SEP 30, 2018 2:52 AM PDT

Bridging Psychology and Gamification

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Image via Axero Solutions

To significantly impact learning efforts in user experience design, healthcare, and government, a research team is seeking to close the gap between psychology and gamification. The researchers at the University of Waterloo and the University of Minnesota have integrated models from psychology with human-computer interaction that allow for a more deliberate closing connection between the two disciplines in the understanding of gameful experiences.

Gamification is utilizing game elements in applications without actual games. To illistrate, a user experience designer can use elements from games, like quests, stories, and badges, in order to motivate users to interact with a product, system, or service. The ‘gameful experience’ is the state of an individual when interacting with a gameful system such that the person is engaged in “meaningful, fun, and achievable goals that motivate them for learning and working”.

"Clarifying and defining this term will provide a unifying foundation for any future work on gamification and help psychologists, user experience designers, and game developers better understand each other," says Lennart Nacke, professor in Communication Arts and director of the Human-Computer Interaction in Games research group at Waterloo. "Gamefulness is often loosely defined, relying on researchers applying their own intuitive understanding of games. The historical, inconsistent use of the term gamefulness by people working in the field has caused confusion and hindered progress in this important area."

To unify psychology and gamifcation, one must understand gameful experience; the state resulting from the interaction between of three characteristics of psychology: perceiving presented goals to be non-trivial and achievable, being motivated to pursue those goals under arbitrary externally-imposed rules and believing that one's actions within these constraints are voluntary. "Clarifying the terminology will help us create more gameful systems which will help people use this kind of technology to learn more effectively," said Gustavo F. Tondello, co-author and a PhD candidate in Computer Science at Waterloo.

Source: University of Waterloo

About the Author
  • Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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