Demographic differences in perceived benefits from gamification

Everyone knows the blueprint of a common gamification attempt: badges, points and leaderboards for everyone (slightly exaggerating). Supposedly, a common belief is that there is a one-size-fits-all-solution that works for everyone. Consequently and probably with somewhat unwarranted expectations, popular sources (Gartner 2011; IEEE 2014) enthusiastically predict that organizations will increasingly adopt and implement gamification despite a lack of consistent body of empirical research studying the effects of gamification (see Hamari et al. 2014 for a literature reviews). Without knowledge of how different people react and perceive gamification, customizing, tailoring and targeting gamification solutions to different segments is difficult.

Therefore, we wanted to investigate whether there are individual differences in the perceptions and effects from gamification. To better understand how users perceive gamification and its benefits, we studied the demographic differences on the perceived benefits from gamification. Based on data gathered from an exercise related gamification service, we analyzed the effects of age, gender and time using the service on social, hedonic and utilitarian benefits from the gamification as well as intentions of continued exercise.

Our results suggest that there may be potential novelty effects in gamification. In other words, it appears that the longer the users had used the service, the less strongly they perceived to be receiving benefits from gamification. This finding was consistent for social, hedonic and utilitarian benefits; the longer users had used the service, the less they felt to be enjoying the service, the less they perceived it playfully,  the less it was deemed useful, and finally, the users perceived to be less affected by social influence. These findings are not only consistent with but provide empirical support for prior discussions (Farzan et al. 2008; Hamari 2013; Hamari et al. 2014) regarding novelty effects from gamification.

The findings also suggest that for women the social benefits from gamification were more effective. Women perceived to be getting more recognition and perceived the community in the gamification service to be more reciprocally beneficial. This suggests that social features in gamification may be a more important motivational source for women than for men. Consequently perhaps this could explain why women also reported having larger social networks within the gamification service. Previously, social factors have been shown to be important predictors for gamification use (Hamari & Koivisto 2013).

Surprisingly, age had no significant effects on any direct benefits from gamification suggesting that gamification is perceived rather equally beneficial across different age groups. Age did, however, unsurprisingly have a minor negative effect on the perceived ease of use of the service.

The study will be published in Computers in Human Behavior. Download a pre-print version of the paper here. image

Citation: Koivisto, J., & Hamari, J. (2014). Demographic differences in perceived benefits from gamificationComputers in Human Behavior, 35, 179-188. DOI:

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Abstract: In recent years, “gamification” has been proposed as a solution for engaging people in individually and socially sustainable behaviors, such as exercise, sustainable consumption, and education. This paper studies demographic differences in perceived benefits from gamification in the context of exercise. On the basis of data gathered via an online survey (N = 195) from an exercise gamification service Fitocracy, we examine the effects of gender, age, and time using the service on social, hedonic, and utilitarian benefits and facilitating features of gamifying exercise. The results indicate that perceived enjoyment and usefulness of the gamification decline with use, suggesting that users might experience novelty effects from the service. The findings show that women report greater social benefits from the use of gamification. Further, ease of use of gamification is shown to decline with age. The implications of the findings are discussed.


Jonna Koivisto
Researcher @ Game Research Lab – University of Tampere

Juho Hamari
Researcher @ Game Research Lab – University of Tampere


Farzan, R., DiMicco, J. M., Millen, D. R., Dugan, C., Geyer, W. & Brownholtz, E. A. (2008). Results from deploying a participation incentive mechanism within the enterprise. In Proceedings of CHI, Florence, Italy, April 5–10, 2008, pp. 563–572.

Gartner (2011). Gartner Says by 2015, More Than 50 Percent of Organizations That Manage Innovation Processes Will Gamify Those Processes.

Hamari, J. (2013). Transforming Homo Economicus into Homo Ludens: A Field Experiment on Gamification in a Utilitarian Peer-To-Peer Trading Service. Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, 12 (4), 236-245.

Hamari, J., & Koivisto, J. (2013). Social motivations to use gamification: an empirical study of gamifying exercise. In Proceedings of the 21st European Conference on Information Systems, Utrecht, Netherlands, June 5–8, 2013.

Hamari, J., Koivisto, J., & 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.

IEEE (2014). Everyone’s a Gamer – IEEE Experts Predict Gaming Will Be Integrated Into More than 85 Percent of Daily Tasks by 2020.

Koivisto, J., & Hamari, J. (2014). Demographic differences in perceived benefits from gamification. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 179-188.

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