Michael Sailer, Jan Hense, Heinz Mandl and Markus Klevers
Psychological Perspectives on Motivation Through Interaction Design and Architecture(s) Journal – IxD&A, N.19, 2013, pp. 28-37
The article I chose this week continues my exploration of motivation, this time seen in the context of gamification. I have been hearing a lot about gamification for the last several years and bump into elements being incorporated into my own world often enough. Badges are popping up at professional conferences, a progress bar has been included in the university’s degree audit tool, avatars and public user profiles on linked-in, etc. I was expecting to need to wade through gobs of research when I entered my search terms ‘motivation’ and ‘gamification’ into the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library Database. I was surprised when my search ended with little or no useful results, requiring me to expand the search to the world wide web. Plenty of results were available for one or the other term, just not for the two combined.
The article I ended up with, however, was exactly what I was looking for. The authors take 2 very broad and potentially unwieldy topics, distill them down to a relevant essence and then very cleverly tie the two together to a clearly organized and usable framework with which to separate each element and the mechanisms of motivation it could trigger.
The writing is clear and concise and presented in a logical order. The authors begin by defining gamification and differentiating it from the related term ‘serious games’. Gamification is defined as the use of one or more of the ‘elements’ found within a game used in a “non-game setting’ while ‘serious games’ are defined as an actual game designed, not for play alone, but for a learning purpose. The authors then continue on to provide a list of game elements and a quick definition for each.
Next, we look at different mechanisms of motivation which are described from 6 different motivation theory perspectives. Examples of each perspective are then provided through a game context lens. Now we have a definition of game elements and ideas on individual motivational mechanisms likely at work. The authors next tie it together for us by theorizing which elements would stimulate which motivations in a section they title “Matching Motivational Mechanisms and Game Elements’. For example, one motivating mechanism that could be triggered by the use of the game element of badges is that “players with a strong power motive are likely to be motivated if ramifications emphasizes status, control and competition’.
The authors do not recommend one element or motivational theory over another, but show how many elements could be at play in a variety of contexts. It was an interesting approach to making sense of two complex topics and bringing them together. I especially appreciated the concrete examples of both game elements and how each might work to motivate a player.
I would be seriously interested in using the framework created by the authors to study the success of fantasy football player motivation based on this article’s list of game elements and the mechanisms triggered. Though football itself is a game, the watching of football (taking gambling of the table) is generally not. Fantasy football has, in an extremely successful way, to the point of being genius really, gamified the watching of other people playing a game in a new and healthy way. There are serious motivational factors at play here clearly triggered by game elements (points, avatars, rules, leaderboards, performance graphs, quests, meaningful stories) in an otherwise non game setting. Hmmmm.