A previous post complained about being shut down on several LinkedIn groups because I disagreed with the poster. This is the other article. It claims that the research described in this (one) paper is scientific verification that “gamification works”.
There is so much wrong with this claim that I hardly know where to begin. I have no problem with the research, by the way. The study seems sound and well analyzed. It’s the conclusions drawn by the Gamification Co that I have problems with.
Now the science is starting to catch up with us. Recent research (from Mekler et al. at the University of Basel) clearly shows what we’ve known all along: the basic methods of gamification clearly work to drive core behavior. Moreover, if they are presented properly, they are not demotivating as these so called “experts” predicted. And, in a clear victory for the SAPS model I pioneered – we’re starting to see that a core problem with most behavioral research (going all the way back to Deci/Ryan) may be that they used cash as the incentive/reward in testing. The real tension isn’t around the “strict construction” of intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation/reward, but rather that cash itself is a poor motivator.
If you want a well-thought out detailed analysis of what this study means, check out Sebastian Deterding’s post on the Gamification Research Network.
Here’s my response:
A SINGLE study, no matter how convincing the results, can NEVER be declared as scientific validation.
Besides, this claim implies that there is ONE way to do gamification (theirs), which of course is not true.
There is a growing and well-credentialed body of research on the use of games for learning, and even most of those experts would not make the claims for game-based learning that this article is making for gamification. I think there is a lot of potential in many aspects of gamification, but this kind of pseudo-scientific hype will only cause damage in the long run.
Subjects were asked to tag images. It has nothing to do with learning. They may drive core behavior on a simple task, but this can not be generalized to the claim that “gamification works”. They themselves say that more research is needed. This implies that this work is NOT considered to be scientific verification by the authors. It’s a start.
Points, levels and leaderboards are not only some of the most basic, but also three of the most commonly employed game elements in game and non-game contexts. While it has been argued that they may negatively impact users’ intrinsic motivation, no actual empirical evidence exists to back this claim.
The findings of the present study suggest that gamification by means of implementing points, levels and leaderboards may be an easy, viable and effective way to drive user behavior – at least in the short term. Perhaps by establishing a clear connection between user effort and performance, and by providing explicit performance goals, these game elements significantly enhanced participants’ performance in an image annotation task. While significant performance gains were achieved, intrinsic motivation remained unaffected by the mere presence of points, levels and leaderboards. However, designers of gamified services should still be wary of potential social or contextual factors that may determine whether these game elements diminish intrinsic motivation. Also, as these game elements did not increase intrinsic motivation, they should not solely be relied upon to sustain long-term user engagement.
If I were the authors of this study and I had discovered that someone had taken my hard work and twisted it to imply something I didn’t say, I’d be pissed.
If I were looking to hire a someone to design and implement a gamified something, it would NOT be this group.