Research through board game design

This research presents the design of a board game that explores issues related to privacy, ethics, trust, risk, acceptability, and security within the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular, it aims to assist players in developing mental models of the increasing hybrid digital/physical spaces they inhabit in which notions of public and private are increasingly blurred. The game is based on an Heterotopical Model for Inter-Spatial Interaction, inspired by Michel Foucault’s essay “Of Other Spaces”, which can act as a lens for designing IoT products and services.

In the game, players explore the spatial division between physical and virtual and are rather exposed to its procedural rhetoric, which highlights how notions of public and private are in constant flux and must be constantly renegotiated as they add or make connections with any new IoT devices they encounter. As the meaning of any game only emerges through play, it was developed through iterative play-testing in which player experience was evaluated against the intended rhetoric. This led to a number of fundamental re-designs and proved useful for evaluating the model itself. This discussion highlights that while game design research somewhat sits apart from more general design research it aligns closely with research through design.