications in gaming and entertainment. Auerbach Publications,           2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 1–6.
     79–107.                                                                              [30] Nicole Lazzaro. 2009. Why we play: afect and the fun of games. Human-computer
 [8] Marta E Cecchinato, John Rooksby, Alexis Hiniker, Sean Munson, Kai Lukof,                 interaction: Designing for diverse users and domains 155 (2009), 679–700.
     Luigina Ciolf, Anja Thieme, and Daniel Harrison. 2019. Designing for digital         [31] Lukas Legner, Chloe Eghtebas, and Gudrun Klinker. 2019. Persuasive mobile game
     wellbeing: A research & practice agenda. In Extended abstracts of the 2019 CHI            mechanics for user retention. In Extended Abstracts of the Annual Symposium on
     conference on human factors in computing systems. 1–8.                                    Computer-Human Interaction in Play Companion Extended Abstracts. 493–500.
 [9] Annette Cerulli-Harms, M Münsch, Christian Thorun, Frithjof Michaelsen, and          [32] Mario Alvaro Limos. 2021. 8-Year-Old Kid Accidentally Spends P100,000 on
     Pierre Hausemer. 2020. Loot boxes in online games and their efect on consumers,           Parents’ Debit Card for Mobile Games.
     in particular young consumers. Publication for the Committee on the Internal              news/boy-spends-100k-on-parents-card-for-mobile-games-a00293-20210113
     Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), Policy Department for Economic, Scientifc     [33] Kai Lukof. 2019. Digital Wellbeing is way more than just reducing screen
     and Quality of Life Policies, European Parliament, Luxembourg 202 (2020).                 time.
[10] John Colwell. 2007. Needs met through computer game play among adolescents.               time-46223db9f057
     Personality and Individual Diferences 43, 8 (2007), 2072–2082.                       [34] Kai Lukof, Alexis Hiniker, Colin M Gray, Arunesh Mathur, and Shruthi Sai
[11] Ben Cowley, Darryl Charles, Michaela Black, and Ray Hickey. 2008. Toward an               Chivukula. 2021. What Can CHI Do About Dark Patterns?. In Extended Abstracts
     understanding of fow in video games. Computers in Entertainment (CIE) 6, 2                of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 1–6.
     (2008), 1–27.                                                                        [35] Andrzej Marczewski. 2015. Balancing rewards against efort in Gamifca-
[12] Alena Denisova, Julia Ayumi Bopp, Thuy Duong Nguyen, and Elisa D Mekler.                  tion.
     2021. “Whatever the Emotional Experience, It’s Up to Them”: Insights from De-             gamifcation/
     signers of Emotionally Impactful Games. In Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference    [36] Arunesh Mathur, Mihir Kshirsagar, and Jonathan Mayer. 2021. What makes a dark
     on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 1–9.                                               pattern... dark? design attributes, normative considerations, and measurement
[13] Linda Di Geronimo, Larissa Braz, Enrico Fregnan, Fabio Palomba, and Alberto               methods. In Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing
     Bacchelli. 2020. UI dark patterns and where to fnd them: a study on mobile                Systems. 1–18.
     applications and user perception. In Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on       [37] Alberto Monge Rofarello and Luigi De Russis. 2019. The race towards digital
     Human Factors in Computing Systems. 1–14.                                                 wellbeing: Issues and opportunities. In Proceedings of the 2019 CHI conference on
[14] Sarthak Dogra. 2021. 7-year-old kid generates Rs 1.33 lakh bill in iPhone                 human factors in computing systems. 1–14.
     game, father forced to sell family car to pay.      [38] BBC News. 2017. Star wars battlefront II game faces further backlash. https:
     technology/news/story/7-year-old-kid-generates-rs-1-33-lakh-bill-in-iphone-               //
     game-father-forced-to-sell-family-car-to-pay-1821290-2021-06-30                      [39] Malcolm Owen. 2020.            Child spends $16K on iPad game in-app pur-
[15] Kevin Doherty and Gavin Doherty. 2018. Engagement in HCI: Conception,                     chases.
     Theory and Measurement. ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR) 51, 5 (2018), 1–39.                  purchases-for-ipad-game-sonic-forces
[16] Daniel Epstein and Miho Inada. 2018. Meet the Man Who’s Spent $70,000 Playing        [40] Dorian Peters and Rafael Calvo. 2021. Design for Wellbeing–Methods and Strate-
     a Mobile Game.                   gies for Supporting Psychological Needs in User Experience. In Extended Abstracts
     000-playing-a-mobile-game-1521107255                                                      of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 1–3.
[17] Bernie Fabito and Rafael Cabredo. 2019. Exploring Game Aesthetics as An-             [41] Stanley Pierre-Louis. 2020.
     tecedents of Game Continuance: An Analysis in the Lens of Self-Determination              03/Final-Edited-2020-ESA_Essential_facts.pdf
     Theory. In Proceedings of the 2019 on Computers and People Research Conference.      [42] Yvonne Rogers, Margot Brereton, Paul Dourish, Jodi Forlizzi, and Patrick Olivier.
     157–163.                                                                                  2021. The dark side of interaction design. In Extended Abstracts of the 2021 CHI
[18] Dan Fitton and Janet C Read. 2019. Creating a framework to support the critical           Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 1–2.
     consideration of dark design aspects in free-to-play apps. In Proceedings of the     [43] Marijn Sax. 2021. Optimization of what? For-proft health apps as manipulative
     18th ACM International Conference on Interaction Design and Children. 407–418.            digital environments. Ethics and Information Technology (2021), 1–17.
[19] Margarita Genova, Nermen Ghoniem, and Kevin Doherty. 2021. ‘Hung Up’: De-            [44] Natasha Dow Schüll. 2012. Addiction by design. Princeton University Press.
     signing for the Mobile App Engagement University Students Desire. In Extended        [45] Natasha Dow Schüll. 2016. Data for life: Wearable technology and the design of
     Abstracts of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.               self-care. BioSocieties 11, 3 (2016), 317–333.
     1–7.                                                                                 [46] Akiko Shibuya, Mizuha Teramoto, Akiyo Shoun, and Kumiko Akiyama. 2019.
[20] Chad Phoenix Rose Gowler and Ioanna Iacovides. 2019. "Horror, guilt and                   Long-term efects of in-game purchases and event game mechanics on young
     shame"–Uncomfortable Experiences in Digital Games. In Proceedings of the An-              mobile social game players in Japan. Simulation & Gaming 50, 1 (2019), 76–92.
     nual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play. 325–337.                       [47] Katta Spiel, Sultan A Alharthi, Andrew Jian-lan Cen, Jessica Hammer, Lennart E
[21] Colin M Gray, Yubo Kou, Bryan Battles, Joseph Hoggatt, and Austin L Toombs.               Nacke, Z O Toups, and Tess Tanenbaum. 2019. "It Started as a Joke" On the
     2018. The dark (patterns) side of UX design. In Proceedings of the 2018 CHI               Design of Idle Games. In Proceedings of the Annual Symposium on Computer-
     Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 1–14.                                   Human Interaction in Play. 495–508.
[22] Colin M Gray, Cristiana Santos, Nataliia Bielova, Michael Toth, and Damian           [48] Jewel Stolarchuk. 2020. 5-year-old shocks mother by spending $1,480 on in-
     Cliford. 2021. Dark patterns and the legal requirements of consent banners: an            app purchases in Mobile Game.
     interaction criticism perspective. In Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on           mother-by-spending-s1480-on-in-app-purchases-in-mobile-game/
     Human Factors in Computing Systems. 1–18.                                            [49] Center for Humane Technology. 2021. How do you change complex sys-
[23] Jordan Greenwood, Leigh Achterbosch, Grant Meredith, and Peter Vamplew.                   tems?
     2020. Motivational Factors of Australian Mobile Gamers. In Proceedings of the             70287dfa08
     Australasian Computer Science Week Multiconference. 1–6.                             [50] Anna Timms. 2021. Our 11-year-old daughter ran up a £2,400 Roblox gam-
[24] Geofrey Hookham and Keith Nesbitt. 2019. A systematic review of the defni-                ing bill.
     tion and measurement of engagement in serious games. In Proceedings of the                daughter-ran-up-a-2400-gaming-bill
     Australasian Computer Science Week Multiconference. 1–10.                            [51] April Tyack, Peta Wyeth, and Daniel Johnson. 2020. Restorative play: Videogames
[25] Yu-Ning Huang, Siyan Zhao, Michael L Rivera, Jason I Hong, and Robert E Kraut.            improve player wellbeing after a need-frustrating event. In Proceedings of the
     2021. Predicting Well-being Using Short Ecological Momentary Audio Recordings.            2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 1–15.
     In Extended Abstracts of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing       [52] Reddit user: Ofsky. 2019. Dark Gaming Patterns. https://www.darkpattern.
     Systems. 1–7.                                                                             games/patterns.php
CHI ’22 Extended Abstracts, April 29-May 5, 2022, New Orleans, LA, USA                                                                                                Aagaard et al.

[53] Markus Viljanen, Antti Airola, Jukka Heikkonen, and Tapio Pahikkala. 2017. A/B-                Proceedings of the Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play.
     test of retention and monetization using the Cox model. In Thirteenth Artifcial                339–350.
     Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment Conference.                          [57]   Shinichi Yamaguchi. 2020. The Relationship Between Time Spent Playing Mobile
[54] Daniela Villani, Claudia Carissoli, Stefano Triberti, Antonella Marchetti, Gabriella           Games and Wellbeing. Available at SSRN 3568469 (2020).
     Gilli, and Giuseppe Riva. 2018. Videogames for emotion regulation: a systematic         [58]   Jose P Zagal, Stafan Bjork, and Chris Lewis. 2013. Dark patterns in the design of
     review. Games for health journal 7, 2 (2018), 85–99.                                           games. (2013).
[55] Ally Villar. 2021. Dad shocked to fnd $6,000 bill after his 6-year-old son spends all   [59]   David Zendle and Paul Cairns. 2018. Video game loot boxes are linked to problem
     the money on in-app game purchases.                    gambling: Results of a large-scale survey. PloS one 13, 11 (2018), e0206767.
     6-000-bill-065749786.html                                                               [60]   Xun Zhang, Xinning Gui, Yubo Kou, and Yukun Li. 2020. Mobile Collocated
[56] Matthew Alexander Whitby, Sebastian Deterding, and Ioanna Iacovides. 2019.                     Gaming: Collaborative Play and Meaning-Making on a University Campus. Pro-
     "One of the baddies all along" Moments that Challenge a Player’s Perspective. In               ceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction 4, CSCW2 (2020), 1–24.