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GAMIFICATION OF ENTERPRISE SYSTEMS –
A SYNTHESIS OF MECHANICS, DYNAMICS, AND RISKS
Research Group Critical Information Infrastructures,
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
Abstract – Organizations highly depend on enterprise systems (ES), which are unlikely to
develop their full potential if end-users neglect system usage. Accordingly, organizations
attempt to overcome barriers to end-user acceptance in the ES context, which can be
attributed to several factors on ES, organizational, and end-user level. Trying to take
advantage of the growing passion for games, Gamification is a phenomenon proposed to
motivate people by applying elements common to games in other contexts that have the
potential to increase end-user acceptance. While first applications of Gamification exist in
areas such as finance, health, and education, utility of gamifying ES has not been explored in-
depth. Aiming to understand how Gamification can be applied to ES to increase user
motivation, we analyze literature concerning game elements (i.e., mechanics and dynamics)
used in Gamification and related risks. Our study yields a synthesis of mechanics in clusters
of system design, challenges, rewards, and user specifics as well as related dynamics. We
discuss the extent to which the game elements can be used to address ES acceptance barriers.
While our study reveals that Gamification has potential for motivating ES users, future
research should analyze concrete implementations of Gamification in ES contexts to
investigate long-term effects.
Keywords – Gamification, Enterprise systems, Mechanics & Dynamics, Risks, Literature
Organizations heavily invest into enterprise systems (ES) (Majchrzak et al., 2009; Kim et
al., 2010; Tong et al., 2015) for purposes such as boundary-less structures, streamlined
business processes, integrated systems, and non-redundant managerial tasks (Davenport,
1998; Grant, 2003; McAfee, 2009). However, the majority of projects to implement an ES fail
due to abandonment of the systems, unfulfilled benefits, or substantial financial drawbacks
(Wu, 2011; Tong et al., 2015).
In their continuous attempt to explore how organizations can turn their ES investments into
performance, researchers have paid particular attention to end-users (Ke et al., 2012).
Successful ES require end-users to accept organizational and technical changes and to use the
ES (Wagner et al., 2012). Understanding factors that drive end-user acceptance concerning
(non-)technical changes is essential for effective ES usage (Wu, 2011; Chou et al., 2014).
Whereas promotion of ES is thus critical for end-user acceptance, research so far provides
insufficient guidance for end-user engagement (Nwankpa and Roumani, 2014b). In other
words, actions and interventions to best promote ES usage remain unclear (Nwankpa, 2015).
As an approach to overcome these challenges, Gamification (see “Gamification: Basic
Concept” for a detailed definition and exemplary illustration) has been proposed to improve
ES utilization (Schacht and Schacht, 2012; Raftopoulos, 2014). However, Gamification’s
potential for and threats to ES have not been explored yet. In order to address this research
gap, we answer the following research questions:
1. How can Gamification be applied to increase ES end-user acceptance?
2. What risks are related to such applications of Gamification in ES contexts?
Based on a comprehensive literature review, we identify and analyze game elements to be
used to gamify ES as well as risks associated with such Gamification. Drawing on these
findings, we discuss how Gamification can be applied to ES in order to overcome prevailing
problems of end-user acceptance. With our study, we pave the way for applications of
Gamification in the IS domain and provide a two-fold contribution. First, we advance the
understanding of Gamification by providing a synthesis of previous research in this novel
field. Second, we guide future research as well as business applications towards an effective
usage of game elements in ES while considering related risks.
This article proceeds as follows. Next, we describe the evolution and challenges of ES,
explain the basic concept of Gamification as well as its relevance for the IS research domain,
present an example of a gamified ES function, and introduce different types of game
elements. Subsequently, we outline the research approach and describe the process of
identifying and analyzing relevant literature. Our article continues by presenting the results
concerning game elements and describing risks associated with ES gamification. We finally
discuss our findings in light of previous ES acceptance research, give practical implications of
our findings, and discuss limitations and directions for future research. Our study ends with a
2. Theoretical Background
2.1 Enterprise System Acceptance
ES are organization-spanning standardized software systems that integrate applications and
data into a single instance to optimize information flows in organizations (Davenport, 1998;
Moon, 2007). For ES implementations to be successful, organizations need to ensure that end-
users learn to accept organizational and technical changes and to use the system (Wagner et
al., 2012). In general, lack of user acceptance is seen as a major reason for failure of
innovative information technologies (Venkatesh et al., 2003). In particular, inadequate
understanding of ES is a major reason for their limited acceptance and end-users creating and
using workarounds that limit systems’ effectiveness (Nwankpa and Roumani, 2014a).
Understanding what factors drive end-users to accept the (non-)technical changes and to
grapple with necessary knowledge and skills is thus essential for effective ES usage (Wu,
2011; Chou et al., 2014). Explanations for how and why end-users accept ES are diverse can
be attributed to three levels: ES characteristics, characteristics of the organization, and
characteristics of the end-users.
2.2 Enterprise System Characteristics
The fit between ES and organizational requirements is considered important for ES
acceptance (See-Pui Ng, 2013). High degrees of organizational fit, which comprises data fit,
process fit, and user interface fit, positively impact end-user satisfaction and thus acceptance
(See-Pui Ng, 2013; Nwankpa, 2015). Additionally, the complexity of ES is found to impact
usage behavior. End-users causally attribute system complexity to continued negative
performance outcomes, which leads to decreased self-efficacy towards the ES (Kelley et al.,
2013). Finally, the very nature of ES can impact usage behavior since they automate business
processes and prescribe user actions. As a consequence, end-users need to alter the way they
previously performed tasks and to comply with inflexible business rules. Hence, it is less
likely that they develop an enhanced usage behavior (Bagayogo et al., 2014).
Organizations need to help end-users understand ES by providing training and enabling
post-implementation learning (Doll et al., 2003; Chang and Chou, 2011; Chou et al., 2014).
The complexity of an ES limits the amount of knowledge users can acquire through training
prior to the implementation, thus resulting in a gap between how a system is actually used and
the understanding of its full potential (Cooper and Zmud, 1990; Yi and Davis, 2003; Chang
and Chou, 2011). While training is often provided prior to the implementation of a system and
aims at enhancing initial usage, post-implementation learning lets end-users practice with the
actual system after the implementation (Doll et al., 2003; Chang and Chou, 2011). Post-
implementation learning helps bridging this gap and plays a central role for realizing the full
potential of ES (Cooper and Zmud, 1990). Furthermore, an important antecedent of ES
acceptance can be traced to the working environment. For example, high task
interdependency can lead to adaption of processes and user behavior (Bagayogo et al., 2014).
In line with this finding, a high level of task variety helps to motivate users in order to find
new and creative ways to solve prevalent problems in regard to the ES usage (Liang et al.,
2015). However, coming up with new and creative ways of solving problems requires high
job autonomy. Thereby, users can self-explore features and develop novel forms of use (Ke et
al., 2012; Liang et al., 2015). Especially during the early post-implementation phase, users
experience a steep learning curve and might even struggle with simple tasks. When they seek
to understand the new system, organizational support is needed to facilitate desired behavior
(Boudreau and Seligman, 2005; Tong et al., 2015). If this sense making process of users is not
managed properly, user resistance might eventually lead to system abandonment.
Organizational support also relies on the social network within an organization (e.g.
contacting IS specialists or asking peer users for help) to provide guidance during this phase
of insecurity and impersonal support such as documentations (Tong et al., 2015).
Organizational culture can create a social system that lets individuals recognize the value of
their tasks and duties by exchanging and discussing issues related to the ES with fellow end-
users (Ke et al., 2012). Organizational culture also allows end-users to apply novel ways to
use ES (Liang et al., 2015).
Several researchers relate characteristics of individuals to the process of ES acceptance.
Culture is seen as an important moderator in this context (Alhirz and Sajeev, 2015). For
instance, the importance of factors for ES acceptance differs between eastern and western
cultures (Hwang, 2012). Specifically, innovativeness as predictor for the intention to use is
important in cultural environments that are characterized by high levels of uncertainty (i.e.,
eastern cultures), while individuals’ intrinsic motivation as an antecedent of intention to use is
more important in western cultures. Besides cultural factors, the extent to which users are
intrinsically motivated is found to impact system use. Intrinsic motivation to use a system is a
requirement for organizations to realize benefits from ES implementations since it leads to the
discovery of innovative ways of usage that best support user tasks (Seddon et al., 2010; Ke et
al., 2012). This is especially important when considering ES complexity, which requires
significant cognitive efforts to achieve adaptive system use (Sharma and Yetton, 2003; Sykes
et al., 2009; Ke et al., 2012). Intrinsically motivated users put a lot of effort in gathering
information and developing novel ways of ES usage, which leads to exploratory usage (Ke et
al., 2012). Furthermore, since intrinsically motivated individuals enjoy their work as such,
they are also likely to derive enjoyment from exploring ES, which leads to exploration
satisfaction (Ke et al., 2012; Nwankpa and Roumani, 2014a).
Researchers have paid particular attention to end-users in their continuous attempt to
explore how organizations can turn their ES investments into performance (Ke et al., 2012).
In this context, recent research emphasizes the criticality of the early post-adoptive phase, that
is, the phase subsequent to deploying the system in the organization (Schwarz et al., 2014;
Tong et al., 2015). Rather than frequency or duration of system usage, end-users’ behavior
concerning the incorporation of the ES into work routines is decisive for organizational
performance (Schwarz et al., 2014) and intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation is key to ES
acceptance (Ke et al., 2012). Accordingly, promotion of ES usage is crucial for organizations.
However, previous research provides insufficient guidance for managers in organizations who
must grapple with this dilemma (Nwankpa and Roumani, 2014b) and the managerial actions
and interventions that can best promote ES usage remain unclear (Nwankpa, 2015). As an
approach to change behavior through addressing intrinsic motivation, Gamification, which
offer benefits of both utilitarian and hedonic information systems (Hamari and Koivisto,
2015), is an approach to be applied to ES in order to overcome these challenges (Schacht and
Schacht, 2012; Raftopoulos, 2014).
2.3 Gamification: Basic Concept
Trying to take advantage of the growing passion for games (McGonigal, 2011),
Gamification is a trending phenomenon that aims to motivate people by applying elements
common to games in different contexts (Deterding et al., 2011a). Originating from the digital
media domain (Deterding et al., 2011b), Gamification experienced a widespread adoption,
which is evidenced by the emerging trend on scientific publications and general search
queries in the research field of Gamification (see Figure 1). While we acknowledge that other
definitions exist, we align our understanding of Gamification
with the definition by
Deterding et al. (2011a): “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts”. By
following this broad definition, we are able to include the majority of research for our
Figure 1 Search hits for “gamification” (a) and Google Trends for “gamification” (monthly)
To exemplify Gamification’s applicability in the ES context, we describe the use of
selected game elements to foster user engagement concerning a customer relationship
management (CRM) module, which is considered a common feature of ES (Chen and
Akin paradigms include pervasive and serious games. While pervasive games expand the borders of traditional digital
games in a spatial, temporal, or social manner (Montola et al., 2009), serious games are full-fledged games for non-
entertainment purposes. Instead, Gamification uses game elements only (Deterding et al., 2011a).
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Google Scholar Google Scholar (title)
Popovich, 2003; Chalmeta, 2006; Tarantilis et al., 2008). Figure 2 shows a possible dashboard
for CRM employees (cf. the open source solution Zurmo for gamifying CRM;
http://zurmo.org/), which is based on common game elements
. One of the CRM module’s
aims is to increase competition among employees, for instance, by using the following game
elements (henceforth we refer to this case as the ‘CRM example’). Employees receive badges
(left side of Figure 2) for accomplishing specific goals. For instance, employees are fostered
to use the system by receiving badges when a specified number of logins is reached (e.g., 25
logins). Other badges can be earned by fulfilling goals like conducting contact searches or
creating new products. For accomplishing tasks in diverging areas of the CRM system, users
receive points (lower right of Figure 2). Based on the amount of points gained, users reach
specific user levels (lower left of Figure 2; e.g., level 1 requires at least 200 points, level 2
500 points, level 3 1,000 points and so forth). Furthermore, the design of the CRM system
shown in Figure 2 includes a leaderboard (upper right of Figure 2), which shows a user’s rank
according to the amount of awarded points in comparison to other users. Referring to
aforementioned game elements, Figure 3 shows a possible interaction between a CRM user
and the gamified CRM system.
Figure 2 Example of a gamified CRM (retrieved from http://zurmo.org/features/gamification-
phase-ii-is-here; image colors have been inverted for improved readability).
The game elements used in this example are highlighted in italics. While definitions can be found in Appendix A, we
describe these game elements in more detail within our results section.
Figure 3 Illustration of exemplary interaction between CRM user and gamified CRM system.
In the example described above, the game elements are used to evoke employees to use the
CRM module in order to improve the organization’s effectiveness. In its most common sense,
Gamification uses game elements to regulate people’s behavior in non-game activities for
strategic purposes (Schrape, 2014). In contrast to modern marketing techniques that aim at
changing the way people think (e.g., people’s attitudes and beliefs), Gamification aims at
changing the way people behave (Schrape, 2014). For this purpose, Gamification utilizes two
interrelated aspects of today’s world. First, video games have become a substantial part of
daily life (McGonigal, 2011). Second, video games “can demonstrably produce states of
desirable experience, and motivate users to remain engaged in an activity with unparalleled
intensity and duration” due to video games’ explicit design focus on entertainment rather than
utility (Deterding et al., 2011b: 2). Accordingly, Gamification can be used to make non-game
applications (e.g., the CRM module) more motivating and engaging to use. As empirical
findings indicate, the incorporation of game elements into repetitive and monotone tasks
makes them more fun and enjoyable (Flatla et al., 2011). Gamification also increases user
participation and deepens user involvement (Rapp et al., 2012; Barata et al., 2013).
Gamification’s positive influence on motivation and user behavior is what makes this
concept highly relevant for IS research. Different approaches trying to explain system
acceptance and usage exist in research, many of which having in common the individuals’
opinions and perceptions of IS as an important factor for their behavior (Agarwal and
Karahanna, 2000). Moreover, it is typically argued that so-called intrinsic factors are essential
for motivating people effectively and sustainably (Ke et al., 2012).
While little research exists concerning how Gamification can be successfully used within
intra-organizational contexts (Fitz-Walter et al., 2012; Huotari and Hamari, 2012; Hamari,
2013), trying to foster effective usage of ES through the application of Gamification bears
level up (based upon points gathered)
improvement of leaderboard rank
End-user Gamified CRM
25th login badge
new product badge
create new product
customer communication and sale
high potential to counteract the growing complexity and scope of such systems (Schacht and
Schacht, 2012; Sommerville et al., 2012; Raftopoulos, 2014). It can be applied in context of
ES to offer a new research stream concerning ES user acceptance (Hamari, 2013).
Considering that future employees will have grown up in a world where video games are
common and available to everyone, using Gamification as means to motivate them seems
reasonable (Burke and Hiltbrand, 2011).
Positive aspects notwithstanding, concerns related to the effects of Gamification are
increasingly being raised. Critics say that Gamification is a buzzword used by companies as a
mere marketing tool (Chorney, 2013) and that many people will not respond to Gamiﬁcation
(Spencer, 2013). They also argue that Gamification might induce unwanted behavior if game
elements become more important than the actual core function (Hakulinen et al., 2013;
Haaranen et al., 2014). It is thus crucial to identify the contexts in which Gamification will be
particularly useful (Blohm and Leimeister, 2013). Hence, we dedicate this study to analyze
how Gamification can be generally applied to ES.
2.4 Gamification: Mechanics & Dynamics
While the previous section has introduced the basic concept of Gamification and given an
example of how to use game elements in an ES context, we now take a closer look at different
types of game elements and their interrelatedness. In this context, research has identified two
major types of game elements, which are commonly referred to as game mechanics and game
dynamics (short: M&Ds) (Zichermann and Cunningham, 2011).
Mechanics, on the one hand, are functional components of a gamified application and
provide various actions and control mechanisms to enable user interaction (Hunicke et al.,
2004). As illustrated in Figure 2, common mechanics include point systems, leaderboards,
levels, and goals (Zichermann and Cunningham, 2011). Mechanics can thereby be categorized
into the following four clusters (see Table 1 for an overview). Mechanics related to system
design refer to the way gamified applications are developed and designed in order to increase
motivation of end-users and thus to enhance their engagement. An example is the
implementation of feedback in form of progress bars (Huotari and Hamari, 2012). Challenges
are mechanisms used to inspire employees to accomplish specific tasks. Setting clear goals for
specific tasks can be considered a typical example for this type of mechanisms (Passos et al.,
2011). Related to the accomplishment of tasks is the granting of rewards (Hamari, 2013),
which, for instance, reflect users’ successfulness in solving challenges. Moreover, user
specifics are applied to enhance motivation through the influence on individual personality.
Such influence can, for instance, be realized by providing users the opportunity to design and
use virtual characters (Barata et al., 2013).
Table 1 Clusters of Mechanics.
Mechanics describing how a gamified application has to be designed and developed to
Mechanics attempting to motivate users by providing challenges as well as mechanics
supporting the development or accomplishment of challenges.
Mechanics aiming to motivate users by providing after certain actions were successfully
Mechanics aiming to motivate users by directly influencing the individual personality.
Dynamics, on the other hand, determine an individual’s reactions as a response to
implemented mechanics. These reactions try to satisfy fundamental needs and desires,
including the desire for reward, self-expression, and altruism. Moreover and concerning the
CRM example, competition is a dynamic that might result from users striving for high ranks
in leaderboards. Thus, adequate combinations of M&Ds create a motivating, emotional, and
entertaining interaction (Neeli, 2012).
While various M&Ds have been applied to previous empirical studies (e.g., Burke and
Hiltbrand (2011), Liu et al. (2011), and (Vassileva, 2012)), a comprehensive overview of
M&Ds is provided in white papers only and is currently lacking in the academic discourse.
For future applications of Gamification, Hamari et al. (2014) call for more rigorous
methodologies that pay increased attention to the context being gamified and the qualities of
the users. More rigorous studies require researchers to choose Gamification techniques that fit
the context (Hamari et al., 2014). One premise for choosing an adequate technique is the
awareness of diverse M&Ds to be used in order to increase user engagement.
Concluding, research lacks guidance for ES end-user acceptance, which is required to
benefit from the substantial investments into such systems. Researchers have suggested to
gamify ES as a potential solution for this challenge. However, applying Gamification to ES
requires a comprehensive overview of the diverse options and related risks, which we provide
in this paper based on a literature review.
3. Research Approach
We applied a two-step research approach (see Figure 4), first conducting a literature review
to identify relevant publications, and then analyzing the identified publications in view of
M&Ds and risks. The process of reviewing and coding literature was adapted from Lacity et
al. (2010) and Jeyaraj et al. (2006).
Figure 4 Research approach for identification and analysis of Gamification M&Ds and risks.
3.1 Literature Review
Our descriptive literature review (Paré et al., 2015) was guided by recommendations for
reviews in the software and information systems domain (Webster and Watson, 2002;
Kitchenham, 2007; vom Brocke et al., 2015). In the following, we describe and argue for the
single steps applied, while Figure 5 illustrates our literature selection process.
Figure 5 Literature Selection Process.
For the identification of papers addressing Gamification, we searched scientific databases
that we deemed representative as they cover a wide range of journal articles as well as
conference publications: Association for Information Systems Electronic Library (AISel),
Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Digital Library, EBSCO Host, Emerald
Insight, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Xplore Digital Library,
ACM Digital Library
IEEE Digital Library
339 publications 62 publications
(1) Literature Review (2) Coding
605 publications 62 publications
Proquest (ABI/INFORM), and ScienceDirect. To cover a broad set of publications, potentially
relevant papers needed to meet the “gamif*” search string in title, keywords, or abstract. We
limited our search to sources published after 2009 since the term ‘Gamification’ did not
widely diffuse until the second half of 2010 (the search was performed in June 2015). Our
search yielded a total of 442 potentially relevant articles, of which we considered 44 for
detailed analysis. Additionally, we identified 163 potentially relevant articles through
searching forward (i.e., using Google Scholar) backward (Webster and Watson, 2002).
Due to the novelty of Gamification, a restriction to publications in highly ranked journals,
conferences, or magazines seemed inappropriate. Therefore, two authors separately reviewed
identified studies in detail and assessed their relevance for this study. Predominantly, we
included empirical studies on Gamification. To ensure applicability of identified M&Ds to the
ES context, we also included conceptual studies addressing Gamification in workplace
settings. Moreover, we excluded studies in which external rewards (e.g., monetary or
physical) were awarded for high participation since Gamification should be applied to foster
intrinsic motivation, deepen system involvement, and to create gameful and fun experiences
on a long-term basis (Huotari and Hamari, 2012; Hamari, 2013). Empirical studies were
included in order to gain insights into potential Gamification implementations and to gather
information about empirical evaluations of applied M&Ds. After individual classifications
were completed, two authors compared and discussed their results. Out of the 605 remaining
studies, 62 were declared as relevant for this research according to the criteria listed in Table
2. These studies are marked with asterisks in the references. Detailed information concerning
the exclusion of studies are provided in Figure 5.
Table 2 Inclusion and exclusion criteria.
Published after 2009
Published before 2010
Focus on Gamification
No direct connection to Gamification (e.g., akin paradigms;
“Gamification: Basic Concept”)
Empirical studies on Gamification
and/or workplace as study setting
Conceptual studies that do not relate to a workplace setting (e.g.,
education, health, crowd sourcing)
Study contexts with monetary or physical rewards
Editorials, papers not written in English language
3.2 Data Analysis
Our data analysis follows the approach by Jeyaraj et al. (2006). As a first step, we carefully
read and analyzed all relevant studies to identify Gamification M&Ds. Furthermore, we
derived a name and a description for all identified M&Ds based on the information provided
in the respective articles. In order to uniformly code the influence of the M&Ds on the
motivation in qualitative and quantitative studies, we adapted the coding scheme by Jeyaraj et
al. (2006), which assigned three possible values to the influence: ‘+’, ‘-’, or ‘o’. The
following rules were adopted for coding the presumed influence of M&Ds on motivation (see
also Table 3). A positive influence of a mechanic or dynamic on motivation was coded as a
‘+’, if a positive empirical confirmation was given (in case of quantitative studies) or the
authors strongly argued (in case of qualitative studies) that a positive influence was exerted.
Analogously, a negative influence of mechanics or dynamics on motivation was coded as a
‘-’, if a negative empirical confirmation was given (in case of quantitative studies) or the
authors strongly argued (in case of qualitative studies) that a negative influence was exerted.
Otherwise, no influence of mechanics or dynamics on motivation was coded as a ‘o’, if no
empirical confirmation was given in the source (in case of quantitative studies) or the authors
strongly argued (in case of qualitative studies) against the existence of an influence on
Table 3 Coding values adopted from Jeyaraj et al. (2006).
An empirical confirmation was given (quantitative studies) or the authors strongly argued
(qualitative studies) that a positive influence was exerted.
An empirical confirmation was given (quantitative studies) or the authors strongly argued
(qualitative studies) that a negative influence was exerted.
No empirical confirmation was given in the source (quantitative studies) or the authors strongly
argued (qualitative studies) against the existence of an influence on motivation.
To aggregate the identified M&Ds, we adopted the method of Lacity et al. (2010). Lists of
so-called Master-Mechanics (Master-Ms) and Master-Dynamics (Master-Ds; we use ‘Master-
M&Ds’ for cases in which we refer to both types of game elements) were created. A Master-
M or Master-D is an aggregation of similar mechanics or dynamics, respectively, consisting
of a name and a description (see the bootstrapping approach in Jankowicz (2004)). If an
identified dynamic fitted into an existing Master-D, we assigned it accordingly; otherwise, a
new Master-D was created. During this process, we avoided semantic ambiguities as
suggested by Shaw and Gaines (1989). Since different people often put the same labels on
different things and vice versa, it is crucial for the validity of a qualitative analysis to be
aware of potential semantic ambiguities. Shaw and Gaines (1989) mention four possible
semantic constellations: consensus (the same terminology is used for same concepts),
correspondence (different terminology for same concepts), conflict (same terminology for
different concepts), and contrast (different terminology for different concepts), for which we
attributed in our analysis. Completing the analysis, we finalized the Master-Ds list by
reviewing all assignments. We applied the same approach for mechanics in relation to Master-
Ms and additionally classified the Master-Ms according to the clusters in Table 1.
We were able to identify 339 M&Ds in total, of which 172 were empirically confirmed to
exert influence on motivation. Furthermore, a positive influence on motivation was coded 309
times, no influence was coded 23 times, and negative influence was coded seven times. These
339 M&Ds were then matched to 38 Master-M&Ds (see the 27 Master-Ms and 11 Master-Ds
in Figure 6 along with the number of articles in which the Master-M&Ds have been coded; all
Master-M&Ds with their descriptions are listed in Appendix A and Appendix B).
Figure 6 Identified Master-M&Ds with their number of times being coded.
To ensure that we identified a reliable set of Master-M&Ds, we followed researchers
stressing that an important goal is to reach theoretical saturation (Glaser and Strauss, 1967;
Strauss and Corbin, 1990) regarding the emerging Master-M&Ds, that is, the point when no
new findings are gained in further articles. Lincoln and Guba (1985: 235) speak of the term
‘point of redundancy’ in this context. Since no new Master-M&Ds emerged in the last 19
articles identified in our literature review, we are confident to have reached saturation.
To address the research gap concerning risks of Gamification, we further extracted
perceived risks, that is, potentially negative consequences of gamified ES. This extraction led
to 59 risks, which were aggregated in the same manner as M&Ds. This aggregation led to
Virtual Goods (5)
existing games (3)
Story line (6)
Time pressure (8)
Loss aversion (3)
Point system (29)
User levels (14)
User profile (5)
Virtual character (6)
Group loyalty (1)
Our results are divided into three subsections. First, we describe the Master-Ms of
Gamification. Second, we explain the Master-Ds that might result from using ES gamified
with the Master-Ms. Finally, we refer to the risks that need to be addressed when gamifying
4.1 Gamification Mechanics
We describe the Master-Ms according to their mapping to one of four clusters: system
design, challenges, rewards, and user specifics (see Table 1). For each Master-M, we provide
an explanation as well as examples of its application and refer to combinations with related
The two most often coded Master-Ms of this category are leaderboards and feedback. In
the context of Gamification, leaderboards are used to track and display action progress.
Leaderboards usually motivate users for two reasons. First, they make one’s personal
performance visible and present it to others (i.e., showing status), thus demonstrating one’s
capabilities. Second, they promote competition among participating users, which is sustained
through regular leaderboard updates (Depura and Garg, 2012; Gordillo et al., 2013). In the ES
context, the application of leaderboards can be suitable since existing organizational
structures can be used to foster competition (Yates and Wootton, 2012). Leaderboards can, for
example, be developed for individuals, teams, organizational units, and different locations. In
Figure 2, the leaderboards differentiate between different time periods (ranks for current
week, current month, and overall). Accordingly, new users are also able to compete for the
first rank. With respect to the design of gamified ES, another important Master-M is feedback.
Feedback should be immediate and motivating, especially after an individual action was
completed (Wang and Sun, 2011; Groh, 2012). Users should be informed about doing
something wrong and be allowed to undo false actions (Sweetser and Wyeth, 2005).
Moreover, users should be permitted to redo unsuccessful actions or to achieve sub-goals
(Tootell et al., 2014). A simple example of an ES feedback mechanism is the use of progress
bars, which indicate the progress of filling in a form and inform users about false inputs
(Huotari and Hamari, 2012). Progress bars can create a feeling of achievement, just by
performing several actions (Burke and Hiltbrand, 2011). Additionally, non-disturbing and
short-timed messages (Meder et al., 2014) or windows can be shown, for example, in one
corner of the screen (Denny, 2013; Meder et al., 2013). Furthermore, knowledge maps are
common means to show an overall map or tree structure to guide users in accomplishing the
next task (Morrison and DiSalvo, 2014). Each feedback mechanism has to be evaluated in the
working context, such as the use of audible notifications. This kind of feedback is not
appropriate for every working environment, like open-space offices, but might be useful in
noisy production areas (Korn, 2012). Gamified systems should offer functionalities enabling
social interaction and communication between users, for instance, chats or forums, to foster
social interaction and to increase participation in general (Chen and Pu, 2014; Walsh and
Golbeck, 2014). Social interaction can be further intensified by, for instance, enabling gifting
of virtual goods (Nakajima and Lehdonvirta, 2013). The CRM example also includes virtual
goods, which can be purchased by spending coins earned within the application. Similarly,
functionality to invite colleagues to join the system should be implemented to increase the
adoption of gamified systems (Schacht and Schacht, 2012). When introducing a gamified
system, Master-Ms should be implemented to ease onboarding of users, that is, the act of
bringing new users into the system (Iosup and Epema, 2014). This can be accomplished by
awarding users with achievements for initial usage (Barata et al., 2013), providing
instructions, rules, or hints (Hsu et al., 2013), as well as by implementing tutorials (Iosup and
Epema, 2014). Reminders of user’s past behavior, for instance, a history of actions, can be
helpful and ease future work (Munson and Consolvo, 2012; Snipes et al., 2014). Gamified ES
should support easy, enjoyable, and exciting interaction concepts by, for example, making use
of an attractive user interface with stimulating visuals (Gnauk et al., 2012; O’Donovan et al.,
2013). The design can visually resemble existing games, like Tetris (Korn, 2012), or
incorporate fantasy elements to make the experience more emotionally appealing to users (Li
et al., 2012). However, the use of such concepts might be limited due to the complexity of ES
and the need to ensure that work is approached seriously. Another Master-M identified in the
context of system design is meaning, in a sense that users are convinced their work will
produce something meaningful (Foong et al., 2011; Gnauk et al., 2012; Nicholson, 2012).
Meaning for users can be created by directly showing them how their actions influence the
success of the organization.
Another aspect of creating gamified ES relates to implementing challenges. Challenging
tasks in ES guide users by providing missions and rewarding them after successful
completion. They give users a feeling of working towards a goal and support structuring tasks
(Korn, 2012). To create challenging working environments, clear goals have to be defined
and presented (Passos et al., 2011). Considering the CRM example, one goal, for instance,
refers to the creation of a new product. The formulation of clear goals leads to enhanced user
performance, for instance, by being satisfied after fulfilling a goal (Bandura, 1993). In turn,
increased satisfaction positively influences the performance on future tasks with similar goals.
It is proposed that users should be allowed to set their own goals (Morrison and DiSalvo,
2014) or choose favored goals (Hsu et al., 2013). In this context, shadowing is derived from
racing games and describes a method where the users’ goal is to compete against their own
records (Korn et al., 2012). Goals can be linked by telling users a background story (Halan et
al., 2010; O’Donovan et al., 2013). Another way of creating challenges is using time pressure
(Halan et al., 2010; Cheong et al., 2013). This, however, might not be appropriate when the
focus is on ensuring qualitative work. Furthermore, the concept of ‘Flow’ is often described in
relation with challenges. It refers to a state where the challenges that users face almost
perfectly meet their skills (Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi, 2001). In this state, users are
neither bored nor overstrained. Combining the concept of flow and the identified Master-M
progressive disclosure – which describes the adjustment of task difficulties based on the
increasing skills of users (Fitz-Walter et al., 2011; Li et al., 2012) – gamified ES should
provide challenges that automatically adjust their degree of difficulty, thus striving for a state
of flow. Within the context of our CRM example, a first task might refer to accomplishing the
initial login. Continuously, users are then confronted with further tasks like conducting
contact searches and creating new products. Additionally, access – describing what users can
see and do in the system – can be granted or increased after completing goals in order to
foster progressive disclosure (Iosup and Epema, 2014). The use of challenges in ES might be
limited due to a high number of monotone and standard tasks. Nonetheless, challenges can be
used, for example, to motivate users to explore the ES in detail, to show unknown or new
functions and features, as well as to demonstrate new ways of solving problems.
Most Gamification applications, like the CRM example (see Figure 2), make use of point
systems (Zichermann and Cunningham, 2011). Point systems reward users by adding a certain
number of points to user accounts for completing actions or combinations of these (Burke and
Hiltbrand, 2011). They motivate users due to their cumulative nature, which drives users to
remain active (Burke and Hiltbrand, 2011; Smith, 2011). For a successful implementation of
point systems in ES, transparency related to the purpose of a point system in general and the
manner in which points are awarded must be provided (Nicholson, 2012). Transparent point
systems form a foundation for many other Master-Ms, such as achievements, in addition to
being easy to implement and integrate into existing systems. Previously, achievements and
badges have been used as alternative forms of rewarding users. We define achievements as
rewards for completing a clear and desirable goal (Liu et al., 2011). In the CRM example, an
exemplary achievement is the creation of an account. In contrast, badges consist of optional
rewards and goals whose fulfillment is stored beyond the scope of core activities (Hamari,
2013). Some badges might be designed as hidden and are only awarded by surprise if some
special actions are taken (Domínguez et al., 2013). Additionally, users will be motivated to
continue exploration of ES features in order to discover these hidden badges. Considering the
CRM example, users are encouraged to explore the ES since they can expect to earn
collection items (see the lower bar in Figure 2) in random hidden corners. On the one hand,
engagement of users is additionally increased due to their desire to collect all available badges
or achievements (Hsu et al., 2013; Ibanez et al., 2014). On the other hand, users’ engagement
in using the ES can be reduced after successfully collecting all rewards (Ibanez et al., 2014),
or users might get frustrated because of failing to gather all rewards (McDaniel et al., 2012).
To counteract this problem, gamified ES can implement rewards, which require repetition of
tasks, or introduce new badges after a critical amount of users achieved all rewards. It is
important to create meaningful, compelling, and challenging rewards to attract a broad range
of users and foster long-term engagement (Nicholson, 2012; Haaranen et al., 2014).
Additionally, losing a badge induces an emotional impact, which is referred to as a user’s
tendency to loss aversion (Stockinger et al., 2013). Achievements, badges, and point systems
can be further combined with the Master-M bonus. This Master-M relies on rewards for
having completed a series of challenges or tasks (Burke and Hiltbrand, 2011). In games,
bonuses typically take the form of funny levels or additional game functions. To apply
bonuses in gamified ES, they must fit into the underlying reward system. For instance, bonus
points can be rewarded after successful completion of a special task or achievement
(Fernandes et al., 2012). Moreover, bonus mini games can be awarded in ES, after a
completion of a series of tiring tasks, aiming to re-establish concentration and motivation.
The most often coded Master-M in this cluster is user levels. In video games, user levels
document players’ abilities and progress (Gnauk et al., 2012). However, they can be easily
transferred to more serious areas, such as Gamification in the ES context (see the lower left
part of Figure 2). They can express expertise or skill maturity levels of an employee in
specific fields. In the CRM example, the level represents the experience derived from the
points earned within different areas (e.g., sales, account management) of the CRM system.
Additionally, user levels can be used to support knowledge management, by enabling an
electronic catalogue of employee skills (Lindvall and Rus, 2003; Garud and Kumaraswamy,
2005), thus offering a possibility to easily evaluate knowledge acquisition and dissemination.
User levels can also be used to define goals and support progressive disclosure by changing
the difficulty and offering new challenging goals after users reach a new level (Burke and
Hiltbrand, 2011). Enabling users to move to a higher level can lead to a desire to earn
reputation or status by reaching high levels, thus increasing motivation. Users should be able
to maintain a user profile (e.g., the dashboard in Figure 2), which can be private (e.g., for
showing current achievements and badges) or public (e.g., enabling comparison with
colleagues and friends) (Ziesemer et al., 2013; Morrison and DiSalvo, 2014). A virtual
character can be understood as a virtual avatar representing an employee. This Master-M
enables self-expression and can also be used to support the social dynamic of sharing virtual
goods for characters or to represent a certain user level (Barata et al., 2013). The upper left
side in Figure 2 could include an avatar instead of showing a picture of the respective
employee. Lastly, ideological incentives can as well be used to motivate employees
(Nakajima and Lehdonvirta, 2013). It refers to influencing someone’s attitudes and values
with regard to a desired behavior, hence increasing intrinsic motivation.
4.2 Gamification Dynamics
In this section, we describe the Master-Ds that can result from using gamified ES equipped
with the Master-Ms presented in the previous section. Besides describing the Master-Ds, we
refer to selected Master-Ms in order to explain how they relate to increased user motivation
By rewarding users (e.g., with badges), Master-D of ownership might develop. This
concept represents a positive, sustained connection to an entity, for instance, a badge with
visual representation leading to a feeling of shared ownership (Burke and Hiltbrand, 2011).
Badges for the successful creation of a new product within the CRM system are a good
example. The badge can lead to the feeling of owning the product or rather its idea. Users
might be motivated to sustain or expand their ownership, which leads to increased work
performance. However, ownership can in some contexts lead to undesired consequences (e.g.,
grudge or discomfort) (Cramer et al., 2011). Additionally, losing a badge induces an
emotional impact, which is referred to as a user’s tendency to loss aversion (Stockinger et al.,
2013). An example in ES is a badge that is awarded once a certain level of work quality is
achieved, and is withdrawn if the level of quality decreases. In general, competition, for
instance, resulting from Master-Ms like leaderboards (see Figure 2 for an example), can
positively influence motivation of users. However, the introduction of competition should be
carefully evaluated based on the context since a strong emphasis on competition can lead to
decreased participation (Chen and Pu, 2014; de-Marcos et al., 2014). Competition with other
employees might not be appropriate in some working environments. As an alternative,
shadowing can be implemented (see “Challenges”). In the CRM example, employees might
compete against the points they achieved in the previous week or month. The opposite social
Master-D of competition is collaboration. It rallies people to work together to solve problems
and overcome challenges (Burke and Hiltbrand, 2011; Schacht et al., 2014). Gamified ES that
support collaboration might improve problem-solving processes, facilitate team synergy
effects, and increase motivation. By strengthening relationships in collaborative teams,
Master-D altruism can emerge. It refers to users’ concern for the welfare of other members of
their team. The aforementioned gifting of virtual goods (see “System Design”) within the
CRM example is one example for this Master-D. When evaluating collaboration in a gamified
ES, a relevant Master-D is social facilitation (Hamari and Koivisto, 2013). It describes an
effect where individual users achieve better results at simple tasks when working in a group or
being in company of other individuals (Zajonc, 1965). Similarly, conforming behavior (i.e.,
the desire not to act against group consensus) (Nakajima and Lehdonvirta, 2013) and group
loyalty can lead to increased participation (Hsu et al., 2013). Most humans have a desire for
status and reputation. These desires can be satisfied by humans performing specific actions
themselves, thus increasing users’ motivation to engage in these actions (Deterding, 2012;
Vassileva, 2012; Vasilescu et al., 2014). In particular, completion of achievements and
personal level-ups (see “Rewards”, “User Specifics” and the leaderboards, levels, and
collections in Figure 2) as well as presenting received rewards to others will support
satisfaction of these desires. In addition to the desire for status and reputation, employees
might also envy other employees and desire to have something other employees have (e.g.,
achievements, badges, or bonuses) (Burke and Hiltbrand, 2011). However, this Master-D
requires that an employee’s achievements are visible to others. It should be noted that envy
can foster competition, which is why its potential occurrence in workplace settings must be
evaluated carefully as well. Another identified Master-D in this category is self-expression,
which results from a desire to express autonomy, identity, or originality, or to mark one’s
personality as unique. While self-expression leads to increased participation and engagement,
it might be difficult to realize this effect in the ES context. Possible use cases include offering
the possibility to write work-related articles (Bista et al., 2012) or to implement a billboard to
4.3 Gamification Risks
Whereas we identified direct negative consequences of implementing Gamification in two
studies only, we coded seven Master-Risks, which are shown in Table 4. We elaborate on
these risks in the following.
Table 4 Gamification Master-Risks.
Suffering task quality
Quality of tasks might suffer if gamified elements
distract from the main purpose of activities.
Blohm and Leimeister (2013)
A low implementation quality of M&Ds might lead
to malfunction and failures concerning reward
systems or interaction concepts, which in turn
reduce user motivation or lead to user frustration.
Yates and Wootton
(2012),de-Marcos et al.
If underlying rules are not clearly defined, it enables
cheating, which can lead to rejection of
implemented game elements by other employees.
Cunningham (2011), Reeves
and Read (2009)
Monitoring and surveillance of both the performed
activity and the performing employee are likely to
breach privacy rights.
Reeves and Read (2009)
An overemphasis of competition might lead to
deceasing participation and not appeal to every
employee. Competition might undermine
cooperation, which is needed in business contexts.
de-Marcos et al. (2014)
A decreased effectiveness can occur once the
novelty of Gamification has worn off. For instance,
challenges might gradually be perceived as too
Nakajima and Lehdonvirta
(2013), Burke and Hiltbrand
By excessively granting extrinsic rewards, the
underlying intrinsic motivation can be undermined.
Haaranen et al. (2014),
Hakulinen et al. (2013)
One of the identified risks associated with Gamification relates to task quality, which can
suffer when gamified elements distract users from the main purpose of activities (Blohm and
Leimeister, 2013; Haaranen et al., 2014). Productivity loss might be another consequence of
such distraction. Consequently, it is imperative to implement an adequate level of
Gamification. A low implementation quality of M&Ds can lead to malfunction and failures
concerning reward systems or interaction concepts, which in turn reduce user motivation or
lead to user frustration. If users build up aversion against low quality game elements, it is
likely that they will not continue to use the ES. Similarly, many critics emphasize that current
applications of Gamification often reduce the complexity of well-designed and balanced
games to its simplest components, such as gathering points and rewarding badges (also
referred to as ‘Pointification’) (Deterding, 2012; Vassileva, 2012). Hence, high quality of
game elements and high ease of use have to be ensured when gamifying ES (Yates and
Wootton, 2012; de-Marcos et al., 2014). Moreover, it is likely that productivity declines when
employees feel disadvantaged due to cheating of other employees (Reeves and Read, 2009;
Zichermann and Cunningham, 2011; O’Donovan et al., 2013). In the worst case, not clearly
defined rules allow for cheating, which can lead to rejection by other employees.
Gamification requires both clear rules and controls to prevent cheating (Reeves and Read,
2009; Thom et al., 2012; Rapp et al., 2012). In addition, privacy issues need to be considered.
Gamification offers new ways of electronic monitoring and surveillance (Reeves and Read,
2009). In gamified applications, data can be collected for both, the activity performed and the
employee performing the activity (e.g., ES usage, individual performance). Through such
monitoring, employee privacy and personal rights are more likely to be harmed. Likewise,
publication of the gathered data may lead to other negative consequences. For example,
disseminating data concerning challenges (e.g., failures or slow progress) can decrease
motivation or undermine the relationships between employer and employees (Reeves and
Read, 2009). Such issues can be avoided through the differentiation between private and
public data (Burke and Hiltbrand, 2011; Snipes et al., 2014). Furthermore, employees should
be given the choice whether to publish private data (Reeves and Read, 2009). Anonymized
leaderboards are a means to preserve user privacy and prevent demoralizing users on the one
hand, still enabling users to compare themselves to other employees in the leaderboard on the
other hand (Halan et al., 2010; Iosup and Epema, 2014). Considering the CRM example (see
Figure 2), while an employee’s rank within a leaderboard is shown, the employee does not get
any information about the identity of the employees ranked below or above the own rank.
Gamification also bears the risk that employees perceive a high level of organizational control
(Nicholson, 2012; Yates and Wootton, 2012), which can result in feelings of autonomy loss
and reduced self-control (Reeves and Read, 2009). If all information within the dashboard of
the CRM example (see Figure 2) is visible to management, supervisors are enabled to control
employees’ work actions in detail. To counteract this hazard, individual data should only be
used in an aggregated form (Nicholson, 2012; Yates and Wootton, 2012). Otherwise,
Gamification’s positive effects on employee motivation can be undermined by threats to trust
in the employing organization. Furthermore, application of game elements, which foster
competition, has to be carefully evaluated. On the one hand, competition can strongly foster
participation and deepen engagement of employees. On the other hand, an overemphasis of
competition can lead to decreasing participation (de-Marcos et al., 2014) and is probably not
appealing for all employees. Competition might as well undermine cooperation, which is
needed in businesses contexts (Spencer, 2013). When promoting and rewarding collaboration,
it is important to consider users who only participate occasionally, yet are essential for
reaching collaborative goals (Spencer, 2013). Such users might not have a chance to climb
leaderboards or receive badges, and “may feel that the top badge earners are devoting time to
[Gamification] itself rather than to their jobs or even the actual goal of the project” (Spencer,
2013: 60). Hence, these users can easily get demotivated by a gamified system to participate
in further collaborative tasks. Implementing Gamification should not only be about a
meaningful design of game elements into work activities, but also incorporate the long-term
perspective and organizational strategic objectives. Otherwise, an organization will not be
prepared for the risk of declining effects over time, which might occur once the novelty of
Gamification has worn off (Nakajima and Lehdonvirta, 2013; Chen and Pu, 2014). Employee
skills will likely improve due to challenges accomplished (Passos et al., 2011), which will
consequently be perceived as too simple and require adaptations and changes of M&Ds to
ensure continued Gamification benefits. This, however, requires additional expenditure over
time. Another concern is the decrease of satisfaction due to continuous rewards of gamified
elements in case of successful task accomplishments (Burke and Hiltbrand, 2011). Especially,
Gamiﬁcation has been criticized for undermining the underlying intrinsic motivation by
granting extrinsic rewards (Haaranen et al., 2014: 37). An incentive approach based on
addressing users’ personal needs might reduce such negative effects (Farzan and Brusilovsky,
2011). Moreover, the consequences of removing gamified elements need to be considered.
For example, if implemented game elements are removed from an ES, employee performance
can decline below the level prior to introducing Gamification (Nicholson, 2012; Thom et al.,
2012). The CRM example includes the earning of coins (see Figure 2) to acquire virtual
goods. When removing such options, users are likely to discontinue usage since previous
efforts are no longer acknowledged. Thus, complete removal of gamified elements should be
carefully considered. Alternatively, a new gamified system can be implemented to keep
motivation high (Thom et al., 2012). This approach, however, requires continuous
investments (Zichermann and Cunningham, 2011). In general, organizations face the risk of
underestimating costs and expenditures when gamifying ES (O’Donovan et al., 2013).
Our study provides an overview of the various game elements pertaining to Gamification
as well as the risks related to application of Gamification. Our review of extant literature on
Gamification yielded four clusters of 27 Master-Ms as well as 11 Master-Ds that can be
applied to gamify ES. We also revealed seven Master-Risks to be considered when gamifying
ES. In the following, we discuss both practical and research implications of our study.
5.1 Practical Implications
Organizations should use Gamification to make ES usage more enjoyable for employees
and as a means of fostering end-users’ intrinsic motivation towards the task. By increasing the
intrinsic motivation of end-users, organizations can improve acceptance and thus productivity
of their ES. Our study makes a first step in that direction by providing a detailed description
of Gamification Master-M&Ds that can be applied in the ES context. In the following, we
provide implications on how organizations can use Gamification to address several barriers
with regard to acceptance of ES by end-users. Organizations can address barriers of ES
acceptance on the three levels: ES, organization, and end-users (see “Enterprise System
Acceptance”). To counteract ES complexity and the low probability of end-users to actually
use the ES (Kelley et al., 2013; Bagayogo et al., 2014), organizations should provide
continuous training to enable end-users to accept the ES (Doll et al., 2003; Chang and Chou,
2011; Chou et al., 2014). For this purpose, Gamification can be applied by providing several
training levels with increasing difficulty. For successfully accomplishing a level, badges can
be awarded and new levels are unlocked (e.g., Paharia, 2013a, b; IBM, 2014). That way,
organizations can counteract end-user abandoning an ES, in particular in the early post-
adoptive phase (Schwarz et al., 2014; Tong et al., 2015).
Furthermore, companies should use the variety of game elements available to increase the
intrinsic motivation of their ES end-users. Game elements such a story, fantasy, and visually
resembling existing games can help end-users to identify themselves with the system. Ford, as
an example, provides a gamified area called Ford p2p Cup (Paharia, 2013b), which is based
on car racing. By using Gamification in this context, Ford attempts to increase the use of
existing content, to accelerate personal certifications, and to motivate users to learn. Badges,
for instance rewarded for watching videos or consuming latest product information, are issued
in a virtual trophy cabinet.
By using game elements such as hidden badges, which are only awarded by surprise if
some special actions are taken (Domínguez et al., 2013), organizations can foster end-users to
explore the ES. By striving to uncover the hidden badges, end-users are likely to explore an
ES in order to increase their skills and knowledge towards the systems and to close the gap
between actual system usage and the understanding of the system’s full potential (Cooper and
Zmud, 1990; Yi and Davis, 2003; Chang and Chou, 2011). Accordingly, end-users might
discover innovative ways of ES usage to best support their tasks (Seddon et al., 2010; Ke et
A major contribution is the synthesis of Gamification M&Ds. We identified the main
aspects that should be considered when applying or evaluating Gamification approaches.
Since our focus is placed on the IS domain, we transfer Gamification to a novel context.
Although we identified a positive influence of most game elements on employee motivation
(see Online Appendix), Gamification should not be applied carelessly since negative
influences were found in at least two contexts as well. First, in an educational context,
students using a gamiﬁed e-learning system got lower participation scores (de-Marcos et al.,
2014). It was suggested that the gamified system emphasizes competition over collaboration
and sharing, thus reducing student participation. Second, interviews revealed that the Master-
D ownership could lead to undesired consequences (e.g., grudge or discomfort) (Cramer et
al., 2011). Besides carefully implementing Gamification, we believe that expedient designs
need to consider the variety of Master-M&Ds identified in our review (see Appendices A and
B). Our findings suggest that presence of interdependencies enables and amplifies the
effectiveness of Gamification in the ES domain. An example of an interdependency is a
leaderboard (Burke and Hiltbrand, 2011), which is usually implemented along with a point
system (Zichermann and Cunningham, 2011).
While mechanics like leaderboards can easily be implemented, attention needs to be paid
to their specific design. Due to misguided designs, leaderboards and respective competition
can also prevent users from becoming engaged with the gamified system at all. If
leaderboards are only designed for all-time scores, new users are unlikely to start competing
since their chances to successfully compete for the top ranks are rather low. This example
thus illustrates that both sides of the coin need to be considered. The sole implementation of a
mechanic does not automatically lead to the desired dynamic. In order to avoid employees
being discouraged by excessive competition, regular updates of leaderboards should be
conducted (Depura and Garg, 2012; Gordillo et al., 2013). Moreover, leaderboards for
different business areas, groups of employees, or time intervals (see Figure 2) should be
established to ensure that competition does not exclude specific users from being able to
compete for the top ranks. To avoid failure of Gamification, organizations should carefully
decide which game elements to integrate in their ES. For this purpose, several approaches
have been proposed (Neeli, 2012; Werbach and Hunter, 2012; Chou, 2013). The three-step
approach proposed by Neeli (2012), for instance, first includes assessing the main purpose of
the task to be gamified. The second step involves identification of underlying objectives for
different employees involved in task at hand (Aparicio et al., 2012). Such objectives can, be
derived from analyzing users’ past behaviors (Blohm and Leimeister, 2013). Finally, game
elements are selected to increase employee motivation towards reaching underlying
objectives. Adequate combinations of M&Ds can yield synergetic effects. Thus, a systematic
and expedient approach might lead to a higher success rate of Gamification in ES contexts.
5.2 Research Implications
Gamification as an approach to foster motivation of ES end-users is related to research on
technology acceptance (Youngberg et al., 2009; Codish and Ravid, 2014). As such,
Gamification can be used as a means to increase the motivation to use technology. Thus, first
attempts have been made to analyze Gamification’s effect on technology acceptance, showing
that “gamification objectively yields improvements in factors, such as software enjoyment,
flow experience or perceived ease of use” (Herzig et al., 2012: 803). The general impact
notwithstanding, analysis of the effect of specific M&Ds on technology acceptance constructs
is subject to future research. Investigations might refer to the analysis of whether reception of
badges increases users’ self-efficacy concerning the ES (Davis et al., 1989). Considering the
CRM example, badges for rather simple tasks like system logins and contact searches (see
Figure 2) might increase users’ perceived ease of use, increase users’ self-efficacy concerning
the usage of the CRM system, and thus contribute to continued system usage.
Considering the broad stream of research concerning technology acceptance in general and
ES acceptance in particular, previous studies have predominantly analyzed which factors
contribute to end-users acceptance of ES (Nwankpa and Roumani, 2014a). The reasons for
how and why end-users accept ES helps organizations to understand (lack of) acceptance.
Yet, the reasons do not provide means of how to overcome the barriers. By providing game
mechanics and respective dynamics, Gamification helps organizations to guide their ES end-
users behavior. As an instance of the gamified CRM example in this study, we perceive
competition (see “Gamification Dynamics”) as a typical Master-D that this triggered by
Gamification’s Master-M leaderboard (see “Gamification Mechanics”). The leaderboard
serves the purpose of showing users their rank among other users in the gamified CRM
systems. Implementing a leaderboard requires to specify an underlying measurement system
to assess and compare users’ positions. Typically, the amount of awarded points, badges,
achievements, and fulfilled goals as well as the user level are used as a measurement system.
The sole existence of a leaderboard within the gamified system can make employees engage
in system usage. Motivation to compete with others is caused by the joy of being the ‘leader’
or at least being in front of direct colleagues. People’s compulsion to climb the leaderboard
results in continuous competition and system usage.
While we provide both mechanics and dynamics, the relation between Master-Ms and
Master-Ds has not been analyzed yet. Within our literature analysis, we did not identify major
trends between Master-Ms and specific Master-Ds. While the use of point systems and
leaderboards likely leads to competition rather than collaboration, in-depth insights into such
dependencies are yet to be discovered and might depend on the types of players among users
(see our discussion of different player types below). Investigating long-term effects of
Gamification is promising as well, especially considering the reduced positive effects of
Gamification over time (see “Gamification Risks”). Accordingly, it appears worthwhile to
analyze whether badges granted for a specific number of logins (see Figure 2) have a
motivating effect on employees in the long run. Empirical investigations should hence focus
on corroborating the identified influences as well as uncovering interdependent effects of
Gamification Master-M&Ds. While Gamification has already been effectively applied as a
motivator in areas like health (Hamari and Koivisto, 2013), research (Parra et al., 2013) and
education (Akpolat and Slany, 2014; Li et al., 2013), attention should be paid to the setting in
which Gamification is applied (Blohm and Leimeister, 2013). Although we identified Master-
M&Ds for Gamification of ES in general, Gamification is not suitable for each context and
not every Master-M&D can be effectively applied to all settings (Hamari, 2013). It is thus
essential to fully comprehend the context before developing a Gamification design (Rapp et
Likewise, two further aspects to be considered are employees’ affinity for games and the
novelty of the ES in which Gamification is applied (Hamari, 2013). In view of the former,
personality is considered a factor to impact the way Gamification is perceived (Codish and
Ravid, 2014). Employees’ affinity for (video) games is crucial for Gamification effectiveness
and will vary among employee groups, especially concerning different generations. We
believe that a workspace with mostly young employees is the most promising environment for
Gamification, as older employees’ affinity to digital games might not be sufficient
(McGonigal, 2011). While young employees are likely to be familiar with features like the
hidden items in the CRM example (see “Rewards”), such features might exclude older
employee generations from such areas of the gamified system. Regarding the characterization
of ES users, for whom Gamification is implemented, previous research has identified four
player types (Bartle, 1996; Schacht and Schacht, 2012). First, explorers enjoy understanding
and exploring the game world. Within the CRM example, such players might, for instance, be
suitably addressed by hidden items that are likely to be collected by exploring different areas
of the CRM application. Second, achievers are eager to complete the majority of the
challenges with which they are confronted. Such players might be eager to reach high user
levels in the CRM example. Third, socializers get involved in games mainly due to other
players like themselves. Badges that are awarded for jointly accomplished tasks (e.g., new
products created by a team of CRM employees) might appeal to this player type. Finally,
winners strive for the accomplishment of challenges at the expense of other players (i.e., they
perceive a challenge as good if there can be one winner only). This player type is likely to be
addressed by badges that are only award once (e.g., the first user to create ten new products).
Since each player type reacts on and is motivated by implemented M&Ds in different ways,
we suggest assessing which type of player motivation is predominant among ES users in a
given context. Future research should thus address the dependencies between types of player
motivation and effective implementation of Gamification.
We present Gamification as an innovative approach to foster user motivation to utilize ES.
Considering Gamification as a means to overcome the various barriers to ES acceptance, we
guide organizations in their attempt to increase the acceptance of technology, in particular
when considering future generations of ES users, who are considered to have a high affinity to
video games. In addition to the general motivation to use Gamification in organization
contexts, we illustrate the various options to design Gamification applications. Our
synthesized Master-M&Ds are of particular interest since they show the comprehensive
potential to motivate employees in general, and ES users in particular, by implementing
Gamification. Providing a comprehensive list of Master-M&Ds, we aim to counteract the
reduction of meaningful Gamification to simple ‘Pointification’. Designers might use this
synthesis as a starting point for developing, selecting, combining, and evaluating applicable
M&Ds for future systems. Finally, our presentation and discussion of risks related to the
application of Gamification provide insights into its limitations. Organizations should not see
Gamification as a ‘magic bullet’ for increasing user motivation, but as a means that has to be
carefully and deliberately integrated into organizational structures to support a motivational
7. Appendix A – Gamification’s Master-Ms
Table 5 Identified Master-Ms.
Name (# coded)
Implementing sound effects and/or background music (Li et al., 2012).
“This includes an attractive user interface with stimulating visuals and exciting
interaction concepts, as well as a high degree of usability” (Gnauk et al., 2012: 105).
“Fantasy evokes images of objects or situations that aren’t actually present. This can
make the experience more emotionally appealing to users” (Li et al., 2012: 105).
Immediate feedback is used to keep players aware of their progress or failures in real-
time (Passos et al., 2011).
“[...] Leaderboards are used to track and display desired actions, using competition to
drive valuable behavior” (Bunchball Inc., 2010: 10).
“[…] For meaningful gamification, it is important to take into consideration the
background that the user brings to the activity and the organizational context into which
the specific activity is placed. […] The game elements need to come out of aspects of the
underlying activity that are meaningful to the user” (Nicholson, 2012: 2-5).
The act of bringing new users into the system, for example, by providing tutorials (Iosup
and Epema, 2014).
A user is allowed to attempt activities a number of times if unsuccessful, or to achieve
sub-goals (Tootell et al., 2014).
Reminder of past behavior of the user, for instance, a history of actions (Liu et al., 2011).
Offering functionalities to enable interaction and communication between users, for
instance, chats or forums.
Virtual goods (5)
Virtual goods are non-physical, intangible objects that can be purchased or traded
(Bunchball Inc., 2010).
existing games (3)
Creating a visual design that is similar to existing games. For example, designing the
system similar to the well-known Tetris game (Korn, 2012: 315).
Access describes what users can see and do inside the system, and might be granted or
increased after completing goals (Iosup and Epema, 2014), especially to foster
Goals of the underlying activity should be adapted as challenges for the user (Passos et
“A game helps players to continuously increase their skills by progressive disclosure of
both knowledge and challenge […]. This will help ensure that the challenges in the game
match the player’s skill levels […]” (Li et al., 2012: 105).
Shadowing describes a method where users attempt to improve their previous records
(Korn et al., 2012).
Story line (6)
“A story line links the tasks together to create a cohesive whole” (Villagrasa and Duran,
Time pressure (8)
Creating time pressure on activities, for instance, through counters or hourglasses (Li et
A reward for completing a clear and desirable goal (Liu et al., 2011).
“Badges consist of optional rewards and goals whose fulfilment is stored outside the
scope of the core activities of a service” (Hamari, 2013: 2).
Bonuses are rewarded for having completed a series of challenges or core functions
(Burke and Hiltbrand, 2011).
Loss aversion (3)
Loss aversion is a game mechanic that influences user behavior not by a reward, but by
instituting punishment when the targeted goal is not achieved (Liu et al., 2011).
Point system (29)
Point systems reward users for completing actions, whereby a numeric value is added to
their overall points total (Burke and Hiltbrand, 2011).
“[...] Ideological incentives is the notion of inﬂuencing user behavior through inﬂuencing
their attitudes and values, in other words, educating the user on a deeper level. The
ideological incentive makes it possible to motivate the user by himself” (Nakajima and
Lehdonvirta, 2013: 11).
User levels (14)
“Levels indicate the proﬁciency of the player in the overall gaming experience over time
[...]” (Gnauk et al., 2012: 104-105).
User profile (5)
A profile, showing information about the user (e.g., awarded badges).
An avatar representing the employee (Passos et al., 2011).
8. Appendix B – Gamification’s Master-Ds
Table 6 Identified Master-Ds.
Name (# coded)
In this context, altruism refers to virtual gift giving with the aim of strengthening the
relationships between users (Nakajima and Lehdonvirta, 2013).
“The community collaboration game dynamic rallies an entire community to work
together to solve a riddle, resolve a problem, or overcome a challenge” (Burke and
Hiltbrand, 2011: 13).
Contests enable users to challenge each other (Bunchball Inc., 2010).
“Conforming behavior is the desire not to act against group consensus, colloquially
known as peer pressure” (Nakajima and Lehdonvirta, 2013: 117).
This dynamic is based on the user’s desire to have what others have (Burke and
Group loyalty (1)
Group loyalty represents users’ affective and cognitive allegiance to the group as users
participate in a group (Ibanez et al., 2014).
“The ownership dynamic represents a positive, sustained connection to an entity that
leads to a feeling of shared ownership” (Burke and Hiltbrand, 2011: 14).
“Reputation is based on the opinion of other users about the user or her contribution”
(Vassileva, 2012: 183).
Self-expression results from having a desire to express autonomy, identity or originality,
or to mark one's personality as unique (Bunchball Inc., 2010).
Describes an effect where individual users achieve better results at simple tasks in the
presence of other people or when working in groups (Zajonc, 1965).
“[…] Status can be earned by the user in isolation, by performing certain actions”
(Vassileva, 2012: 183).
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