Modeling and Designing for Key Elements of Curiosity: Risking Failure, Valuing Questions

Alexandra To, Jarrek Holmes, Elaine Fath, Eda Zhang, Geoff Kaufman, Jessica Hammer


In this paper, we present a design model of curiosity that articulates the relationship between uncertainty and curiosity, and defines the role of failure and question-asking within that relationship. We explore ways to instantiate failure and question-asking within a cooperative tabletop game, share data from multiple playtests both in the field and lab, and investigate the impact of design decisions on players’ affective experiences of failure and their ability to use questions to close information gaps. In designing for comfort with failure we find that helping players manage the aversiveness of potential failure can help prevent it from stifling curiosity, and that affective responses to failure can be modified by aesthetic decisions, as well as by group norms. In designing for comfort with questions we find that empowering quieter players
supports the entire group’s efforts to express curiosity, flexibility in enforcing rules fosters curiosity, and questions can serve multiple simultaneous roles in supporting and expressing curiosity. We discuss how these findings can be used in other games to support curiosity in play.


curiosity, uncertainty, game design, failure, question-asking

Full Text:


Published by the Digital Games Research Association.