Gamification at Work: Identifying Motivational Affordances and Their Roles in Sustaining User Engagement

Project: Research

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In recent decades, researchers in the information system (IS) field have expanded theirfocus from the utilitarian value of IS use (e.g., usefulness, effectiveness, and productivity)to include its hedonic value (e.g., enjoyment, fun, and playfulness) (Lowry et al., 2013;Chiu et al., 2014). As one strand in this broad shift, gamification—the use of game designelements in non-game contexts to engage users—is gaining attention in academic andindustrial fields (Deterding et al., 2011). Many business organizations have introducedgamification in the ISs of existing business activities (Burke, 2014). For example,employees are rewarded with points, badges, or trophies when they reach a milestone,join in challenges, set new goals, or compete with others. Employees perform actionsthat enable them to experience fun and enjoyment through the use of ISs (Whitson, 2013).However, despite widespread belief in the benefits of gamification, empirical evidenceshows that many gamified ISs fail to deliver on their objectives because the perceivedbeneficial effects of the game elements on user engagement are often short-lived(Kankanhalli et al., 2012). Given that the success of a gamified IS depends largely oncontinued user engagement, an understanding of how to sustain user engagement with agamified IS is crucial (Hamari, 2013; Nicholson, 2013). Without a deeper understandingof the mechanisms underlying user engagement, organizations will fail to achieve a returnon investment in gamifying their ISs, and the opportunity to harness emergingtechnologies with a view to engage users will therefore be lost.According to researchers in gamification studies, providing particular technologyaffordances that satisfy users’ motivational needs is key to maintaining user engagement(Deterding, 2011; Hamari et al., 2014). Nevertheless, little research has empiricallyexamined what specific affordances can be obtained using game elements and how theseaffordances can help sustain user engagement. To fill these gaps in understanding, thecurrent research aims to answer the following question: How does gamification work insustaining user engagement with an enterprise IS in the workplace? To answer thisquestion, drawing on the framework of situated motivational affordances (Deterding,2011) and self-determination theory (Ryan and Deci, 2000a), we will develop and test atheoretical model that explains the effects of motivational affordances on userengagement with an IS in the workplace.Toward this end, the project will combine qualitative and quantitative approaches. First,we will conduct in-depth interviews to gain insights from users that we will use toimprove our proposed model. We will then conduct a series of surveys on users ofexisting gamified enterprise ISs to collect empirical data to test our proposed model. Tofacilitate the interviews and surveys required for this project, we have secured thecollaboration with four global companies (PricewaterhouseCoopers, SamsungElectronics, Cisco Systems, and SAP) that have adopted gamification to increaseemployee engagement with their enterprise ISs.For academia, this study will extend the theory of affordance by conceptualizing newaffordances enabled by gamification technologies that have not been examined inprevious IS literature. For industry, the study will inform future designs and identifyeffective techniques and game mechanisms that will ensure the successful gamificationat work.


Project number9042426
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/07/1615/06/20

    Research areas

  • gamification , user engagement , affordance , motivational needs , structural equation modeling