Serious games, which are games used for purposes other than entertainment [18], have been shown to be a useful tool for enabling game-based learning in a variety of domains, such as education and business [3]. Persuasive games [2] can be seen as a sub-category of serious games. They do not only focus on imparting knowledge and raising awareness about a topic or an issue, but also on attitude or behavior change in a desirable direction, e.g. towards a more healthy lifestyle [15]. In a broader view, other game-like applications (which can be used for promoting learning, attitude, and behavior) such as gamified interactive systems can also have a persuasive goal. Gamified systems which use game elements in non-game environments [5] have attracted attention of researchers and practitioners over the past few years [7]. Gamification and the field of Persuasive Technology [6] or Behavior Change Support Systems [14] share many common mechanisms, such as the use of virtual rewards [20] and other engagement strategies, such as challenges [13]. In this manner, gamification mechanisms can be used for persuasive systems.

Two people playing a videogame

Serious Games, persuasive games as well as gamified interactions are effective when they successfully educate users about certain topics, support them in attitude or behavior change, raise awareness or engage them in specific topics. These kinds of interactive systems are more effective when they are personalized in contrast to employing the “one-size-fits-all”-approach. The effectiveness of personalized systems over “one-size-fits-all” approaches also applies to interactive systems in general. For example, the efficacy of personalization has been shown in personality-targeted user interface design [12], persuasive technology [8,9] and games [1,3,15]. Personalization has been investigated along several dimensions, such as personality [12], cognitive abilities [4], gender [16], persuadability (the susceptibility to persuasive strategies, [10]) as well as player types [15] and gamification user types [11]. Whereas these variables — in a broader sense — refer to (dispositional) human traits (variables that are hypothesized to be more or less stable), it is also possible to personalize along human emotional states, such as mood. Furthermore, besides those personal variables, contextual and situational variables (e.g. the environment and social influences) can also be used as personalization dimensions.
Being more effective can refer to a higher experience of flow or presence [19], more fun when playing games or using gamified technology, or the experience of a higher emotional or cognitive appeal. This can improve player/user experience and satisfaction [17] which can in turn increase usage frequency of serious games and gamified systems. An increased usage frequency is not only desirable as an end itself, but can also indirectly support the purpose of the technology. In case of persuasive games, for example, an increased usage frequency can increase the persuasive effect of that technology.

From an industrial point of view, an increased adoption of a game or gamified system can lead to higher revenue. This is especially the case with certain new business models in game industry: For free2play, free2use, freemium mobile games and apps, a higher usage frequency might be associated with more in-app or game purchases.

Although personalization of serious and persuasive games and gamified interactions is a highly promising field and has become a hot topic (especially in the past few years), many aspects of it are underexplored. These aspects refer to theoretical considerations such as relevant dimensions for personalization, the effect of personalization, models for personalization, design practices, the differences and communalities between personalization, customization, adaption and tailoring, guidelines, case studies of personalized serious games and gamified systems and market-relevant considerations.


  1. Bakkes, S., Tan, C.T., and Pisan, Y. Personalised gaming. Proceedings of The 8th Australasian Conference on Interactive Entertainment: Playing the System, (2012).
  2. Bogost, I. Persuasive games: The expressive power of videogames. 2007.
  3. Connolly, T.M., Boyle, E.A., MacArthur, E., Hainey, T., and Boyle, J.M. A systematic literature review of empirical evidence on computer games and serious games. Computers & Education 59, 2 (2012), 661–686.
  4. Crabb, M. Human cognitive measurement as a metric within usability studies. CHI Extended Abstracts, (2013).
  5. Deterding, S., Khaled, R., Nacke, L., and Dixon, D. Gamification: Toward a definition. CHI, (2011).
  6. Fogg, B.J. Persuasive technology – using computers to change what we think and do. Morgan Kaufmann, 2002.
  7. Hamari, J., Koivisto, J., and Sarsa, H. Does gamification work? — A literature review of empirical studies on gamification. 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, IEEE (2014).
  8. Kaptein, M., Markopoulos, P., de Ruyter, B., and Aarts, E. Personalizing persuasive technologies: Explicit and implicit personalization using persuasion profiles. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 77, (2015), 38–51.
  9. Kaptein, M., De Ruyter, B., Markopoulos, P., and Aarts, E. Adaptive persuasive systems: A study of tailored persuasive text messages to reduce snacking. ACM Transactions on Interactive Intelligent Systems (TiiS), 2(2), 10.
  10. Kaptein, M.C. Personalized persuasion in ambient intelligence. Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Smart Environments, 4(3), 279-280.
  11. Marczewski, A. Gamification user types 2.0. 2014. 0.php
  12. Nov, O., and Arazy, O. Personality-targeted design: Theory, experimental procedure, and preliminary results. CHI, (2013).
  13. Oinas-Kukkonen, H., and Harjumaa, M. A systematic framework for designing and evaluating persuasive systems. Persuasive Technology, (2008).
  14. Oinas-Kukkonen, H. Behavior change support systems: A research model and agenda. Persuasive Technology, (2010).
  15. Orji, R., Mandryk, R.L., Vassileva, J., and Gerling, K.M. Tailoring persuasive health games to gamer type. CHI, (2013), 2467–2476.
  16. Orji, R., Mandryk, R.L., and Vassileva, J. Gender and persuasive technology: Examining the persuasiveness of persuasive strategies by gender groups. Persuasive Technology, (2014).
  17. Orji, R.O. Design for behaviour change: A model-driven approach for tailoring persuasive technologies. PHD Thesis, University of Saskatechwan (2014).
  18. Susi, T., Johannesson, M., and Backlund, P. Serious games – an overview. ELearning 73, 10 (2007), 28.
  19. Weibel, D., Wissmath, B., and Groner, R. Presence vs. flow in the context of computer games. PRESENCE 2007, (2007).
  20. Zuckerman, O., and Gal-Oz, A. Deconstructing gamification: Evaluating the effectiveness of continuous measurement, virtual rewards, and social comparison for promoting physical activity. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, (2014), 1–15.