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Gamification Misunderstood: How Badly Executed and Rhetorical Gamification Obscures Its Transformative Potential



Although management gamification has immense potential to broadly benefit both management and employees, its impact to date has been lackluster and its value unclear. I credit this to a market proliferation of rhetorical or “fake” gamification, a process which involves the decoration of existing organizational processes with game elements but with little or no attention paid to the psychological processes by which those elements influence human behavior. For gamification to be successful, specific psychological characteristics of employees or customers must be targeted, and game elements must be chosen to influence those characteristics. In theoretical terms, legitimate gamification in management can be defined as a family of work and product design techniques inspired by game design, whereas rhetorical gamification is at best novice gameful design and at worst a swindle, an attempt to make something appear “game-like” purely to sell more gamification. Only by carefully distinguishing legitimate and rhetorical gamification can legitimate gamification’s potential be fully realized.
Journal of Management Inquiry
2019, Vol. 28(2) 137 –140
© The Author(s) 2018
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/1056492618790913
Journal of Management Inquiry
2019, Vol. 28(2) 137 –140
© The Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1056492618790913
Gamification refers to a design process through which game
elements are added to existing nongame systems (Deterding,
Dixon, Khaled, & Nacke, 2011). For example, in the human
resources context, an existing prehire assessment might be
modified by adding narrative aspects to test questions with
the intent of creating a sense of immersion among job appli-
cants in the organizational context to which they are apply-
ing (Brown, Stacey, & Nandhakumar, 2008) to more
accurately predict their own future behaviors as employees
in that organization. A common point of confusion regarding
gamification among laypeople is that it describes a product
or distinct technology, which does not reflect common schol-
arly usage. Instead, the term gamification is generally used
by gamification researchers to describe the design process
used to identify and add game elements to an existing system
in a meaningful and impactful way. It ideally involves utiliz-
ing game design principles, such as narrative design like
described above, to modify existing systems with the intent
of changing them in some way beneficial to stakeholders.
Given this definition, I consider management gamification
to be the popular, understudied, and commonly misunderstood
application of gamification in which organizational leadership
tries to improve managerial processes. To date, management
gamification, much like gamification more broadly, has expe-
rienced a meteoric rise, a crash, and, mostly recently, a slow
increase in popularity (Gopaladesikan, 2012). This pattern,
commonly labeled the hype cycle, is a familiar one in organi-
zational technology research (O’Leary, 2008). As Gartner
(2017), the research firm that developed the concept of the
hype cycle, explained, new technologies are commonly intro-
duced with significant overpromising by their creators and
evangelists, resulting in irrational faith in their transformative
potential by organizational leadership. This leads to an overap-
plication of the technology in situations where it is likely to be
ineffective, which later results in a growing distrust in the
technology as the panacea it was promised to be. After mass
abandonment, a relatively small number of applications in
which the technology was found to be effective persist, and
from these successful implementations, a more sustainable
body of knowledge, expertise, and community begin to grow
surrounding the technology. Many novel technologies intro-
duced into modern organizational practices follow this general
pattern when introduced.
Despite emerging from its popularity crash, the growth of
gamification research and practice has remained inconsistent. I
attribute this primarily to construct confusion among both
scholars and practitioners regarding the relationships between
the term “gamified” and other game-related terms. For example,
gamification may or may not result in the creation of a game. To
illustrate the distinction between games and gamification,
790913JMIXXX10.1177/1056492618790913Journal of Management InquiryLanders
1University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Corresponding Author:
Richard N. Landers, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455,
Gamification Misunderstood: How Badly
Executed and Rhetorical Gamification
Obscures Its Transformative Potential
Richard N. Landers1
Although management gamification has immense potential to broadly benefit both management and employees, its impact
to date has been lackluster and its value unclear. I credit this to a market proliferation of rhetorical or “fake” gamification, a
process which involves the decoration of existing organizational processes with game elements but with little or no attention
paid to the psychological processes by which those elements influence human behavior. For gamification to be successful,
specific psychological characteristics of employees or customers must be targeted, and game elements must be chosen to
influence those characteristics. In theoretical terms, legitimate gamification in management can be defined as a family of work
and product design techniques inspired by game design, whereas rhetorical gamification is at best novice gameful design and
at worst a swindle, an attempt to make something appear “game-like” purely to sell more gamification. Only by carefully
distinguishing legitimate and rhetorical gamification can legitimate gamification’s potential be fully realized.
gamification, rhetorical gamification, management, theory, psychology, game design, human resources, organizational behavior
138 Journal of Management Inquiry 28(2)
consider two different prehire assessments which have been
gamified. The first assessment is a branching situational judg-
ment test (SJT) in which different answers to earlier questions
on the test can lead down different narrative paths in later test
questions. The addition of branching to an existing SJT can be
considered a type of gamification, yet game scholars would
likely be split on whether the resulting test was in fact a “game.”
The second assessment is based upon a digital simulation (i.e.,
an unstructured computer-based replication of a real-world sys-
tem). To convert the simulation into an assessment, its creator
decides to add specific tasks to complete, a narrative progres-
sion between those tasks, and a point system to recognize prog-
ress, using final points earned as an assessment score. In this
case, the result of gamification is unambiguously a full-fledged
simulation game. Thus, in both cases, the gamification process
leads to a “gamified assessment,” yet only in the second case
does gamification clearly result in a “game.” In contrast to both
examples, an organization might set out to design a game-based
assessment; in this case, there is no gamification either because
no preexisting system is altered, yet a game is the result.
In addition, managerial gamification has exhibited a
somewhat unusual version of the hype cycle due to market-
place confusion surrounding the term “gamification” given
these definitional nuances. Serious games and simulation
games, which are commonly confused with gamification,
have been in use in organizations for much longer than gami-
fication has, and they are already trusted in many contexts.
Serious games, for example, have been used as organiza-
tional training media since at least the 1930s (Wolfe, 1993).
In contrast, gamification, at least labeled as such, has only
been applied since the early 2000s. In much of the academic
and practitioner literatures, the more general concept of
applying lessons, mechanics, and other artifacts surrounding
games, which includes both gamification and game develop-
ment, can be more appropriately referred to as “game-think-
ing” (Armstrong, Landers, & Collmus, 2016) or “game-based
methods” (Kapp, 2012), both cousins of play and playful
organizational design (Petelczyc, Capezio, Wang, Restubog,
& Aquino, 2018; Salovaara & Statler, 2019). Yet among lay-
people and those interested in co-opting the popularity of the
term “gamification,” gamification is instead frequently inter-
preted to mean “anything ostensibly game-related.” It is
within this research and practice landscape that I will next
explore how gamification ended up in this situation and out-
line a path to escape it.
Defining Rhetorical Gamification as
Fake Gamification
Among management professionals, construct confusion has
led to a proliferation of interventions and products designed to
look like games or gamified products but without any of the
formal design processes known to lead to success in either
gamification or game development. Instead, such examples of
rhetorical gamification are primarily intended only to create
additional revenue for the organizations selling them by co-
opting the popularity of games. This rhetorical gamification is
a fake gamification. It involves creating a product that appears
to be a game or at least is game-like, invoking the appearance
or language of games, but without any of the development and
design processes supported by extant research. For example,
points, badges, and leaderboards are commonly the result of
rhetorical gamification because they are so widely recogniz-
able as game elements, making them an easy sell to unsuspect-
ing organizations without existing game-thinking expertise or
experience. When game elements are added to existing sys-
tems without any legitimate reason to do so—when they are
added simply to make something appear “game-like” by
invoking the language, the rhetoric of games—that gamifica-
tion is rhetorical. Deterding (2019) describes a type of rhetori-
cal gamification—which he refers to as “the rhetoric of choice
architecture”—as a “refinement of existing practices,” but it is
more insidious than that; it indeed accomplishes little beyond
existing practices, but it also sabotages the success of the
newer, humanistic orientation he describes.
Disconnects between known-to-be effective technology
implementations and misleading or harmful commercial rep-
resentations of those technologies are not a new problem in
business culture, but management gamification appears par-
ticularly afflicted by questionable salesmanship which has
added to both scholarly and practitioner confusion. Ian
Bogost, a respected game designer and scholar of new media,
gained notoriety within the gamification research and practi-
tioner community with his published essays, “Exploit ationware ”
(Bogost, 2013) and “Why gamification is bullshit” (Bogost,
2015). In those essays, Bogost rightly criticized rhetorical
gamification in which only the most obvious window dress-
ing of games—elements such as points, badges, and leader-
boards—are used primarily as sales tactics. The addition of a
point system may be recommended because it is commonly
associated with the idea of games and because games sell
well, thus co-opting the style of video games for financial
gain without any of the substance. However, Bogost goes too
far by condemning all of gamification this way, combining
legitimate and rhetorical gamification into a single straw
bogeyman. As I’ve argued elsewhere, this is ultimately harm-
ful to the development of gamification science (Landers,
Auer, Collmus, & Armstrong, 2018) because such statements
undermine legitimate gamification research. Legitimate gam-
ification involves drawing insights from the game design,
human–computer interaction, and psychological research lit-
eratures to redesign systems to motivate new behaviors in a
consistent, generalizable, ethical, and theoretically justifiable
way. Emerging empirical research has demonstrated that
legitimate gamification is effective at changing behavior in a
variety of circumstances (Hamari, Koivisto, & Sarsa, 2014).
It is much different than adding points arbitrarily to an exist-
ing system without any compelling reason to do so.
Landers 139
Although points, badges, and leaderboards are commonly
associated with rhetorical gamification, no game element is
inherently rhetorical or illegitimate, and rhetorical gamifica-
tion is not inherently ineffective. Because gamification is a
design process, rhetorical gamification invokes a rhetorical
process; it can involve any game element or elements, or any
other artifact that stakeholders can be convinced is “game-
like.” Because of the detachment between rhetorical and
legitimate gamification, rhetorical gamification can even
describe a situation in which no game elements are present
whatsoever; the changes must simply be presented as “game-
like” as part of a sales pitch. That said, many types of rhetori-
cal gamification, including the arbitrary application of points,
badges, and leaderboards, may still be effective in terms of
creating behavioral change among the people they are desired
to affect. Such impacts are likely to be coincidences of imple-
mentation; regardless of the design rationale behind adding
game elements to an existing system, game elements are
powerful behavior modification tools, and their sudden
deployment in managerial contexts can certainly influence
employee behavior. The risk, instead, is that the behavioral
change created is not the behavioral change desired (Callan,
Bauer, & Landers, 2015). For example, creating a point sys-
tem to recognize completion of online training modules may
only succeed in causing employees to rush through as many
online training modules as possible to earn points instead of
learning from those modules, the intended goal.
Although potentially damaging to the achievement of
organizational goals, the adoption of rhetorical gamification
could be caused by inadequate training or knowledge of
design processes for legitimate gamification. To illustrate, a
prime example of this can be found in a recent theory of
employee performance gamification presented by Cardador,
Northcraft, and Whicker (2017). This theory’s first proposi-
tion reads, “Work gamification improves work motivation
(and subsequent performance) by providing workers with
increased access to visible, comparable, and immediate per-
formance information” (p. 356). Because gamification can
involve literally any game element, such as the inclusion of a
progress bar, the creation of narrative structure, or even the
addition of immersive elements like sound or visuals, this
statement is far too general to be descriptive of any authentic
phenomenon. Many types of gamification that could be used
in the performance context do not even include increased
access to performance information! By describing all possi-
ble gamification, this theory describes none. Gamification of
employee performance evaluation systems does not necessar-
ily involve any new performance feedback whatsoever; feed-
back is itself a game element and thus its inclusion depends
entirely upon the design process. It is likely that these authors
fell into the trap described earlier, conflating gamification as
a design process with the addition of points, badges, and lead-
erboards to existing systems. Gamification is not a monolithic
technology; it is a design process and should be studied that
way. Any theory conceptualizing a technology, including
gamification, as a distinct, well-defined, and stable construct
is not a useful theory.
The Challenge of Discouraging the
Rhetorical While Encouraging the
Practically speaking, the confusion among both academic
researchers and practitioners between legitimate and rhetorical
gamification continues to be harmful because it hampers the
growing scholarly investigation of gamification outside of its
own research literature. For example, although the gamifica-
tion research literature has grown large—800 publications
indexed by Web of Science as of early 2018 according to my
own searching—the greatest number of these appear in the
broad human–computer interaction literature (k = 280; 35%),
followed closely by education (k = 232; 29%), where gamifi-
cation made an early impact (Hamari et al., 2014). Study of
gamification in the context of management is relatively sparse
(k = 39, 5%; also see Cardador et al., 2017) despite gamifica-
tion appearing frequently in the current practice of manage-
ment. The inconsistent conceptualizations of gamification in
the broader literature on which to base further work discourage
management researchers from studying it, and I have firsthand
heard from colleagues hesitant to work in this domain due to
such inconsistencies. Implicitly redefining the term gamifica-
tion to the rhetorical needs of particular researchers, which is
seen throughout the gamification literature, contributes to the
sense that gamification can be anything anyone wants it to be.
This slows the development of meaningful, trustworthy, empir-
ically derived implementation frameworks on which gamifica-
tion practitioners can rely. This discourages managers and
management scholars from taking the entire field seriously.
This decreases the likelihood that effective gamification will be
practiced, in general.
The decentralized nature of gamification research has made
progress in clarifying the difference between rhetorical and
legitimate gamification sporadic, but there are a few models
that serve as compelling starting points. Hamari and colleagues
(2014) provided a fundamental theory of gamification effec-
tiveness which states that motivational affordances influence
behavior through the mediational forces of psychological
change. Using this theory as a guiding framework, two major
conclusions can be drawn. First, game elements must be cho-
sen based upon their motivational affordances and the theoreti-
cal link between those affordances and desirable psychological
outcomes. Second, targeted psychological outcomes must be
linked to desirable behavioral change. Building upon Hamari’s
work, I contextualized this theory to the learning context and
presented it as a design process in the reverse order: identify a
needed behavioral change, target psychological changes that
are most likely to bring about that behavioral change, and then
identify specific game elements likely to effect those psycho-
logical changes (Landers, 2014). In addition, I developed a
framework of promising game elements to accomplish given
140 Journal of Management Inquiry 28(2)
established research in the learning domain. Frameworks like
these directly enable legitimate gamification because they can
be used to integrate existing research on games, players, psy-
chology, and the target domain to create meaningful, impactful
intervention design plans. Similar contextualization is needed
across management contexts to enable the same impacts. A
shared understanding of gamification across the entire litera-
ture is necessary for this to occur effectively.
In sum, it is critical for the future of meaningful research on
gamification in management to clearly conceptualize gamifica-
tion, drawing a firm line between legitimate and rhetorical
gamification. It is only with this distinction that the line between
the aspects of gamification that are truly novel and progressive
can be distinguished from those that are discredited and incor-
rect (Abrahamson, 1996). Rhetorical gamification uses the
powerful rhetoric of games without the substance of games to
convince people of the connection between rhetorical gamifi-
cation and the powerful motivators found in commercially suc-
cessful games. To an untrained observer, these efforts appear
legitimate because they invoke words and labels that people
associate with games. Unfortunately, once the smokescreen of
the rhetoric clears, there is nothing left. Thus, it is only through
careful consideration of how people psychologically experi-
ence game elements, the design process underlying legitimate
gamification, that management scholars and practitioners can
develop and understand the legitimate practice of management
gamification—gamification that can create lasting and mean-
ingful behavioral change that aids organizations. The sooner
rhetorical gamification can be clearly distinguished from legiti-
mate gamification, the sooner these benefits will be achieved.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author-
ship, and/or publication of this article.
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... However, the training was provided as an external agent, and a bundle of game elements was used to counter for the trainer's lack of understanding of the audience. Research suggests that gamification must be carried out systematically, beginning with understanding the drivers of the behaviour of potential participants and then the addition of the appropriate elements (Landers, 2019). Analysis of the effectiveness of each element and their impact on the level of learning would add value to our understanding of gamification and provide a clearer understanding of how the technique can be used to enhance a learning experience. ...
... However, the application was carried out without a sufficient understanding of the construct. Landers (2019), in his note on the application of gamification, stressed the need to accept that gamification, although related to games, was distinct in many ways. Traditionally, research has focused on evaluating the effectiveness of gamification in the academic context. ...
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Purpose: Existing research on the measurability of information quality (IQ) has delivered poor results and demonstrated low inter-rater agreement measured by Intra-Class Correlation (ICC) in evaluating IQ dimensions. Low ICC could result in a questionable interpretation of IQ. The purpose of this paper is to analyse whether assessors' motivation can facilitate ICC. Methodology: To acquire the participants' views of IQ, we designed a survey as a gamified process. Additionally, we selected Web study to reach a broader audience. We increased the validity of the research by including a diverse set of participants (i.e. individuals with different education, demographic and social backgrounds). Findings: The study results indicate that motivation improved the ICC of IQ on average by 0.27, demonstrating an increase in measurability from poor (0.29) to moderate (0.56). The results reveal a positive correlation between motivation level and ICC, with a significant overall increase in ICC relative to previous studies. The research also identified trends in ICC for different dimensions of IQ with the best results achieved for completeness and accuracy. Practical implications: The work has important practical implications for future IQ research and suggests valuable guidelines. The results of this study imply that considering raters' motivation improves the measurability of IQ substantially. Originality: Previous studies addressed ICC in IQ dimension evaluation. However, assessors' motivation has been neglected. This study investigates the impact of assessors' motivation on the measurability of IQ. Compared to the results in related work, the level of agreement achieved with the most motivated group of participants was superior.
This paper explains how gamification influences the macro- and micro-level social structures in an industrial organization. Based on qualitative content analysis applied in an interpretative case study, we demonstrate how the implementation of a gamification application successively leads to a number of changes in the micro- and macro-level social structures of the investigated organization. The workers in the gamified work process changed their focus of attention, developed new goals and identities, and altered their social interaction; these changes in turn led to modifications in the organizational practices and identities in the sense of work routines and acceptance of the organizational structure during the sample period. With our explanations on how gamification can transform an organization at least temporarily, we contribute to the research stream that proposes a more holistic view of gamification. Our findings also advocate for a more comprehensive view of which people are part of the gamified environment.
Résumé Offrir aux clients une expérience de qualité est devenu un enjeu critique pour les entreprises. A cette fin, les chercheurs ont mis en évidence l’opportunité d’utiliser la gamification. Cependant, et malgré la popularité grandissante de cette stratégie, les études rapportent des résultats divergents. Cette recherche vise à réconcilier les résultats antérieurs en identifiant les conditions dans lesquelles la gamification permet d’aboutir à une meilleure expérience. Sur base de la théorie de la résolution de l’incertitude, nous examinons comment l’incertitude de gagner affecte la qualité de l’expérience client. Les résultats de six études, combinant une enquête sur le terrain et des expérimentations, démontrent les bénéfices associés à l’incertitude de gagner en termes de qualité de l’expérience client. Nous montrons que cet effet existe pendant et après l’activité gamifiée, quand les participants sont informés de leur succès ou de leur échec. Par ailleurs, nous mettons en évidence que le fait de perdre le concours renforce l’impact positif de l’incertitude de gagner, ce qui suggère que l’incertitude de gagner permet de contrer l’effet négatif de l’aversion à l’échec lors d’un concours. A l’inverse, nous suggérons que la valeur de la récompense proposée atténue l’impact positif de l’incertitude de gagner en attirant l’attention du client sur l’enjeu plutôt que l’expérience vécue. Nos résultats contribuent à la littérature existante en soulignant le rôle de l’incertitude de gagner comme condition déterminante à la capacité de la gamification à délivrer une expérience de qualité.
In this study, the effect of sense of suspense on flow experience, perceived fun in sports, and intention to use virtual reality platforms for the sport participation were examined. An experiment was implemented to compare gamified virtual reality experiences where a sense of suspense was stimulated by outcome uncertainty. Virtual reality sports content programmed with artificial intelligence was developed for experimentation. A multivariate analysis of covariance analysis was conducted to test established hypotheses. The experimental group with a higher sense of suspense presented higher flow, fun, and usage intention. While most studies have centered on one’s response to the entity that stimulates suspense, this study emphasizes the significance of gamification using suspense to induce targeted behavioral intentions. The authors further discuss the implications to scholars and practitioners.
Purpose The negative influence of gamification on online communities has received little attention in the available literature. The study examines the adverse effects of gamification during engaging in online communities. Design/methodology/approach Gap-spotting methods were used to develop the research questions, followed by model development using the social exchange and social-network theories. Data were collected from 429 samples. The study applied partial least squares structural equation modeling to test the research hypotheses followed by ANN application. Findings The study identified five factors related to gamification that have a significant adverse effect on the mental and emotional well-being of the users. Furthermore, the results of PLS-SEM were then compared through an artificial neural network (ANN) analytic process, revealing consistency for the model. This research presents a theoretical contribution by providing critical insights into online gamers' mental and emotional health. It implies that gamification can even bring mental and emotional disturbance. The resulting situation might lead to undesirable social consequences. Practical implications The result highlights the managerial and social relevance from the perspective of a developing country. As respondents are becoming more engrossed in online gaming, managers and decision-makers need to take preventive measures to overcome the dark side of online gaming. Originality/value The present study shows that the dark side of gamification has some adverse effects on human mental and emotional health. The study's findings can be used to improve gamification strategies while engaging online communities.
While gamification researchers have emphasised the exploration of game dynamics beyond typical game mechanics, there is still a blind spot regarding how specific game dynamics driven by social features enhance individual agility in the workplace. Since socially driven game dynamics are essential for collective units like organisations, this research conceptualized collaborative competition, paralinguistic digital recognition, and dynamic interactions as socially driven game dynamics and further, investigated how these game dynamics enhance individual agility through a moderated mediation model. Adopting a purposive sampling technique, 421 complete responses were found to be suitable for further analysis. The hypotheses were tested using an observed variable approach (Process Macro). The indirect effect of paralinguistic digital recognition on employee agility through collective engagement was found to be stronger than that of other game dynamics, such as collaborative competition and dynamic interactions. As hypothesised, collective goal difficulty acts as a positive moderator, accentuating the mediating effect of collective engagement. This study is one of the first works explaining the association between gamification and employee agility with a systematic framework, therefore advancing the existing literature on gamification and employee agility.
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Gamification in management is currently informed by two contradicting framings or rhetorics: the rhetoric of choice architecture casts humans as rational actors and games as perfect information and incentive dispensers, giving managers fine-grained control over people’s behavior. It aligns with basic tenets of neoclassical economics, scientific management, operations research/management science, and current big data-driven decision-making. In contrast, the rhetoric of humanistic design casts humans as growth-oriented and games as environments optimally designed to afford positive, meaningful experiences. This view, fitting humanistic management ideas and the rise of design and customer experience, casts managers as ‘second order’ designers. While both rhetorics highlight important aspects of games and management, the former is more likely to be adopted and absorbed into business as usual, whereas the latter holds more uncertainty but also transformative potential.
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Background. Definitions of gamification tend to vary by person, both in industry and within academia. One particularly popular lay interpretation, introduced and popularized by Ian Bogost, and reiterated by Jan Klabbers, is that gamification is “bullshit” and “exploitationware.” They describe gamification as a marketing term or business practice invented to sell products rather than to represent a real and unique phenomenon relevant to a nascent game science. However, this view is an oversimplification, one which ignores a growing body of theory development and empirical research on gamification within a post-positivist epistemology. In fact, because gamification is so much more outcome-focused than general game design, current gamification research in many ways has a stronger footing in modern social science than much games research does. Aim. In this article, to address common misunderstandings like these, we describe the philosophical underpinnings of modern gamification research, define the relationship between games and gamification, define and situate gamification science as a subdiscipline of game science, and explicate a six-element framework of major concerns within gamification science: predictor constructs, criterion constructs, mediator constructs, moderator constructs, design processes, and research methods. This framework is also presented diagrammatically as a causal path model. Conclusion. Gamification science refers to the development of theories of gamification design and their empirical evaluation within a post-positivist epistemology. The goal of gamification scientist-practitioners should be to understand how to best meet organizational goals through the design of gamification interventions, drawing upon insights derived from both gamification science and games research more broadly.
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Game-thinking is beginning to appear in a wide variety of non-game contexts, including organizational support settings like human resource management (HRM). The purpose of this chapter is two-fold: 1) to explore the opportunities for game-thinking via gamification and serious games in HRM based on current and previous HRM literature and 2) to identify future research areas at the intersection of game-thinking and HRM. Prevailing HRM theories will be applied to the use of game-thinking in different sub-fields of HRM, including recruitment, selection, training, and performance management.
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The problems that may arise from gamification have been largely ignored by researchers and practitioners alike. At the same time, use of gamification in recruitment, onboarding, training, and performance management are on the rise in organizations as businesses turn toward technology to meet their objectives. This chapter investigates drawbacks of using elements of games in each of these applications through a series of scenarios describing different gamified interventions. For each scenario, a discussion follows regarding potential problems with the intervention, how psychological science may explain this, how these errors can be avoided, as well as future directions for gamification research. Employee motivation is noted as a critical concern in gamification, and classic theories of motivation are utilized to help explain why some interventions may fail to motivate desired behavior. For training design, a popular area for gamification, practitioners are urged to consider the intended training outcomes before designing a training program with gaming elements.
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Background and Aim. Gamification has been defined as the use of characteristics commonly associated with video games in non-game contexts. In this article, I reframe this definition in terms of the game attribute taxonomy presented by Bedwell and colleagues (2012). This linking is done with the goal of aligning the research literatures of serious games and gamification. A psychological theory of gamified learning is developed and explored. Conclusions. In the theory of gamified learning, gamification is defined as the use of game attributes, as defined by the Bedwell taxonomy, outside the context of a game with the purpose of affecting learning-related behaviors or attitudes. These behaviors/attitudes, in turn, influence learning by one or two processes: by strengthening the relationship between instructional design quality and outcomes (a moderating process) and/or by influencing learning directly (a mediating process). This is contrasted with a serious games approach, in which manipulation of game attributes is typically intended to affect learning without this type of behavioral mediator/moderator. Examples of each game attribute category as it might be applied in gamification are provided, along with specific recommendations for the rigorous, scientific study of gamification.
What if play is more than just an attitude or set of behaviors? What if the world is fundamentally and inherently playful? What if, when we find ourselves playing, we are not the authors or agents who initiate the activity, but instead we are giving ourselves over to the play of the world, being-played as it were? In this essay, we consider these questions in reference to the tradition of philosophical hermeneutics, discussing the work of Gadamer and others and tracing out the implications for gamification research.
Play has gained increasing interest among progressive-minded managers as an important driver of motivation and productivity in work contexts. Despite its popularity in contemporary organizations, there is little consensus in the academic literature about the role of play in the workplace. This review organizes and synthesizes the current state of knowledge of play at work in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of what play at work is, when individuals engage in play at work, and the effects of workplace play on work outcomes. First, we review existing definitions of play and their limitations. We then introduce a recent conceptualization of play in adulthood that defines play based on three core features and discuss its relevance in the workplace. Second, we review theoretical perspectives on play and extant empirical research on the antecedents and consequences of play at work, organizing it according to three levels of analysis. Third, we propose a promising agenda for future research by focusing on a number of important issues that have emerged from our review of existing work. These issues are organized into two sections: refining and extending the current research on play, and generating novel ideas and new research directions on unexplored areas of inquiry. We believe this review makes important and timely contributions to the research on play at work by providing comprehensive analysis of the diverse and fragmented literature on play in the workplace.
A key assumption driving organizations' adoption of work gamification – applying principles of digital and computer games to work contexts – is that such efforts increase worker motivation, effectiveness, and performance. This paper presents a theory of work gamification, positioning work gamification as an intended enhancement of traditional performance management systems which promotes increased worker access to performance information, and improves task enjoyment. In addition to explaining why work gamification should be expected to have motivational and work effectiveness benefits, the theory also highlights the application and worker characteristics that may act as important boundary conditions to the efficacy of gamification applied to work. Theoretical and practical implications of work gamification are discussed.
In April 2011, I spoke at the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC or 4Cs). This was the first year I was invited to speak at the conference, and I was eager to present my theory of the rhetorical aspects of procedurality (Bogost, 2007) to this large and influential group of composition-rhetoric teachers and scholars. But during the Q&A session following my panel, I was surprised to hear one of the attendees ask explicitly about the possibility of using “gamification” to improve students’ performance with and engagement in the writing classroom.