Does Gamification really work?
After much consideration, we came to the following conclusion: yes, it does work, but only in certain conditions. Read on to learn more!
The most cited article on Google Scholar about gamification, “Does Gamification Work?” by Hamari, J., Koivisto, J., & Sarsa, H. (2014), presented an analysis on 45 articles related to the theme aiming to discover the infamous answer to this question. This goes to show that the answer is not as simple and direct as one would expect.
First, let’s take a look at how often gamification is cited. The chart below presents research data on the popularity of this topic. The image, cited in the article, contains all the results, including non-scientific writings, such as magazine articles, publications, etc.:
Another way of verifying the theme´s popularity is to build a timeline using Google Trends data. Therefore, by defining a period between 2004 to the present time, a substantial and continuous increase in interest on the subject becomes clear.
It is evident that there was a great gamification boom around 2013. Since then, the trend has kept steady under (high) popular status.
What are the most used gamification tactics?
The motivation level of the public involved in gamification is another interesting point for discussion. We can all agree that people are different and consequently react differently before incentives.
In the reference article, the authors present data showing the number of articles that cited the different types of motivation. See below:
Motivations work different areas of the brain and emotions. According to the Octalysis methodology, incentives such as points, medals and ranking fit under the Accomplishment drive, and according to a study on gamification octalysis by Yu-Kai Chou , History/Narrative falls under the Meaning drive. This proves that each audience has different cerebral and emotional reactions depending on what drives them.It is evident that Points, Medals and Ranks (or “Leaderboards”) are the most discussed and cited aspects, making them the most implemented tactics in gamification. However, they are not the only ones, and, if implemented without real meaning or goal (called pointsification), the result might be opposite from what is desired. It can lead to an unbalanced game, as presented by Kevin Werbach in his course on gamification at the University of Pennsylvania. 
Where is gamification employed?
Yet another point to consider is the Context where gamification will be implemented. The chart below shows the list of articles that discuss the different contexts:
The studies on the context of education found that learning through gamification brought especially positive results in terms of motivation, involvement and enjoyment to the learning tasks. Nevertheless, the studies also pointed to negative results, such as increased unnecessary competitiveness among learners and difficulties in evaluating tasks and design resources.
Gamification continues to be a success in education since the time data was collected for the article “Does Gamification Work?”.
So, does gamification really work?
“What are the results that can be used with gamification like?” The reference study for this post presents the table below to answer this question:
We came to the conclusion that gamification does provide positive effects; however, such effects depend on the context where gamification is being implemented and on its users. In other words, in order for it to work, a gamification strategy cannot merely depend on good incentive tactics. It also needs to be well thought out as to where it will be implemented and whether it has been properly adapted to the target audience.
It is common knowledge that the human brain is lazy (it prefers expending the least amount of energy possible), so it finds different ways to procrastinate. The verb procrastinate is used to describe the neglect of activities, that is, when a specific job does not get its due attention or importance as a result of distraction… or laziness!
Self-control skills allow us to take action against procrastination. Self-control is the “human ability that helps control character impulses. It helps us to calmly and peacefully face problems and normal challenges of everyday life. It encourages us to cultivate patience and intelligently develop established and future interpersonal relationships.” 
Triggers: triggering behaviors
Often, all people need to overcome procrastination are a few well-devised triggers. A trigger is an environmental stimulus of any kind that makes us think about a related concept or idea – something that is seen, heard or smelled, which arouses the desire to do something. A bank notification on a smartphone is a trigger for users to access an online account, for example.
Developing positive discipline for your health
Patients who suffer from diabetes are a clear example of problems with procrastination, or lack of self-control. Such individuals must constantly monitor their sugar levels. Because this is a routine task which is often boring, patients forget or ignore the need to perform self-monitoring. They adopt an “I´ll leave it for later” attitude (that´s procrastination!) and end up forgetting. The consequences of this lack of self-control are possible heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, among other diseases, which these patients may end up facing.
Ok, but how can I use gamification to avoid this problem?
Article on self-control gamification for type 1 diabetes patients
The article  explains that gamification can have positive effects on self-control through increasing intrinsic motivation and using positive reinforcement to develop healthy habits.
How was the study performed?
Three questions guided the study:
Q1 – What characteristics from studies on videogames and gamified applications in virtual environments are applicable to diabetes management?
Q2 – What is the target behavior for these interventions?
Q3 – What are the main conclusions of the study?
The article presents different research study categories, including games and gamification. In this post, only gamification will be addressed. Three different studies presented gamification techniques. One of these was based on adolescents with type 1 Diabetes and created what is medically called Mhealth (a term used for medical and public health practices supported by mobile devices, such as mobile phones and tablets).
A chart relating articles cited in the research study is found below:
The review article was based on four different databases (PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, PsychINFO) on October 31, 2014. To include terms such as “games,” “gamification,” etc., the research was narrowed down to subtitles, abstracts, titles and keywords and publication dates were limited between the years 2000 and 2014. The research was also limited to English only, but we focus on gamification data only here.
What was discovered in the study?
Researchers concluded that gamification significantly increases blood sugar monitoring. That is, it improves discipline for personal health care in patients by increasing their self-control. Despite the different methods used, all 3 studies presented positive results.
After reviewing principles of gamification used in the three studies, researchers concluded that the children´s learning process on health improved when learning was facilitated by a personalized robot , while the use of rewards for motivation showed an increase in blood sugar monitoring . Most of the participants and health professionals attested to the value of the Didget  system as an assistant in blood sugar monitoring, and to the fact that the system “solved a problem and fulfilled a need.”
Gamification as an incentive for self-control
We can finally conclude that the case successfully used gamification in favor of self-control, causing patients to adopt the desired habits. See the different roles gamification can play? Now, what are you going to gamify?
References: https://queconceito.com.br/autocontrole .  Theng, Y.L., Lee, J.W.Y., Patinadan, P.V., Foo, S. (2015). The use of video games, gamification and virtual envrionments in the self-management of diabetes: A systematic review of evidence, Games for Health Journal, 4(5), 352-361. DOI: 10.1089/g4h.2014.0114  Cafazzo J, Casselman M, Hamming N, Katzman D, Palmert M. Design of an mHealth app for the self-management of adolescent type 1 diabetes: a pilot study. J Med Internet Res [Internet]. 2012 Jan [cited 2014 Nov 4];14(3):e70. Available from: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=3799540&tool=p mcentrez&rendertype=abstract 29.  Klingensmith GJ, Aisenberg J, Kaufman F, Halvorson M, Cruz E, Riordan ME, et al. Evaluation of a combined blood glucose monitoring and gaming system (Didget®) for motivation in children, adolescents, and young adults with type 1 diabetes. Pediatr Diabetes [Internet]. 2013 Aug [cited 2014 Nov 4];14(5):350–7. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21699639 30.  Blanson Henkemans O a, Bierman BPB, Janssen J, Neerincx M a, Looije R, van der Bosch H, et al. Using a robot to personalise health education for children with diabetes type 1: a pilot study. Patient Educ Couns [Internet]. Elsevier Ireland Ltd; 2013 Aug [cited 2014 Oct 31];92(2):174–81. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23684366  https://www.fabricadejogos.net/posts/introducao-gamification-o-caso-glic/
In 2018, the DOT digital group developed a gamification strategy for Natura, the largest cosmetics company in Latin America, which is, proudly, Brazilian. The company aimed to increase the sales of hundreds of thousands of consultants throughout Brazil. Read more here.
Why did Natura bet on gamification to increase sales performance? There are several reasons, but the Six-Box model helps us understand some of them:
The sales consultants demonstrated already having the necessary sales tools and resources (Box 2), Natura incentives (Box 3) and personal motivation for sales (Box 6). Despite knowing that consultants had different competence levels for completing tasks, we banked on the fact that the right training could improve the skills of all consultants.
The sales consultants had problems in the contextual area, lacking immediate feedback on performance (Box 1) and more step-by-step instruction (Box 4). Gamification has much to contribute to these issues:
- LEARNING – Rules were developed to encourage sales consultants to engage in distance learning through instructional videos and to ask their leaders for more guidance.
- FEEDBACK – the Gamified app provided rich, immediate feedback on daily tasks: “You have finished task X and earned 20 points” or “You failed mission X. Next time try doing this and that”
The results allowed Natura not only to engage sales consultants and increase their revenues, but also to better understand their habits, profiles and performance gaps.
The collected data helped to quantify findings, creating guides and metrics that provided the company with reliable knowledge on its outside sales representatives.
As it is clear to see, gamification goes far beyond exhilaration. Gamification is about optimization, performance enhancement and quantitative evaluation of the resulting ROI.
Want to apply gamification on your sales team? Talk to our experts.
For more on gamification, download our eBook!
There is much Science and Design behind Gamification. In this article, the DOT methodology for gamifying systems/products/services is explained in an intuitive, visual manner using a Canvas.
Anyone who needs to implement complex projects loves Canvas, isn´t that right? This type of instrument facilitates comprehension in every step, a necessary element for the project and the relation between the steps.
Take a look at the conceptual Canvas for the DOT Gamification methodology.
Represents the entire research phase of the Gamification methodology:
- The process begins with an in-depth study of the system/product/service that needs gamifying. How does it work? What are the possibilities and restrictions? The goal here is to truly analyze the item before taking it to the next level and perfecting it with Gamification!
- The following step involves diving into three important areas:
- The target audience (Who is the aim of the gamification? What are these individuals like? What do they enjoy? What do they want? What do they reject?);
- The target-audience behaviors that need to be transformed so the gamification will be effective; and,
- The business objectives, which consist of creating value for the client and for the KPIs that must be used to evaluate project ROI.
Where Game Design is concentrated, details the most efficient incentive rules to reach the target audience, and to instill value behaviors that aim to realize business objectives. To learn more about this vital phase of the methodology, access our Gamification eBook.
Of the Canvas displays the support elements that make Gamification viable from the technical point of view. These are: technologies that will be implemented, communication strategies and careful interaction design of the user experience phase. The DOT digital group offers services in these three areas as well.
We truly are a multidisciplinary team, and that makes all the difference when designing Gamification.
Consists of an analysis of the operational costs necessary for the Gamification strategy. Clearly, the final amount in this field must be lower than the ROI. This is the criteria for financial and commercial viability of the strategy.
As in every Canvas, true analysis and comprehension begins only when all fields are filled out. At that point, the relations between different fields and ensuing complexity of the entire project come to light, which facilitates determining solutions.
Want to know more about the DOT way of doing Gamification and much more? Learn about Game Thinking, the framework to which Gamification belongs.