Gamification – the riskiest of serious games.

Over the last year we’ve been moving even deeper into gamification. Designing a large variety of applications by incorporating gaming mechanisms into the actual activity. So rather than some fantasy training simulator – its the real thing and its measuring the users activities and reporting back in a gamified way as to how well they are doing.

But why?

Essentially to increase user engagement. That is – to get the people to do what they need to do.

Might sound a bit familiar?

Well, it probably is. Most of us, would like the people we work with to be really motivated. And to get a lot done, and to care about their work enough to do a really good job. So when people don’t – we look around to see what the problem is. It’s often lack of motivation.

But what are some of game elements that could be used to affect motivation?

Some of the most regularly utilized gamification element goal-setting include progress paths and badges, awarded to the player to identify goal completion. Goal setting is known to be an effective motivator. Ling et al. (2005) illustrates that the most motivating goals are those just out of comfortable reach. Whilst goal setting is most effective when users can see their progress toward the end goal. Furthermore, people often escalate their efforts when they know they are near their goal (Fox and Hoffman, 2002).

Badges can be framed as challenges to complete, this has the advantage of providing instructions about what types of activity are possible within a given system. (Montola et al., 2009) Badges can make it useful for indoctrinating new users, and also to help silo’d users diversify their participation. Even if users never actually earn the badges, through viewing a list of possible challenges, they come to understand valued activities within the system.

The token nature of badges can be used to encapsulate a user’s interest, expertise and past interactions. Directly affecting the reputation of the user within the system. They can provide a summery of engagement levels for example by indicating whether a users is a casual or fanatical community member. (Kollock, 1999) By providing an encapsulated assessment of engagement, experience and expertise, badge can help to determine the trustworthiness of other people or the reliability of the content.

However it is worth bearing in mind that badges or tokenized completion of tasks or challenges can be seen as a counterproductive usage pattern. (Montola et al., 2009) Montola and colleagues found that implementing badges in a photo sharing service lead to confusion and anxiety on the users part as to how their activity would be perceived by other users. It has been argued that achievement notified by badges can be counterproductive as a gamification element and be perceived as a corrupting effect of extrinsic incentive and make some badges harmful to intrinsic motivation. (Hecker, 2010) and (Deci, 1971)

Recent criticism of state of the art of gamification as a blueprint for putting points, badges and leaderboards on everything as explored by Schell and Deterding point to studies by Lepper et al. and Kohn. (Schell, 2010) and (Deterding et al., 2011). In “Punished by Rewards” Kohn demonstrates that children will draw more pictures, but in lesser quality , if they are paid for drawing pictures. However the more important fact is that children did not like drawing pictures as much as before, after they are stopped being paid. (Kohn, 1999) This effect is known as “Overjustification” and verified by Lepper, where intrinsic motivation is shifted toward the extrinsic incentives. (Lepper et al., 1973).

So it can be damned risky to play with gamification!

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References :

 

Ames, C., Archer, J., 1988. Achievement goals in the classroom: Students’ learning strategies and motivation processes. Journal of educational psychology 80, 260.
Deci, E.L., 1971. Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation. Journal of personality and Social Psychology 18, 105–115.
Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., Nacke, L., 2011. From game design elements to gamefulness: defining gamification, in: Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments. pp. 9–15.
Fox, S., Hoffman, M., 2002. Escalation behavior as a specific case of goal-directed activity: A persistence paradigm. Basic and applied social psychology 24, 273–285.
Gagné, M., Deci, E.L., 2005. Self-determination theory and work motivation. Journal of Organizational behavior 26, 331–362.
Hecker, C., 2010. Achievements Considered Harmful. Game Developer Conference.
Kohn, A., 1999. Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise, and other bribes. Mariner Books.
Kollock, P., 1999. The production of trust in online markets. Advances in group processes. 16, 99–123.
Lepper, M.R., Greene, D., Nisbett, R.E., 1973. Undermining children’s intrinsic interest with extrinsic reward: A test of the“ overjustification” hypothesis. Journal of Personality and social Psychology 28, 129.
Ling, K., Beenen, G., Ludford, P., Wang, X., Chang, K., Li, X., Cosley, D., Frankowski, D., Terveen, L., Rashid, A.M., 2005. Using social psychology to motivate contributions to online communities. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 10, 00–00.
Montola, M., Nummenmaa, T., Lucero, A., Boberg, M., Korhonen, H., 2009. Applying Game Achievement Systems to Enhance User Experience in a Photo Sharing Service.
Schell, J., 2010. Visions of the Gamepocalypse.

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