Thursday, February 04, 2016

Gamification FAQ #1: What is Gamification?

#1: What is Gamification?

Although the concept is around since 2010, there is no commonly accepted definition. 

So, what is gamification, after all? The most common and accepted definition for gamification is the one proposed by Deterding et al. (2011): “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts”. This is a straightforward definition but it lacks the purpose of the concept and raises some questions. What are game design elements? What is the point of using game design elements in non-game contexts? How should they be used? The main goal is that, by moving game elements to other contexts, it will be possible to induce, on people acting in those contexts, the same engagement that players feel when they play a game. If people are deeply motivated and engaged with some task they are performing, it will be more likely that they exhibit the right behaviors concerning the completion of that task. Gamification has as final objective the improvement of users’ involvement. As also pointed out by Kumar and Herger (2013), gamification is about motivating users. 

The definition I use is

The use of game elements and game techniques in non-game contexts, to drive game-like engagement in order to promote desired target behaviors.

This definition is related to what Nicholson (2012) calls meaningful gamification. With meaningful gamification, people engage in an activity because they are intrinsically motivated to perform the activity.

The concept of implicit gamification, proposed by Chou  is, in fact, what is considered to be gamification under the above definition. 

It is also close to what Kapp et al. (2014) call structural gamification rather then their notion of “content gamification”. In Kapp et al.’s view, “content gamification” is closer to serious games and simulations, since it aims to make contents more game-like.

Marczewski’s notion of intrinsic gamification or Long Term Deep Level Gamification is also close to what I understand as gamification. 

Behavior change gamification, proposed by Werbach and Hunter (2012), seeks to form new habits among a target population and is also emphasized in the last part of my definition – to promote desired behaviors. Werbach and Hunter point that this category of gamification includes “redesigning the classroom to make kids learn more while actually enjoying school”. 

It is also worthwhile to watch this video from Andrzej Marczewski:

and also this post: Gamification: What’s Play Got to do, (Got to do) with it?


Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., and Nacke, L. (2011). From game design elements to gamefulness: Defining ”gamification”. In Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments, MindTrek ’11, pages 9–15, New York, NY, USA. ACM. 

Kumar, J. and Herger, M. (2013). Gamification at Work: Designing Engaging Business Software. The Interaction Design Foundation., Aarhus, Denmark. 

Nicholson, S. (2012). A user-centered theoretical framework for meaningful gamification. In Proceedings of Games+Learning+Society 8.0, Pittsburgh. ETC Press. 

Kapp, K., Blair, L., and Mesch, R. (2014). The Gamification of Learning and Instruction  Fieldbook: Ideas into Pratice. Wiley.

Werbach, K. and Hunter, D. (2012). For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business. Wharton Digital Press.   

1 comment:

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