Adam Palmquist and ethical gamification | Episode 073

Listen to this episode on your phone!

Adam has worked as a game designer and game consultant for educational and serious games all around in Scandinavia. He has wrote the first, and as for today, the only book in Swedish about Gamification. Today Adam is a Ph.D. candidate in Informatics at the University of Skövde. He also works as a gamification designer and evangelist at the Swedish gamification studio Insert Coin.

Since he is doing his Ph.D. through an industrial fellowship (the company is paying for it) he is spending around 60% at that, doing research about gamification and completion in higher education. It is about tackling with gamification the engagement crisis in higher ed, which has strong financial consequences for institutions all around the world but of course he is focused in Scandinavia. All of the engagers send him the best of success in this awesome task! On the other hand he is also doing a lot of demos, lectures and workshops to evangelize gamification, and of course he is also designing gamification at Insert Coin. In industrial settings he has found that they take empirical data, evidence and research very seriously which is quite useful when implementing because questions are deeper and more interesting! He said that he is “living the dream”, which is what many of us might be striving towards!

His favorite FAIL (first attempt in learning) happened when he was a high school teacher and was starting to be interested in gamification. He was working with special needs students, a group of 15-20 who were all gamers and Adam has a full background on pen and paper RPG (role playing games) design. Thus, he decided to do a sort of Dundeons and Dragons for the classroom. When he presented it to the students, none of them were interested! He dumped too many game mechanics, he realized you should not create things by yourself and just apply, you need to know your users, what they feel is ok, what you want to drive them towards, which would be for him the central lesson.

Adam’s process for gamification, coming from being an pen and paper RPG designer, he is all about rules and transparent rulesets, which is quite different from video games because the rules are not really transparent. When he plans a workshop, he is very transparent about the rules. In his books he describes four important pillars: you need a clear goal, rules to attain the goal, positive and progressive feedback and finally a social connection to others! He argues that games have always been a social activity, for thousands of years, and that single player games have only existed for a few decades, so social is a central activity in games. Even thinking of storytelling, it is an activity that is not conducted solo, even in written form it involves others.

For him, in gamification, a best practice would be to do more critical research about gamification and its ethical components. The ethical considerations should always be central to gamification designs. He mentioned a couple of examples in fitness and dating where the apps don’t necessarily want the best for you because it would mean you stop using them! So they only make half the favor so you continue to use them. It was, of course, inevitable to mention Andrzej Marczewski‘s ethics discussion, centered around his Open Gamification Code of Ethics (which Professor Game is adhered to).

His favorite game, at the moment, is Terraforming Mars as far as board games. For digital games, it would be Star Traders Frontiers. It helps him relax and it’s one of those games you can just play for a bit and get back to your things. He would love to have Sebastian Deterding on Professor Game! The book he would recommend is Homo Ludens of Johan Huizinga and if you’re more into the psychology side of gamification perhaps Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. His superpower is now understanding what the client wants and needs! Certainly a very useful superpower in this space.

We can find Adam at and on LinkedIn as Adam Palmquist. On his webpage, we can also find his book (available only in Swedish for now!)


There are many ways to get in touch with Professor Game, you can go to my Twitter @RobAlvarezB, my Instagram, our Facebook Page, subscribe to our email list and even ask a question to future guests!

Looking forward to reading or hearing from you,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

eleven + fifteen =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.