Useful Articles in Gamification (Part 3)

When looking for “seminal” articles in the field of gamification, one is confronted with works published in formal academic journals but more frequently from a variety of conferences. The field is fairly nascent and has been directed toward a wide variety of areas of focus. The best way to appreciate the field, perhaps, is to provide a sampling of a couple articles that provide an overview of the field. First, though, a quick discussion about the “father” of gamification . . .


Nick Pelling is credited for coining the concept of “gamification” in 2002 (though in a conference, he tells his audience it was in 2003). He divined the concept through his experiences in business school. Being told that success was based on defining what “you’re good at,” he quickly concluded that he was good at games given his years of work in the gaming industry. Business school, he stated, was centered on determining “present worth” of an asset. But upon reflecting upon games and business enterprises, Pelling had an epiphany: business schools were asking the wrong question. Economic value should be less associated with present worth and more associated with potential worth in the future.

The gaming industry was impacting all areas of culture, economy, and society in such a massive way that thoughtful entrepreneurs should be able monetize that insight. Pelling attempted to do that with an admittedly ill-fated startup called Conundra from 2003-06. Regardless of his failure, he identified two key elements in then-contemporary games: immersive interface design and digital content platforms; in the next wave, social media became an integral factor. Pelling is critical of the last element and envisions it as a crass forms of advertising and persuasion. His favored incarnations of the second stage focus on platforms that join people together and empower them. His examples of this include Kickstarter, AngelList, and even


A. “Does Gamification Work?—a literature review of empirical studies on gamification,” J Hamari, J Koivisto, H Sarsa, System Sciences HICSS, 2014.

Gamification, like any big idea, is great in theory. Articles such as Hamari’s are essential when investigating whether or not the theory actually works in practice. First, though, they demonstrate the almost exponential growth of literature in the field. Hamari and company look at a range of independent and dependent variables.

Hamari and company break down gamification into a simple linear progression:

Motivational AffordancePsychological OutcomesBehavioral Outcomes

Their literature review includes sites such as Google Scholar and ProQuest, which yielded large results; however, upon inspection, the literature that had been subjected to traditional peer-review was substantially lower. All withstanding, for those peer-reviewed articles with empirical studies and analysis, they did find positive associations, which were tempered due to factors associated with the study participants and other limitations. They pointed to other areas for possible research.

B. “How to Gamify? A Method for Designing Gamification,” Morshheuser B, Werder K, et al. System Sciences HICSS, 2017.

This article is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it touches upon the major question of entrepreneurs seeking to apply game dynamics in existing or new fields. Second, and strangely, this concept of “designing gamification” runs contrary to Pelling’s original assessment. Gamification was not something that one applies to a given business sector, but what the games culture had been doing for years to all other industries. While Pelling was prescient, with passing years the operative issue became recognizing the mutual dynamics between the formal game industry and other industries. At this stage, of course, most of the influence flows from the game industry to other fields

Morshheuser’s article looks at the future of gamification given the prediction by the Connecticut-based Gartner Group. Gartner predicted in 2011 that by 2015 half of all organizations would be incorporating some type of gamification into their operations; however, others also have predicted that ventures into gamification are doomed to failure due to flawed concepts about game design.  In this context, Morshheuser and company sought to develop a methodology.

For the methodology, they developed a set of best practices, performed a literature review for gamification design, and then received feedback about their model from a battery of recognized experts. Their product was represented by an extremely detailed, if not tedious flow chart that focused on thirteen straight-forward requirements, such as: understanding goals and characteristics, engaging in an iterative design process, obtaining input from stakeholders, involve users, et al. Many of these requirements make eminent sense, for example, and most importantly, obtaining input from stakeholders and users.

Next week we’ll take a look at something completely new in the field of eLearning. Any ideas about areas you’d like us to pursue? Send us an e-mail!

Craig Lee Keller, Ph.D., Learning Strategist

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