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Gamification creates commitment to change

Are we going to play games – at work? The answer is yes: using mechanisms from the world of games can serve as a powerful tool to change people’s behaviour for the better. However, if you do not know what you are doing, there is a risk that the results will be the exact opposite. RISE researcher László Sall Vesselényi explains what needs to be considered to ensure that gamification creates commitment instead of resulting in frustration.

All you need to do is download any exercise app and, within a few minutes, you will come across what is referred to as gamification. The app will try to get you to exercise more by giving you rewards once you have passed certain goals, such as a star after completing your first five-kilometre run.

– “Simply put, gamification is when you apply ideas from games in everyday life, that is, using game mechanisms in non-game contexts,” says Vesselényi.

Direct feedback creates positive emotions

Even though most people know that exercise is good in the long run, you may not feel motivated right now, when it is cold or rainy or stressful at work. But with the help of gamification, the user can get direct feedback that they have accomplished something, and this in turn triggers positive emotions that create a willingness to continue towards the goal.

– “People are not just information beings, and although you may read that something is good for your health, it doesn’t mean you will automatically do it. Gamification can be a great way to stimulate the emotional commitment needed to really change behaviour.”

And this doesn’t just apply in private life, it can be just as effective in a workplace or in a customer relationship. But while gamification can be a powerful tool, it can create negative effects if used incorrectly.

– “If poorly implemented, gamification can even end up counteracting the desired behaviour. For example, if you offer a reward for an activity that did not have a reward previously, there is a risk that people will completely lose interest in the activity if the reward is removed later on.”

With the help of gamification, we can apply principles that arouse emotions and create commitment

Charting behaviour that needs to change

Another risk is that poorly implemented gamification rewards the wrong behaviour. To avoid this and other pitfalls when working with gamification, and to get tips and ideas for new methods, opportunities and technical aids, it can be beneficial to enlist the help of an expert in game design. 

– “Every day, those of us working on this at RISE help organisations that want to learn more about gamification and how they can use it in their own operations.”

Among other things, researchers at RISE can help identify what behaviour actually needs to change, and chart how that behaviour relates to other behaviours and what effects a change can have.

– “We can also help evaluate whether gamification is the right tool for a particular organisation, or identify which parts would benefit from it and where it may not be quite as well suited.”

In most cases, there are always processes or behaviours that can be positively strengthened through gamification.

– “If people are only exposed to information, they easily filter it out because they can’t relate to it – it doesn’t awaken anything in them. But with the help of gamification, we can apply principles that arouse emotions and create commitment, and ensure that the change has a greater effect than could have been achieved otherwise.”

László Sall Vesselényi

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László Sall Vesselényi


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