To Play Is the Thing: How Game Design Principles Can Make Online Deliberation Compelling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This essay draws from game design to improve the prospects of democratic deliberation during government consultation with the public. The argument begins by reviewing the problem of low-quality deliberation in contemporary discourse, then explains how games can motivate participants to engage in demanding behaviors, such as deliberation. Key design features include: the origin, governance, and oversight of the game; the networked small groups at the center of the game; the objectives of these groups; the purpose of artificial intelligence and automated metrics for measuring deliberation; the roles played by public officials and nongovernmental organizations during the game; and the long-term payoff of playing the game for both its convenors and its participants. The essay concludes by considering this project’s wider theoretical significance for deliberative democracy, the first steps for governments and nonprofit organizations adopting this design, and the hazards of using advanced digital technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1042-1060
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'To Play Is the Thing: How Game Design Principles Can Make Online Deliberation Compelling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this