Does gamification work?

Understanding gamification and its effectiveness beyond anecdotal evidence and hype is evidently a pertinent practical issue as well as, increasingly, a scholarly pursuit. Regardless of the increasing amount of both industry chatter and scholarly articles, there still is a dearth of coherent understanding whether gamification works and under which circumstances. To address this gap, we reviewed empirical studies on gamification.

We focused on investigating (in accordance to Huotari & Hamari 2012; Zhang 2008) what were the implemented affordances (independent variables), psychological and behavioural outcomes (dependent variables), what was gamified, as well as the methods and results of these studies.

In summary, the current empirical research on gamification largely supports the popular view that, indeed, gamification does produce positive effects, but many caveats exist (see e.g. Hamari 2013). Most frequently, the studies bring forth three categories of caveats: the context of gamification, qualities of the users using the system and possible novelty effects. See the paper for more details.

The study published was the Proceedings of 47th Hawaii International Conference on System SciencesDownload here. image

Citation: Hamari, J., Koivisto, J., and Sarsa, H. (2014). Does Gamification Work? – A Literature Review of Empirical Studies on gamification. In proceedings of the 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Hawaii, USA, January 6-9, 2014. image

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Abstract: This paper reviews peer-reviewed empirical studies on gamification. We create a framework for examining the effects of gamification by drawing from the definitions of gamification and the discussion on motivational affordances. The literature review covers results, independent variables (examined motivational affordances), dependent variables (examined psychological/behavioral outcomes from gamification), the contexts of gamification, and types of studies performed on the gamified systems. The paper examines the state of current research on the topic and points out gaps in existing literature. The review indicates that gamification provides positive effects, however, the effects are greatly dependent on the context in which the gamification is being implemented, as well as on the users using it. The findings of the review provide insight for further studies as well as for the design of gamified systems.

Juho Hamari
Researcher @ Game Research Lab – University of Tampere

Jonna Koivisto
Researcher @ Game Research Lab – University of Tampere

Harri Sarsa
School of Science – Aalto University

23 thoughts on “Does gamification work?

  1. Thank you very much for the access to this paper. I needed this to help write my research paper on gamification, and I was very grateful for a source like this. The academic community and I appreciate your hard work.

  2. I am a video game researcher and a Gamification practitioner from China, and I’d like to thank you for this splendid paper. It did help me to clarify the problematic part of current Gamification practice, and it led my team to think whether there’s any better ways to improve it. We are doing a few experiments for the past few months, and hopefully we can rectify some of the problems. Again, thank you for sharing!

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