Gamification continues to grow in popularity as an innovative solution to problems in a wide variety of fields from education to healthcare. This rising interest has led to a number of published academic studies all asking the same question: Does gamification really work?
A research paper produced for the 2014 Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences carefully reviews twenty-four scholarly empirical research studies which all focused directly on the success of gamification. These studies were broken into three parts: motivational affordances, psychological outcomes, and behavioral outcomes. The motivational affordances predominantly included points, leaderboards, and badges. The psychological outcomes included motivation, attitude, and enjoyment. The behavioral outcomes “used experiments or statistical analyses from existing services or implementations designed by the researchers” to measure response patterns and task performance and also investigated use intentions through survey methods.
A Survey of the Results
The study concluded that gamification yielded positive results when appropriately utilized for a specific context and tailored to individual users. The study warns that in certain contexts (such as e-commerce) “outside pressures (such as extrinsic rewards) undermine intrinsic motivations and hence would in essence undermine gamification which is an attempt to afford for the emergence of intrinsic motivations.” In order for gamification to succeed, game-like systems must be adaptable and engage both the specific context and behavioral patterns of users.
By focusing on the tailoring the four goals of gamification (accelerated feedback, defined rules, compelling narrative, and achievable goals) specifically to the industry and business needs, companies can further increase the positive effects of game design. Game mechanics should allow for the variety of motivational affordances to adapt to a broad spectrum of participants. As this study proves, the question we should ask is not “Does gamification work,” but rather, “How can I reap the greatest benefit from gamification for my industry’s unique needs?”
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