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Understanding playfulness: An overview of the revised playful experience (PLEX) framework


Abstract and Figures

Users increasingly expect products not only to be useful and efficient, but also to provide enjoyment and experiences. Playfulness is a state of mind of a user, or an approach to an activity. Design that elicits playfulness can make products emotionally appealing to the users and thus provide enjoyable experiences. This paper presents an overview of the revised Playful Experience (PLEX) framework intended to provide an understanding of the different elements that constitute Playful Experience. We summarize the original creation of the PLEX framework and present the validation efforts which led us to revise the framework. Finally, we provide updated definitions of 22 Playful Experience categories. We propose that the PLEX framework can be used by designers as a tool for assisting the design of products that elicit playful attitude and activities from the users.
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Understanding Playfulness
An Overview of the Revised Playful Experience (PLEX) Framework
Juha Arrasvuori*, Marion Boberg**, Hannu Korhonen***
* Nokia Research
Tampere, Finland,
** Nokia Research
Tampere, Finland,
*** Nokia Research
Tampere, Finland,
Abstract: Users increasingly expect products not only to be useful and efficient, but also to provide
enjoyment and experiences. Playfulness is a state of mind of a user, or an approach to an activity. Design
that elicits playfulness can make products emotionally appealing to the users and thus provide enjoyable
experiences. This paper presents an overview of the revised Playful Experience (PLEX) framework
intended to provide an understanding of the different elements that constitute Playful Experience. We
summarize the original creation of the PLEX framework and present the validation efforts which led us
to revise the framework. Finally, we provide updated definitions of 22 Playful Experience categories. We
propose that the PLEX framework can be used by designers as a tool for assisting the design of products
that elicit playful attitude and activities from the users.
Key words: Playfulness, Playful experience, Experience framework
1. Introduction
Homo Ludens The Playing Man is the title of the 1938 seminal book by anthropologist Johan Huizinga [1].
As stated in the subtitle of the book, “a study of the play element in culture”, Huizinga proposes that play is
deeply rooted in human culture. Playfulness can be regarded as the attitude of a person when he or she is
engaged mentally and physically in the state of play. Play in itself is a broad range of activities ranging from free-
form play (e.g. the spontaneous play of children) to formal play with rules defining a preferable outcome and
winning condition (e.g. games like chess, or competitive sports like javelin) [2]. Any object can become a tool
for play and any situation can be approached in a playful manner when the person is in such frame of mind [3]. A
playful approach can be applied even to serious activities to make them more bearable or even enjoyable [3].
As part of the reversal theory developed in psychology, Apter [4] defines the „playful state‟ as an opposite of the
„serious state‟ which emphasizes goal-oriented and achievement in user‟s actions or attitude. Apter argues that
both states are needed for a fulfilling life. In the playful state, also known as the paratelic state, a person can
devote oneself to the stimulation of the moment. High arousal is pleasant in the playful state, as it is felt like
excitement. While being in the playful state, challenges, risks, and even bad emotions can be enjoyable because
there is a psychological protective frame proposing that one is free from consequences, and can thus concentrate
on the activity for its own sake.
The role of emotions in play activities has been studied by Lazzaro, who suggests that videogames are the
forerunners of interactive products that create emotion: More emotional than software and more interactive than
films, games manipulate player affect to create poignant experiences. […] Games are innovators in the design of
emotional responses integrated into the activity to accelerate it […]” [5, p. 680]. Lazzaro [5] argues that games
elicit emotional responses from the player, which make the player commit more into the activity of playing the
game. From a designers viewpoint, videogames may be seen as ideal products in the right circumstances, their
use feeds the drive to use them more. For product designers, then, it is of great interest how the experiences
provided by play and games could be adapted into the design of other products to make them more engaging to
With Playful Experience we mean experiences that are mostly non-goal-oriented and mainly evoked by fun or
the pleasurable aspects of using a product. Playfulness may also include temporary negative experiences as part
of the overall experience. This paper presents an overview of the Playful Experience (PLEX) framework, which
defines 22 experience categories as the components of Playful Experience. In section 2, we summarize the initial
development of the PLEX framework, and present two validation studies which led us to revise the PLEX
framework. In section 3, we define each Playful Experience category according to the revised PLEX framework.
Finally, we close the paper in section 4 with a summary of the revised Playful Experiences framework and a brief
discussion on how PLEX relates to broader frameworks of product experience and co-experience.
2. Developing the Playful Experience Framework
A number of game researchers, media artists and designers have aimed to classify the various pleasures,
gratifications and experiences. The purpose of such analyses has been for example to understand the elements of
play and the pleasures elicited by play. So far, one of the most comprehensive theoretical frameworks of
pleasurable experiences has been published by Costello and Edmonds [6]. They assembled the views of
philosophers, researchers and game designers to obtain what they call „pleasure framework‟. Costello and
Edmonds derived 13 pleasure categories of play through cross-referencing six earlier publications [2, 4, 7, 8, 9,
10]. The pleasure framework categories are: Creation, Exploration, Discovery, Difficulty, Competition, Danger,
Captivation, Sensation, Sympathy, Simulation, Fantasy, Camaraderie and Subversion. Costello and Edmonds
referred to these experience categories when designing three interactive artworks, and later inquired from people
to what extent they perceived the experience categories the artworks were designed to elicit. They found that
experiences such as Creation, Exploration, Discovery, Captivation and Sensation were commonly experienced by
the participants.
The pleasure framework by Costello and Edmonds is a fruitful starting point also for the study of more specific
playful experiences, as it is oriented towards describing experiences elicited by interactive products. However,
their framework was focused on the evaluation of pleasurable interfaces in interactive artworks. To refocus and
expand the framework, Korhonen et al. [11] included the works of additional game researchers and designers to
the pool of analyses, producing the initial version of the Playful Experience framework which focuses on playful
interaction. The added body of work discusses pleasures [10], experiences [12, 13], emotions [14], elements [15]
of play, and the reasons people play [16, 17]. The additional descriptions presented by Costello and Edmonds to
their pleasure categories were also taken into account when defining the PLEX categories.
As a result of this analysis, Korhonen et al. [11] made considerable changes to Costello and Edmond‟s
framework in order to enable examining the wide range of experiences elicited by interactive products when they
are used in a playful manner. The overall focus was shifted from pleasures to experiences to indicate that not all
such experiences are always pleasurable in the context of play. Costello and Edmonds had chosen the name for
each pleasure category to best suit the context of interactive art. Thus, Korhonen et al. changed the labels of
certain categories to accommodate the shift in focus. The label of category Danger was changed to Thrill, as
playing rarely involves actual danger. They also redefined category Camaraderie to Fellowship in order to
broaden this multifaceted experience that includes many forms of social interaction. The category Creation was
changed to Expression to extend it, to include creative activities without permanent outcomes. Further, Korhonen
et al. added new categories to better capture the broad spectrum of experiences elicited by play, including
Control, Nurture, Completion, Sadism, and Suffering. Labeling each Playful Experience category as an action
proved to be difficult. Thus, some of the PLEX category labels describe states of mind and body (e.g. Thrill),
concepts (e.g. Challenge), and actions (e.g. Exploration).
The initial PLEX framework was validated by interviewing 13 players about their experiences with three
videogame titles [11]. In the study, out of the 19 inspected categories, 18 PLEX categories were found in The
Sims 2 game, 17 in Grand Theft Auto IV, and 16 in Spore. The interview results indicated that players are
experiencing the games in many different ways which can be to some extent explained through the Playful
Experience categories. The players stated experiencing e.g. captivation and exploration, but even unwinding and
erotic experiences while playing these games. On basis of the findings, Korhonen et al. added two new
categories to the PLEX framework, namely Relaxation and Eroticism. Thus, the initial version of the PLEX
framework, as published in [11], consisted of 20 Playful Experience categories.
In a follow-up study Korhonen et al. [18], explored how playfulness manifests in the User Experience of
personal products such as mobile phones, portable music players, and fitness products. The objective of the study
was to explore if the PLEX categorization could be applicable to articulating the User Experience of personal
products. In a field study 21 participants reported for ten days their experiences with their personal products by
writing experience reports [18]. The data was analyzed using an augmented set of Playful Experience categories,
which included Humor and Submission as additional categories. These two categories were added because of re-
reviewing the literature included in the PLEX framework: the concept Humor is defined on basis of Garneau [8],
and Submission on basis of Hunicke et al. [10]. Furthermore, Sadism category had been renamed as Cruelty to
avoid misunderstandings caused by the sexual connotations of sadism. The reporting period produced 116 reports,
and for 85 reports it was possible to identify a user experience from the set of 22 Playful Experience categories.
PLEX categories Control, Simulation and Discovery were predominant in the use of personal products as
reported by the participants. The participants described a wide range of experiences in their reports. 19 out of 22
PLEX categories were mentioned and only three categories (Challenge, Cruelty and Eroticism) could not be
identified from any of the reports. The absence of these PLEX categories in the collected reports can be
explained with the fact that they require a human or virtual counterpart in order to emerge. As the participants
were describing interaction involving only a user and a product, these three categories did not occur in the
collected reports. The findings from the study suggest that the PLEX categories are useful for describing user
experiences elicited also by other products than games [18].
Building upon this work, we present in Figure 1 a revised version of the PLEX framework, which extends and
makes some adjustments to the initial PLEX framework presented by Korhonen et al. [11]. The revised version
incorporates the changes discussed above, which came from the follow-up study by Korhonen et al. [18], and
from our recent reinterpretations of certain concepts presented in the referred publications. The framework in
Figure 1 also corrects some errors (e.g. missing concepts from Apter [4]) published in Korhonen et al. [11]. The
revised version of the PLEX framework incorporates three concepts from Garneau [8] in a different manner from
the initial PLEX framework. Garneau‟s concept Beauty was moved from PLEX category Captivation to
Sensation due to our reinterpretation of Garneau‟s definition of the concept. The concept Immersion has been
defined by Garneau so broadly that it was seen suitable to describe aspects of two PLEX categories, namely
Captivation and Fantasy. Garneau‟s concept Love was added as a new reference to the PLEX category Eroticism.
As two new PLEX categories were added to the initial PLEX framework (Humor and Submission), Garneau‟s
concept Comedy was included in the new PLEX category Humor. The PLEX category Submission refers to a
similarly named concept by Hunicke et al. [10].
LeBlanc &
& Wyeth
Costello &
Pleasure of
being a cause
Problem solving
problem solving
Application of
Risk & Chance
Facing danger
Thrill of danger
Beauty &
Physical Activity
Pleasure of
make believe
Fiction &
Social presence
Relationship &
Negativism &
Competence &
Control &
Advancement &
Negative affect
Figure 1. Comparative analysis used as foundation of creating the PLEX framework. White boxes are the components of the pleasure framework by Costello and Edmonds [6]
(third column from the right). Turquoise boxes show the initial PLEX framework [11] (second column from the right) with the components it added to or modified from the
work of Costello and Edmonds. Pink boxes indicate additions and changes we made to form the revised PLEX framework (rightmost column). Note that a concept from the
previous studies can span more than one PLEX category, for example, Apter‟s concept „Fiction & Narrative‟ defines aspects of PLEX categories Simulation and Fantasy.
3. Defining the Playful Experience Categories
In this section we give a detailed overview of the PLEX framework. Below are presented descriptions of the 22
Playful Experience categories partly on basis of the previous publications we have referred to, as summarized in
Table 1.
Captivation is the experience of forgetting one‟s surroundings and the sense of time while using a product.
People are experiencing it from storytelling, novels, movies, and by travelling to remote locations [8]. Interactive
products can be particularly captivating because they allow active participation from the user, especially those
that offer a first-person view to a virtual world [8] or a virtual representation of the real world (e.g. Google
Earth). Players appreciate the sense of being part of an ongoing story, sometimes with other players, which
directions they can influence [17]. A situation of chance can be captivating because the outcome is determined by
luck, rather than by skill [2]. Captivation may also come from the feeling of another entity having control over
oneself [6].
Challenge involves developing and exercising skills in a demanding situation. The challenge can be resolved
through physical action or through mental problem solving [7]. Challenge may occur on an intellectual level, for
example, from attempting to understand some construct [6]. Challenge may come from the necessity of having to
continuously learn while playing a game, when seeking mastery over the game system [11]. Challenge may be
over application of a skill, like hand-to-eye coordination. If the application of a skill is not difficult, then there is
may be little fun in doing it. However, the level of challenge should not be too high, or players will get stuck. [8]
Proper challenge can be found in the flow state between challenge level and skill [7].
Competition involves contest with oneself, an opponent or a system. Competition involves trying to achieve a
defined goal, while working with or against a human or a system-controlled participant [6]. However,
Competition is not only against others, but also against oneself [8]. Any activity that can be measured gives
opportunities for Competition. A step counter enables a user to compete against oneself, e.g. by walking more
than during the previous day. Products related to wellness and fitness, such as Sports Tracker, allow users to
experience Competition within an online community. Though the two categories are closely related, the
difference between Competition and Challenge is that the former involves contest (a situation that produces a
winner and a loser), whereas the latter is about the difficulty of the action.
Completion is central to all forms of collection, narration and achievement type activities. Essentially, it is about
finishing a major task or reaching closure to an earlier tension. Completion may come from finishing a game,
reading the last chapter from a serialized story, or obtaining the final card from a set of collectibles. Garneau [8]
argues that “… the simple act of going forward in an activity and getting closer to completing it, is something
everybody enjoys. […] Beating the game makes the player happy and leaves a positive lasting impression.As
some activities are never completed, a sense of completion can manifest through achievements, in other words,
visible recognitions of completing a task or progressing from one status to the next [16, 17]. Such rewards are
provided by Polar heart rate monitors and online weight loss applications to motivate the user.
Control involves dominating, commanding and regulating others or a system [16]. Kubovy [14] notes that skill
gives rise to virtuosity, which can be highly pleasurable. According to Csikszentmihályi [7], the feeling of
control is achieved when a skilled person is working with a moderately challenging task. The feeling of control
may be elicited through the perfect feel of a game controller in hand, or the detailed arrays of buttons a flight
simulator game offers. Control over other people may manifest as strive towards leadership [17]. An interactive
system may also give its user the illusion of being in full control.
Cruelty is the pleasure derived from causing mental or physical pain to others. Experiences of Cruelty include
malice, destruction, or inflicting harm, in other words, things that are often discussed in the context of multi-
player games, where many players engage in grief play that ranges from rumor-mongering to outrightly killing
other players [16]. Cruelty may be also objectifying and manipulating others for advancing one‟s own gains [17].
Further, Cruelty may manifest as ill-doing towards virtual characters, like letting a character starve to death [11].
Discovery involves finding something hidden or realizing a new solution or property in a product. Discovery can
be the experience elicited by realizing the relationship between an action and an outcome [6]. For example
Discovery can be felt when trying out a new product and getting surprised when realizing a novel way to use it
without looking for how to use it (e.g. randomly play songs in a media player). A player may be curious about
the ways a virtual world functions or what it contains, and games offer multiple means for the player to satisfy
that curiosity [16]. Discovery may also be about oneself. Discovery may be preceded by conscious Exploration.
Some amount of surprise may be part of Discovery, e.g. when finding an Easter egg feature in a product or DVD.
Eroticism is a sexually arousing experience, or more mildly, an aspect of social interaction like flirting. Garneau
notes that: ”Love, romance and sex have been at the core of entertainment […] since the release of Tomb Raider,
the use of lust as a “feature” in a game has been popularized. A number of games have been released with a
female protagonist for this very reason.” [8] Virtual characters like those in The SIMS may allow players to
create erotic fantasies, or to play out romantic affairs [11]. Often it is not the game designers who come up with
these situations, but their designs give the players the freedom to create such scenarios.
Exploration involves investigating an environment, object or situation. An unknown property gives rise to
curiosity [14], and humans often react to actively solve their curiosity. Exploration is often, but not always,
linked with Discovery [6]. Garneau [8] notes that in games, all problems have a similar pattern: they consist of
rules, a setting and a goal. It is left to the player to find the best way for him or her to reach the goal while
adhering to the rules. This is another way of looking at Exploration: it is relatively free movement within certain
external bounds. Exploration can often be experience when purchasing a new product. Stepwise reveal of
information can elicit Exploration, e.g. when a user goes through opening the many layers of a product package.
Expression is the experience derived from manifesting oneself creatively [6]. Expression comes from dynamics
that facilitate individuals to leave their mark permanently or just for a moment for example through
designing, constructing, modifying and personalizing [8, 10]. Also doodling without any permanent outcomes
may count for a person as Expression. In other words, the outcomes do not necessary need an audience.
Expression can also be the personalization of one‟s mass-produced device such as laptop or mobile phone.
Fantasy involves an imagined experience; it is the pleasures elicited from being engaged in make-believe [6, 9,
10], for example, the pleasure of escaping for a while from one‟s mundane problems and tasks [8]. Fantasy can
range from short bursts of day-dreaming elicited by an imaginative perfume, to being absorbed into the
compelling fantasy world of a book or movie.
Fellowship emerges from many forms of social interaction, ranging from team spirit in multiplayer shooter
games and the long-lasting communality in multiplayer online games to the networked interaction of social
online services like Facebook. In short, the Fellowship comes from friendship, communality, and intimacy [8, 10,
13, 15]. It involves showing affection towards others, and receiving admiration from others [8]. Fellowship can
be witnessed to be elicited by systems that allow sharing information between participants or that define
conditions which are more difficult to be completed alone [10]. It is highly visible as the need to share one‟s
feelings and emotions online, and getting feedback.
Humor involves fun, joy, amusement, jokes, pranks and gags. All forms of entertainment and communication
use humor [8]. Humor flourishes in the interactions between users of social media and networking sites. Kubovy
[14] argues that humans get pleasure from the violation of expectations followed by the reinstatement of a stable
state, and that humor often follows this pattern in the form of jokes. Garneau [8] notes that in games, humor can
lighten up a scene and emphasize the dramatic impact of later scenes through the contrast it provides. Humor can
be elicited by a product that performs an action in a surprising way, e.g. a toaster that burns a figure.
Nurture is the experience people get from taking care of others or oneself. Nurture is a special, even an
elemental form of interaction that is shown most purely in the digital domain when people take care of virtual
beings, but it also relates to player-avatar relationships and tutoring novice players in multiplayer online games.
While the term has been adapted from Kubovy [14], its applicability to digital products such as Tamagotchi and
Farmville in Facebook seems obvious. Communicating the values of sustainability to consumers can lead them
to purchase a more ecological product to help nurture the environment. Nurture can also be observed through the
relationship adolescents often keep towards their mobile device, as a result of their attachment to the device,
which is sometimes perceived as a transitional object that easies passing through a difficult life stage.
Relaxation comes from bodily or mental unwinding as result of being engaged in a playful activity, or it may
manifest as calmness during play when the player is in mastery of the situation [11]. Relaxation as an experience
has increasingly been taken into account in game development (e.g. Nintendo Wii Fit and Brain Training) as well
as in the design of means for stress relief, ranging from aromatherapeutic products to miniature water fountains.
Sensation is excitement elicited by stimulating the senses. Sensation is what pleases the senses [8]. Sensation
can be the pleasure participants get from the physical action of a work of art [6], or the audiovisual splendor of
an artwork. Through their interactivity, video games can be seen as providers of sense-pleasure [10]. Garneau [8]
notes that sports and other physical activities make the practitioner feel good. For Caillois [2], vertigo is a special
kind of sensation of play that can be witnessed for example in the popularity of roller coaster rides.
Simulation is the experience derived from being involved in an imitation of everyday life [6]. The pleasures of
being engaged in make-belief in the form of fiction, narration or mimesis (e.g. theatre) have been acknowledged
by the pioneering scholars of play [2, 9]. The means for simulation may be very close to the original or just
rough approximations. The more distant the approximation is from the original, the more imagination is required
from the participant to perceive it as a successful simulation. An increasingly common way of experiencing
simulation is by using digital maps and related services (e.g. Google Earth).
Submission involves being part of a larger system, structure or community. It can be the experience derived from
submitting to a set of rules and committing oneself to a larger social construct, e.g. a game, a team or a guild.
Submission may involve sacrificing oneself for the good of others or submitting to the will of others because
the rules make that possible (e.g. in the Truth or Dare game). Games are a submissive form of fun [10]. In other
words, games matter because the players submit themselves to reaching the goals and to following the rules
provided by the games. Apter [4] argues that rule-governed sports (and games) are enjoyed most when the
playful state occurs in conjunction with the conforming state.
Subversion is the experience elicited by breaking social rules or norms, or witnessing someone else break them
[6]. Subversion can involve twisting the meaning of something [6], for example, turning upside-down established
roles and norms during corporate parties, May Day celebrations and other carnivals. Subversion may involve
some self-humiliation, like in karaoke performance, but the conceptual framework of play makes this acceptable
and “saves oneself‟s face” in the social context. Subversion may manifest in counter-cultural values expressed
through a printed t-shirt or background image in a mobile phone. Cheating can be seen as subversion of rules or
norms, for example, exaggerating about one‟s appearance in Facebook. When violence is taken to the extreme in
games and other media, it may be perceived as parody and thus comical, feeding into the subversive experience.
Suffering is an umbrella category for all the unpleasant but necessary experiences, such as boredom, stress,
anxiety, anger, frustration, loss and even humiliation, which often seem to be inseparable from play [13]. While
Suffering is sometimes a result of poor design (e.g. feeling of routine or confusion), it is also often necessary for
later positive experiences. When considering Csikszentmihályi‟s [7] concept Flow, it is obvious that creation of
flow experiences necessitates, at times, unpleasant pressure in the form of non-trivial challenges. Initial Suffering
makes subsequent experiences stronger. Kubovy [14] considers suffering a profound human experience, which
can be present in all activities, including play.
Sympathy is an experience that emerges from the sense of being able to share emotional feelings with someone
or something (e.g. an animal or a virtual character) [4, 6, 9]. For example, anthropomorphism facilitates
identification with a product. Kawaii is a Japanese term for adorable cuteness in product designs, which can be
seen to elicit Sympathy. A narrative situation may be utilized for eliciting Sympathy, e.g. identification with “the
underdog” in a story. Sympathy might be experienced during a game when the player‟s character gets hurt.
Thrill is the excitement derived from risk taking behavior [7], being scared [6], chance of outcome or the
opportunity to win [2]. As a playful experience, thrill is elicited by mediated danger, as playing rarely involves
actual physical danger [4]. Thrill may also be experienced through pressure for reaching a desired outcome [13].
Prolonged revealing of information can elicit Thrill, like the slow uncovering of cards during a poker game.
These descriptions define the components forming Playful Experience that emerges from one PLEX category or
a combination of several PLEX categories when interacting with a product. All 22 PLEX categories do not have
to be present in a Playful Experience. As defined above, playfulness is a state of mind or an approach to an
activity [3]. A person may well refer to a PLEX category when describing an experience he or she had with a
product, but if there was no playfulness involved in using the product (e.g. using it didn‟t bring any joy or
pleasure), then the experience was not playful. Designing for playfulness also requires eliciting a playful attitude.
Certain PLEX categories describe negative experiences. In most cases, the function of a negative experience is to
make the subsequent positive experience feel stronger. For example, in a game, the player initially experiences
Suffering because he or she cannot complete a level. But when the player succeeds in that, e.g. after being helped
by another player, the subsequent experiences of Completion and Fellowship are felt stronger than if there were
no initial obstacles. Experiences of Thrill and Challenge build on the possibility that during any moment when
interacting with the product, something negative may happen. Although these negative aspects are experienced
within a psychological protective frame [4], they still matter to the user. Further, Apter argues that when people
are in the playful state, they can enjoy bad (i.e., parapathic) emotions [4].
As can be seen from these descriptions, the PLEX categories are interlinked in many ways. Some categories may
follow each other through a cause-effect pattern, like Exploration and Discovery. Categories such as Competition
and Completion are temporally related. A preceding experience can make the following experience stronger, e.g.
Suffering followed by Completion. The negation of a first experience can lead to a second experience, e.g.
refraining from Submission to norms can lead to Subversion. Some categories can be mutually inclusive (e.g.
Fellowship and Sympathy), while other categories can be mutually exclusive (e.g. Nurture and Cruelty). The
elicited experiences can vary greatly depending on the viewpoint or actor-reactor relationship, for example, of
being either the nurturer or the nurtured in a Nurture experience.
4. Discussion and Conclusions
Considering playfulness is becoming increasingly important in product design, packaging and marketing. We
live in an experience economy in which consumers expect that using a product should be an enjoyable
experience. Videogames have been regarded as the state of the art of interactive products that elicit a wide range
of emotions and experiences [5]. Thus, the designers of interactive products can learn from videogames a variety
of techniques for engaging users [5]. The domain of playfulness is much broader than just playing games: most
activities can be approached and performed in a playful manner. In this paper, we have presented an overview of
a Playful Experiences framework intended to be a tool for approaching playfulness systematically. This revised
PLEX framework (Table 1) has been developed on top of work from Costello and Edmonds [6], and Korhonen et
al. [11, 18].
Table 1. Summary of the revised PLEX framework.
Brief description: the Playful
Experience emerges from…
Brief description: the Playful
Experience emerges from…
Forgetting one‟s surroundings
Friendship, communality or intimacy
Testing abilities in a demanding task
Fun, joy, amusement, jokes or gags
Contest with oneself or an opponent
Taking care of oneself or others
Finishing a major task or reaching closure
Relief from bodily or mental work
Dominating, commanding or regulating
Excitement by stimulating senses
Causing mental or physical pain
An imitation of everyday life
Finding something new or unknown
Being part of a larger structure
A sexually arousing situation
Breaking social rules and norms
Investigating an object or situation
Loss, frustration or anger
Manifesting oneself creatively
Sharing emotional feelings
An imagined situation
Excitement derived from risk or danger
Playful Experience can be regarded as a part of broader product experience. Desmet and Hekkert [19] define
three levels of product experience: aesthetic pleasure, attribution of meaning, and emotional response. Different
categories of the PLEX framework can help to address these three product experience levels. For example,
aesthetic pleasure can be achieved by addressing Sensation and Expression categories in product design.
Attribution of meaning can be achieved through PLEX categories such as Simulation, Completion, and Fantasy.
Emotional responses can be achieved by addressing Thrill and Sympathy. For us, a fruitful topic of further
research is the role of emotions in the emergence of Playful Experience.
We have been discussing experiences that emerge during the interaction between a user and a product. Forlizzi
and Battarbee define co-experience as one form of product experience [20]. Although out of scope for discussion
in the present paper, PLEX categories have potential to be used to design co-experience as well. Especially
Competition, Fellowship, Sympathy and Nurture appear as useful categories to consider in the design of co-
experience. Further research is needed to understand how Playful Experience best facilitates social interaction.
In its current state, we believe that the PLEX framework is a useful reference tool for appreciating the broad field
of playfulness. To provide inspiration for design, a set of design cards and techniques have been created on basis
of the framework [21]. The evaluation of playfulness is also important, and we are currently developing an
evaluation tool for measuring the success of a product to elicit Playful Experience from its users.
Finally, we want to acknowledge and thank Markus Montola, Jussi Holopainen, Andrés Lucero and Kaisa
Väänänen-Vainio-Mattila for their contribution in developing the PLEX framework.
5. References
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[2] Caillois, R. (1961). Man, Play and Games. New York, NY: Free Press.
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Reversal Theory Approach. Amsterdam: Swets & Zeitlinger.
[5] Lazzaro, N. (2008). Why We Play: Affect and the Fun of Games. In A. Sears, & J. A. Sears (Eds.), The
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... Several expanded taxonomies of playfulness have emerged since Caillois, many of which take his work as foundational. The Playful Experience (PLEX) framework, for instance, systematises play into 22 categories that include experiential phenomena as diverse as "humour", "suffering", "cruelty", and "nurture" (Arrasvuori, Boberg, & Korhonen, 2010) -exemplifying the considerable breadth with which play has been 48 Caillois was adamant that his work was not intended as a taxonomy of play, though it has been widely used as such in game studies and forms the foundation of several expanded taxonomical efforts. 49 Strictly speaking, each plankton's trajectory has a deterministic sonic result. ...
... different types of "fun" or emotional response that gameplay can evoke, including categories like "fantasy", "fellowship", and "challenge". The MDA framework has been influential in studies of games and player experience, with more recent taxonomies like the aforementioned Playful Experience Framework (Arrasvuori et al., 2010) incorporating and expanding upon the eight gameplay aesthetics first offered by Hunicke et al. (2004). The MDA framework also allows Caillois' four forms of play, as well as the phenomena of paidia and ludus more broadly, to be considered as aesthetics arising from the mechanical elements designed into game systems. ...
... Of interest to this research are four particular aesthetic experiences of the 22 identified by Arrasvuori et al. (2010): competition, challenge, discovery, and expression (see Table 3). Competition and challenge are closely linked to ludus through their proclivity for rules and constraints, while discovery and expression are characteristic of paidia due to their less structured, open-ended nature. ...
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Musical apps, interfaces, and installations have opened real-time music composition to non-experts through the use of game-like interactions. Few of these systems harness competitive game elements, reflecting an assumption that the aesthetic experience and mechanical demands of competitive gameplay are incongruous with musical creativity. Limited research or practice has explored this interplay, revealing a gap for new understandings of musical games and interactive composition. My research aims to address this gap through a body of original works – EvoMusic, Chase, and Idea – that explore the potential for competitive human-computer dialogues to support accessible, creatively stimulating composition experiences. Each work takes a divergent approach to competitive gameplay. In EvoMusic, players cannot win or lose, but contest the inexorable growth of an evolving musical population to curate and defend a desired sonic output. Chase introduces notions of danger and defeat, assigning musical outcomes to the player’s attempts to evade a pursuing hostile agent. Idea then adds elements of progression and victory; players manipulate musical motifs to navigate mazes, defeat enemies, and earn new creative resources. The games were evaluated in two mixed-methods comparative user studies to investigate how these divergent approaches influence the compositional experience. Players did not reflect the literature’s aesthetic opposition to the synthesis of composing and competing, but noted that sufficiently strong game incentives could overpower musical decision-making. The traditional game structures of Chase and Idea were viewed as more engaging overall, yet only EvoMusic engendered interaction that was at once creatively and competitively stimulating. These findings reveal a more complex interplay between accessible music-making and competitive gameplay than previously assumed, unearthing new challenges and potentials for interactive composition that I explore herein.
... HIIT is a form of interval training, using a cardiovascular exercise strategy that alternates short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods. The prototype shares performance data in real-time during the activity through features inspired on the PLEX framework [8], a set of dimensions representing playful aspects of user experience. ...
... We also included a repetition counter as a number and icon in the lower half of the coloured bars, which is updated in real-time based on the inputs made on the mobile application. Particularly, we included the individual performance statistics to stimulate playful interactions related to the PLEX Competition dimension, which relies on the existence of comparable measures during an experience [8]. Additionally, the average HR of all users and the sum of their current repetition counts are also displayed on the lower-right corner of the screen to provide a common goal, directed at groups that are not keen on competitive activities. ...
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The recent uprising trend of remote approaches to group physical activity has shown how these strategies lack social engagement. Following a user-centred design process grounded on the Playful Experience (PLEX) Framework's dimensions, we developed an augmentation of video conference-based group exercise to enhance the social dynamics of high-intensity interval training. We conducted a user study (N = 12) to analyse the effect of our approach on the perceived playfulness of the experience, enjoyment, and effort of participants. Results show an increase in the PLEX Framework dimensions of Competition and Sensation. Additionally, our findings suggest positive trends in the participants' enjoyment and effort, thus raising new design implications related to the design space of videoconference group exercise interfaces.
... Play designers and theorists (e.g. [6,7,22]) have long held that play is a rich and diverse phenomenon that can take multiple forms and experiential textures: exploration, fantasy, creativity, fellowship and humor, among others. However, the emerging field of Playful HFI has a recurrent focus on a narrow range of play forms [2]. ...
... These strategies included analytical tools (e.g. analyzing traditions through theoretical frameworks of play [6,7,11,14,21,22,23,24] and HFI [1,2]) and embodied design research methods (e.g. modifying the traditions through embodied sketching [16]). ...
... Hassenzahl (2010) suggested that product experiences should be "worthwhile" or "valuable" to avoid the pitfall of aiming for shallow pleasure in experience design. Likewise, Arrasvuori et al. (2010) investigated the possibilities to create more engaging consumer products by using the wide range of emotions that people typically experience when playing video games. With their concept of "design noir, " Dunne and Raby (2001, p. 45) even proposed a new genre of design to complement the prevailing "Hollywood" tradition of products that offer a limited experience. ...
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As ubiquitous technology is increasingly mediating our relationships with the world and others, we argue that the sublime is struggling to find room in product design primarily aimed at commercial and transactional goals such as speed and efficiency. We suggest a new category of products to promote deeper and more meaningful experiences, specifically those offering liminality, transcendence, and personal transformation. This paper introduces a conceptual framework and three-step design approach looking at narrative participation in design through abstractions to promote, hold and deepen more complex emotions. We explore implications from a theoretical point of view and suggest product examples for how the model might be applied in practice.
... One item addressed the perception of feelings of accomplishment, as mentioned as a cause for wow experiences by [7]. Another item addressed the feeling of being in control, which was mentioned as a wow factor by [2], as a cause for positive experiences in the Playful Experience (PLEX) framework [23], and in the "Experience Categories" [24]. One item addressed the memorability of the experience, which was referred to as a feature of wow experiences [7]. ...
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Interacting with technology can evoke various positive and negative reactions in users. An outstandingly positive user experience enabled by interactive technology is often referred to as a “wow experience” in design practice and research. Such experiences are considered to be emotional, memorable, and highly desirable. Surprisingly, wow experiences have not received much attention in design research. In this study, we try to gain a more in-depth understanding of how wow experiences are caused. Through an exploratory factor analysis, we identify six factors contributing to wow experiences with interactive technology: Hygiene, goal attainment, uniqueness, relevance, emotional fingerprint, and inspiration. We propose an integrated model of wow experience and a prototype questionnaire to measure wow experiences with interactive products based on the identified factors.
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"So you're the one getting this gift? Lucky you! Someone who knows you has visited the museum. They searched out things they thought you would care about, and they took photos and left messages for you." This is the welcoming message for the Gift app, designed to create a very personal museum visit. Hybrid Museum Experiences use new technologies to augment, expand or alter the physical experience of visiting the museum. They are designed to be experienced in close relation to the physical space and exhibit. In this book we discuss three forms of hybridity in museum experiences: Incorporating the digital and the physical, creating social, yet personal and intimate experiences, and exploring ways to balance visitor participation and museum curation. This book reports on a 3-year cross-disciplinary research project in which artists, design researchers and museum professionals have collaborated to create technology-mediated experiences that merge with the museum environment.
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"So you're the one getting this gift? Lucky you! Someone who knows you has visited the museum. They searched out things they thought you would care about, and they took photos and left messages for you." This is the welcoming message for the Gift app, designed to create a very personal museum visit. Hybrid Museum Experiences use new technologies to augment, expand or alter the physical experience of visiting the museum. They are designed to be experienced in close relation to the physical space and exhibit. In this book we discuss three forms of hybridity in museum experiences: Incorporating the digital and the physical, creating social, yet personal and intimate experiences, and exploring ways to balance visitor participation and museum curation. This book reports on a 3-year cross-disciplinary research project in which artists, design researchers and museum professionals have collaborated to create technology-mediated experiences that merge with the museum environment.
This article presents practice-based research exploring the interplay of real-time music creation and competitive gameplay. Musically creative video games, apps, and sound art are first surveyed to highlight their characteristic avoidance of competitive game elements. The relationship between play, games, and musical activity is then examined with reference to theoretical perspectives from ludomusicology and game studies, revealing a series of mechanical and aesthetic design tensions emerging between competitive gameplay and music creation. Two original music games are presented to explore this interplay across contrasting design approaches: EvoMusic engenders an abstract competitive dialogue between the player and system for authorial control, while Idea presents a more explicit ludic framework with goals, progression, danger, and victory. The games are evaluated in a comparative user study to capture the player experience of composing within competitive game settings. Participant responses revealed conflicting expectations for ludic and compositional experiences. Idea was the preferred game, yet its strong ludic elements distracted from or disincentivized music creation; EvoMusic offered more focused music creation yet also a weaker gameplay experience for lacking these same competitive elements. This relationship reflects the theoretical design tensions suggested by ludomusical scholarship. Further, a majority of participants characterized EvoMusic as being simultaneously competitive and creatively stimulating. The implication is that competitive games can support music creation for certain players, though it remains challenging to satisfy expectations for both within any one system. Design recommendations are drawn from these insights, and the potential for future research into creative music games is discussed.
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It has been commonly acknowledged that the acceptance of a product depends on both its utilitarian and non-utilitarian properties. The non-utilitarian properties can elicit generally pleasurable and particularly playful experiences in the product's users. Product design needs to improve the support of playful experiences in order to fit in with the users' multi-faceted needs. However, designing for fun and pleasure is not an easy task, and there is an urgent need in user experience research and design practices to better understand the role of playfulness in overall user experience of the product. In this paper, we present an initial framework of playful experiences which are derived from studies in interactive art and videogames. We conducted a user study to verify that these experiences are valid. We interviewed 13 videogame players about their experiences with games and what triggers these experiences. The results indicate that the players are experiencing the videogames in many different ways which can be categorized using the framework. We propose that the framework could help the design of interactive products from an experience point of view and make them more engaging, attractive, and most importantly, more playful for the users.
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In this paper, we introduce a general framework for product experience that applies to all affective responses that can be experienced in human-product interaction. Three distinct components or levels of product experiences are discussed: aesthetic experience, experience of meaning, and emotional experience. All three components are distinguished in having their own lawful underlying process. The aesthetic level involves a product’s capacity to delight one or more of our sensory modalities. The meaning level involves our ability to assign personality or other expressive characteristics and to assess the personal or symbolic significance of products. The emotional level involves those experiences that are typically considered in emotion psychology and in everyday language about emotions, such as love and anger, which are elicited by the appraised relational meaning of products. The framework indicates patterns for the processes that underlie the different types of affective product experiences, which are used to explain the personal and layered nature of product experience
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Playfulness can be observed in all areas of human activity. It is an attitude of making activities more enjoyable. Designing for playfulness involves creating objects that elicit a playful approach and provide enjoyable experiences. In this paper we introduce the design and evaluation of the PLEX Cards and its two related idea generation techniques. The cards were created to communicate the 22 categories of a Playful Experiences framework to designers and other stakeholders who wish to design for playfulness. We have evaluated the practical use of the cards by applying them in three design cases. The results show that the PLEX Cards are a valuable source of inspiration when designing for playfulness and the techniques help create a large amount of ideas in a short time.
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Flow is a state of peak enjoyment, energetic focus, and creative concentration experienced by people engaged in adult play, which has become the basis of a highly creative approach to living. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)