Digital Interventions: Gamification as an SBC Approach

Gamification, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “the use of elements of game-playing in another activity, usually in order to make that activity more interesting.” It leverages our enjoyment of games and desire to keep playing when we see immediate progress. In gamification, communication programs apply specific design features drawn from entertainment games to motivate user engagement with gamified systems. Examples of game elements applied to “gamify” other systems (such as web- or app-based learning systems and behavioral trackers) include systems rewards, challenges, badges, and leaderboards.

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— August 24, 2022

Gamification, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “the use of elements of game-playing in another activity, usually in order to make that activity more interesting.” It leverages our enjoyment of games and desire to keep playing when we see immediate progress. In gamification, communication programs apply specific design features drawn from entertainment games to motivate user engagement with gamified systems. Examples of game elements applied to “gamify” other systems (such as web- or app-based learning systems and behavioral trackers) include systems rewards, challenges, badges, and leaderboards.

In their paper, Knowledge Discovery of Game Design Features By Mining User Generated Feedback, Bharathi[PR1] , A. K. B. G. et al. (2016) elaborate on game elements which have been successfully applied to gamification of non-game systems.  Table 1 provides examples.

Table 1: Examples of Successfully Gamified Game Elements
Examples of Game Element/Design FeaturesRelevant Literature
Challenges: Puzzles or other tasks that need effort to solveDomínguez et al., 2013; Dong et al., 2012; Flatla et al., 2011
Feedback: Information about how the player is doingDong et al., 2012; Gustafsson et al., 2010; Li et al., 2012
Rewards: Some benefits that go together for some action or achievement in the gameDownes-Le Guin et al., 2012; Liu et al., 2011; Li et al., 2012
Achievements: A form of reward attached to performing specific actionsFitz-Walter et al., 2011; Liu et al., 2011; Montola et al., 2009
Avatars: Visual representations of players’ charactersBerengueres et al., 2013; Downes-Le Guin et al., 2012; Liu et al., 2011; K. Rose et al., 2013
Badges: Visual representations of achievementsAnderson et al., 2013; Denny, 2013; Domínguez et al., 2013; Hakulinen et al., 2013
Leaderboards: Visual displays of player progression and achievementsDomínguez et al., 2013; Farzan et al., 2008; Gnauk et al., 2012; Halan et al., 2010
Levels: Defined steps in player progressionDomínguez et al., 2013; Dong et al., 2012; Farzan et al., 2008
Table adapted from Tables 2.1 and 2.2 in Bharathi, A. K. B. G. et al., 2016.

Gamification has gained popularity as a component of health interventions, where its use revolves around the application of specific design principles or features that drive targeted behaviors and experiences[PR1]  (Johnson[PR2] , D. et al, 2016). Gamified systems are commonly delivered via digital platforms such as mobile or web applications. The design process in gamification involves several steps such as identifying and understanding the target audience the game is being developed for, investigating what game mechanics to apply for the identified target audience (examples include badges, leaderboards, points and levels, challenges and quests, social engagement loops, and onboarding) and finally, creating a suitable gaming experience for the specific audience. Other elements to consider in the design process include the development of a narrative/script/storyboard, the decisions a player will make throughout the game, the type of information needed to make those decisions, the mechanisms used to facilitate or capture decision making (e.g., via text message, dialogues, or email), learning development considerations, and technical considerations.

In this Trending Topic, we share resources and tools which would help readers understand gamification and its application in health behavior change. If you have materials on gamification you would like to share with us, please upload the items, or contact us at info@thecompassforsbc.org.

References

Anderson, A., Huttenlocher, D., Kleinberg, J., & Leskovec, J. (2013). Steering user behavior with badges. Proceedings of the 22nd international conference on world wide web (pp. 95-106). ACM Digital Library. https://doi.org/10.1145/2488388.2488398

Berengueres, J., Alsuwairi, F., Zaki, N., & Ng, T. (2013). Gamification of a recycle bin with emoticons. Proceedings of the 8th ACM/IEEE international conference on human-robot interaction (pp. 83-84). Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. https://doi.org/10.1109/HRI.2013.6483512

Bharathi, A. K. B. G., Singh, A., Tucker, C. S., & Nembhard, H. B. (2016.) Knowledge discovery of game design features by mining user-generated feedback. Computers in Human Behavior, 60, 361-371. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.02.076

Denny, P. (2012). The effect of virtual achievements on student engagement. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 763-772). ACM Digital Library. https://doi.org/10.1145/2470654.2470763

Domínguez, A., Saenz-de-Navarrete, J., De-Marcos, L., Fernández-Sanz, L, Pagés, C., & Martínez-Herráiz, J. (2013). Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. Computers & Education, 63, 380-392. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2012.12.020

Dong, T., Dontcheva, M., Joseph, D., Karahalios, K., Newman, M., & Ackerman, M. (2012). Discovery-based games for learning software. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 2083-2086). ACM Digital Library. https://doi.org/10.1145/2207676.2208358

Downes-Le Guin, T., Baker, R., Mechling, J., & Ruyle, E. (2012). Myths and realities of respondent engagement in online surveys. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 54(5), 1-21. https://doi.org/10.2501/IJMR-54-5-613-633

Farzan, R., DiMicco, J. M., Millen, D. R., Brownholtz, B., Geyer, W., & Dugan, C. (2008). When the experiment is over: deploying an incentive system to all the users. Proceedings of the symposium on persuasive technology. Penn State University. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.189.2864&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Fitz-Walter, Z., Tjondronegoro, D., & Wyeth, P. (2011). Orientation passport: Using gamification to engage university students. Proceedings of the 23rd Australian computer-human interaction conference (pp. 122-125). ACM Digital Library. https://doi.org/10.1145/2071536.2071554

Flatla, D. R., Gutwin, C., Nacke, L. E., Bateman, S., & Mandryk, R. L. (2011). Calibration games: making calibration tasks enjoyable by adding motivating game elements. Proceedings of the 24th annual ACM symposium on user interface software and technology (pp. 403-412). ACM Digital Library. https://doi.org/10.1145/2047196.2047248

Gnauk, B., Dannecker, L., & Hahmann, M. (2012). Leveraging gamification in demand dispatch systems. Proceedings of the 2012 joint EDBT/ICDT workshops (pp. 103-110). ACM Digital Library. https://doi.org/10.1145/2320765.2320799

Gustafsson, A., Katzeff, C., & Bang, M. (2009). Evaluation of a pervasive game for domestic energy engagement among teenagers. Computers in Entertainment, 7(4), 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1145/1658866.1658873

Halan, S., Rossen, B., Cendan, J., & Lok, B. (2010). High score!—Motivation strategies for user participation in virtual human development. International conference on intelligent virtual agents (pp. 482-488). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-15892-6_52

Hakulinen, L., Auvinen, T., & Korhonen, A. Empirical study on the effect of achievement badges in TRAKLA2 online learning environment. 2013 Learning and Teaching in Computing and Engineering (LaTiCE) (pp. 47-54). Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. https://doi.org/10.1109/LaTiCE.2013.34

Johnson, D., Deterding, S., Kuhn, K., Staneva, A., Stoyanov, S., & Hides, L. (2016). Gamification for health and wellbeing: A systematic review of the literature. Internet Interventions, 6, 89-106. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.invent.2016.10.002

Li, W., Grossman, T., & Fitzmaurice, G. (2012). GamiCAD: A gamified tutorial system for first time autocad users. Proceedings of the 25th annual ACM symposium on user interface software and technology (pp. 103-112). ACM Digital Library. https://doi.org/10.1145/2380116.2380131

Liu, Y., Alexandrova, T., & Nakajima, T. (2011). Gamifying intelligent environments. Proceedings of the 2011 international ACM workshop on ubiquitous meta user interfaces (pp. 7-12). ACM Digital Library. https://doi.org/10.1145/2072652.2072655

Montola, M., Nummenmaa, T., Lucero, A., Boberg, M., & Korhonen, H. Applying game achievement systems to enhance user experience in a photo sharing service. Proceedings of the 13th international MindTrek conference: Everyday life in the ubiquitous era (pp. 94-97). ACM Digital Library. https://doi.org/10.1145/1621841.1621859

Rose, K. J., Koenig, M., & Wiesbauer, F. (2013). Evaluating success for behavioral change in diabetes via mHealth and gamification: MySugr’s keys to retention and patient engagement. Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics, 15(1), A114–A114. https://assets.mysugr.com/website/mysugr.com-wordpress/uploads/2017/03/attd-2013-poster.pdf

For Additional Reading

  1. Alsaleh, N., & Alnanih, R. (2020). Gamification-based behavioral change in children with diabetes mellitus. Procedia Computer Science, 170, 442-449. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.procs.2020.03.087
  2. Schmidt-Kraepelin, M., Toussaint, P., Thiebes, S., Hamari, J., & Sunyaev, A. (2020). Archetypes of gamification: Analysis of mHealth apps. JMIR mhealth and uhealth, 8(10), e19280.  https://doi.org/10.2196/19280