Interview with Zachary N J Peterson, 3GSE '14 program chair

The USENIX Summit on Gaming, Games and Gamification in Security Education (3GSE '14) will be held August 18 and co-located with USENIX Security '14. In this interview, program chair Zachary N J Peterson offers a preview of what to expect at the first 3GSE event.

Rikki: What inspired the 3GSE event?

Zachary: Over the past decade or so, there has been increasing interest in the use of games for computer security education, training, and outreach. This interest originates from programs at every education level (K-12, undergraduate, professional), takes numerous forms (summer programs, puzzle hunts, capture-the-flag exercises, board and card games) and is nourished by a variety of stakeholders (professional societies, academics, and even the US government). Unfortunately, most activities are done independently and in isolation, without much opportunity to share results, exchange ideas, or make broader pedagogical impact with our games. 

As a result, I think there’s a healthy skepticism on the use of games for security education. This may be because our work is either scattered across a variety of security, gaming, and education journals and conferences — or worse, not published at all. We’re failing, as a community, to communicate what is the state of the art and establish baselines for future work in this field. If we want to credit games as being valuable, then the onus is on us, as practitioners, to create a venue where we can share our results, discuss what works, and be more transparent about our approaches. Given the growing interest and diversity of security games, we felt the community could benefit from a dedicated venue. The 3GSE summit is our attempt to bring together the people who are interested in game-like approaches, and would like to explore it more critically and academically.

Also, we love games. Organizing this summit gives us an excuse to play and discuss some of our favorites with their creators.

Rikki: Who should attend?

Zachary: To be successful in this domain requires an understanding of computer security, an ability develop rich, interactive and aesthetically pleasing media, and an ability to apply sound pedagogical practice; this is a fairly unique skill set for a single individual to have. This means, we hope anyone who has tried to do work in this or similar areas will attend. This includes those designing security games or organizing security competitions, security educators who have attempted to “gamify" their classroom or are attempting to reach new audiences, and researchers active in game development and interested in identifying the best practices for building and evaluating security games. Through this summit, we hope to connect these communities, creating a resource for collaboration and sharing. 

Rikki: What can attendees expect to get from the event?

Zachary: One of the major goals for 3GSE is to raise the bar on what published work in this field should look like, providing attendees with the tools to move beyond the “lessons learned” paper. This means that the summit will be less of tutorial on how to “gamify” the classroom, but instead, be a venue for community members active in this space to share techniques and their experiences in what has worked and what has failed in the development, deployment and evaluation of security games. 

Of course, we hope there will also be discussion on the elements of what makes a good security game. These include, how do we strike balance between a game's ability to simulate reality and its approachability by those unfamiliar with the discipline? How do we educate using games without leaving the player feeling bored, "feeling trained”, feeling confused or feeling hurt? 

Lastly, 3GSE will feature live demonstrations of some security games and even an opportunity to play a few with their authors.

Rikki: Do you have any talks or speakers lined up yet?

Zachary: Our program is still coming together, but we’ve already lined up some great speakers doing some very interesting and diverse work in this space. These include some prominent CTF organizers, developers of non-digital security games, those attempting to use games for outreach and K-12 education, and educators interested in using games for formative evaluation.

Rikki: What else should we know about the event?

Zachary: The summit is open to all, and we encourage anyone with an interest in thinking critically about the use of games in security education to attend and contribute to the dialogue. If you’re not able to make it, don’t worry. USENIX’s exceptional open access policy will give interested parties an opportunity to read the summit’s proceedings soon after the meeting. Further, we plan on video taping much of the event, so the value of this meeting can be preserved and shared after the summit has concluded. Finally, we plan on a few surprises related to the “gamification” of the event itself, with opportunities to win a few prizes. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to email the organizers at:

We hope to see you there!

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