Reza Khoshkangini

Computer Science and Innovation for Societal Challenges, XXX series
Grant sponsor
Fondazione Bruno Kessler

Anna Paola Marconi (FBK)

Tullio Vardanega, Anna Spagnolli

Project: Personalized Game Content Generation and Recommendation for Gamified Systems.
Full text of the dissertation book can be downloaded from:


Gamification, that is, the usage of game content in non-game contexts, has been successfully employed in several application domains to foster engagement, as well as to influence the behavior of end users. Although gamification is often effective in inducing behavioral changes in citizens, the difficulty in retaining players and sustaining the acquired behavior over time, shows some limitations of this technology. That is especially unfortunate, because changing players’ demeanor (which have been shaped for a long time), cannot be immediately internalized; rather, the gamification incentive must be reinforced to lead to stabilization. This issue could be sourced from utilizing static game content and a one-size-fits-all strategy in generating the content during the game. This reveals the need for dynamic personalization over the course of the game. Our research hypothesis is that we can overcome these limitations with Procedural Content Generation (PCG) of playable units that appeal to each individual player and make her user experience more varied and compelling. In this thesis, we propose a deep, large and long solution, deployed in two main phases of Design and Integration to tackle these limitations. To support the former phase, we present a “PCG and Recommender system” to automate the generation and recommendation of playable units, named “Challenges”, which are Personalized and Contextualized on the basis of players’ preferences, skills, etc., and the game ulterior objectives. To this end, we develop a multi-layered framework to generate the personalized game content to be assigned and recommended to the players involved in the gamified system. To support the latter phase, we integrate two modules into the system including Machine Learning (ML) and Player Modeling, in order to optimize the challenge selection process and learning players’ behavior to further improve the personalization, by deriving the style of the player, respectively. We have carried out the implementation and evaluation of the proposed framework and its integration in two different contexts. First, we assess our Automatic Procedural Content Generation and Recommendation (APCGR) system within a large-scale and long-running open field experiment promoting sustainable urban mobility that lasted twelve weeks and involved more than 400 active players. Then, we implement the “Player Modeling” module (in the integration phase) in an educational interactive game domain to assess the performance of the proposed play style extraction approach. The contributions of this dissertation are a first step toward the application of machine learning in automating the procedural content generation and recommendation in gamification systems.