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A Theory of Gamification
Principles Through
Goal-Setting Theory
Gustavo F. Tondello
Hardy Premsukh
Lennart E. Nacke
Goal-Setting Theory x Gamification
2
GOAL
SPECIFICITY
GOAL
DIFFICULTY
PERFORMANCE
CLEAR
GOALS
CHALLENGE
ENGAGEMENT
Research Goals
• Identify the current uses of goal-setting theory in
gamification research
• Explain the principles and elements of gamification
within the framework of goal-setting theory
• Understand how goal-setting recommendations can
be implemented with gamification
• Understand how goal-setting recommendations can
improve gameful design
3
Methods
1. Systematic literature
review
2. Confrontation of
Goal-setting and
Gamification
literature
4
Literature search:
Google Scholar: 302 hits
Not a peer-reviewed paper or
book chapter: 80 papers
Not a full paper: 5 papers
Not available online: 8 papers
Not written in English: 42 papers
Total discarded: 135 papers
Read papers’ title and
abstract:
167 papers
Gamification is not the main topic
of the paper:
107 papers discarded
Read the full paper:
60 papers
Goal-setting theory is not
mentioned in relation to
gamification: 16 papers
Goal-setting theory is not cited at
all: 2 papers
Total discarded: 18 papers
Included papers:
42 papers
Examples of current uses of goal-setting theory in
gamification research
To explain a specific gamification element
• badges, leaderboards, rules, goals, challenges, progress bars
To understand how gamification works in a broader sense
• badges and levels can be mechanisms for implementing goal setting; progress bars are
mechanisms of direct feedback [1]
• incentives and rewards can be seen as goals [2]
Evaluation of gameful interventions
• investigating social motivations for using a gameful exercise service [3]
• investigating the success of leaderboards [4]
5
[1] R. N. Landers, K. N. Bauer, R. C. Callan, and M. B. Armstrong, “Psychological theory and the gamification of learning”,
in T. Reiners and L. C. Woods (eds.), Gamification in Education and Business, Springer, 2015, pp. 165–186.
[2] G. Richter, D. R. Raban, and S. Rafaeli, “Studying gamification: The effect of rewards and incentives on motivation”,
in T. Reiners and L. C. Woods (eds.), Gamification in Education and Business, Springer, 2015, pp. 21–46.
[3] J. Hamari and J. Koivisto, “Social motivations to use gamification: An empirical study of gamifying exercise”,
in 21st European Conference on Information Systems, 2013.
[4] R. N. Landers, K. N. Bauer, and R. C. Callan, “Gamification of task performance with leaderboards: A goal setting experiment”,
Computers in Human Behavior, 71, Elsevier, 2017, pp. 508–515.
Goal-setting Basic Principles
Goal-setting
principle
How it explains
gamification
Gameful design
guidelines
Related gameful
design elements
Specific goals Clear goals are specific
Goals should be specific to
focus the user’s attention
and effort towards them
badges
leaderboards
levels
progress bars
goals,
challenges,
points,
achievements
rewards
boss battles certificates
collections
exploratory tasks
quests
...
Difficult goals
Goals are difficult if the
challenge is adjusted
according to user skill
Difficult goals should result
in better performance than
easy goals
However, goal difficulty
must not exceed user
ability
6
Goal x Performance Mediators
Goal-setting
principle
How it explains
gamification
Gameful design
guidelines
Related gameful
design elements
Choice or direction
Presenting the next best task
helps focus user attention
Always present the next
best task once a goal is
reached
goals
tasks
Effort
Increased motivation leads to
increase effort
Persistence
Gameful systems allow users
to try again after a failure
Support mastery through
repetition
challenges
glowing choice
Task strategy
Balancing skill x challenge
allow user to practice new
skills
Adjust the challenges to the
user’s skill and give practice
time
challenges
Self-efficacy
Feedback and purpose help
user feel responsible for their
success
Provide feedback and
meaning for the user’s
actions
feedback, badges,
achievements,
progress bars, levels,
narrative, meaning, ...
7
Goal x Performance Moderators
Goal-setting
principle
How it explains
gamification
Gameful design
guidelines
Related gameful
design elements
Ability Breaking complex tasks into
smaller pieces reduces
complexity
Divide complex tasks into
smaller pieces that are
immediately doable
quests, goals, tasks,
glowing choice, power-
upsTask complexity
Progress feedback
Feedback on goal completion
has been shown to increase
performance
Provide meaningful
feedback that shows
progress towards goal
achievement
points, levels, badges,
achievements,
leaderboards, narrative,
rewards, ...
Goal commitment
Gamification can help the
user understand the task
importance and increase self-
efficacy
Context or meaning help the
user understand the
importance of the task and
feel committed to it
narrative, story, meaning,
purpose, humanity hero,
social network,
collaboration
8
Types of Goals
Type of goals How it is implemented in
gamification
Gameful design
guidelines
Related gameful
design elements
Outcome goals
Goals related to completing
specific tasks
challenges, quests,
exploratory tasks
Performance goals
Goals that require the user to
reach certain performance
level
badges, points,
achievements,
leaderboards, levels
Process goals Topic open for future investigation learning
Stretch goals Topic open for future investigation achievements
SMART goals
Goals usually are specific,
measurable, and attainable
Realistic and time-bound
goals need further studies
Goals in gameful systems
should be specific,
measurable, attainable,
realistic, and time-bound for
optimal performance
9
Takeaways
Existing literature employs goal-setting theory to support, explain, or
help design specific gamification elements
Our new conceptual framework connects the most important
gamification and goal-setting principles
10
Takeaways
How gameful experiences activate the mechanisms at work when goal
setting is used to improve performance:
1. setting clear goals through gameful elements helps users focus their attention
and efforts towards achieving the goals
2. gamification can encourage users to fail and try again until they achieve
mastery, thus fostering persistence
3. gamification can help users learn new skills by scaling the challenges
according to the users’ current abilities
4. gameful experiences usually lead to self-attribution of performance, positive
affect, and self-efficacy, further enhancing the effect of performance
improvement
11
Takeaways
How gamification can act on the moderator variables that influence the
relationship between goals and performance:
1. gameful design guidelines suggest that the system should scale the difficulty
and help users acquire new skills, so they would always feel they have the
ability to pursue the goals
2. gameful systems usually provide constant and actionable feedback, which
informs the users regarding their current performance and show the potential
next actions towards the goals
3. gamification can facilitate goal commitment by helping users identify the
importance of their goals and by fostering social interactions
12
Opportunities for Future Work
Propose new ways to implement goal-setting interventions with
gamification
Investigate the overall effects of gamification on task performance
Measure the intensity of the mediating variables to understand if these
mechanisms work in gameful experiences in a similar way than in
traditional goal-setting activities
Measure how much goal commitment, feedback, and ability influence
overall task performance by variating the type of game design
elements
Investigate if different types of goals lead to similar or different overall
performance, mediating, or moderating effects
13
Full research paper:
A Theory of Gamification Principles Through Goal-Setting Theory
CONTACT
Gustavo F. Tondello
gustavo@tondello.com
@GustavoTondello
http://hcigames.com/
14

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A Theory of Gamification Principles Through Goal-Setting Theory

  • 1. A Theory of Gamification Principles Through Goal-Setting Theory Gustavo F. Tondello Hardy Premsukh Lennart E. Nacke
  • 2. Goal-Setting Theory x Gamification 2 GOAL SPECIFICITY GOAL DIFFICULTY PERFORMANCE CLEAR GOALS CHALLENGE ENGAGEMENT
  • 3. Research Goals • Identify the current uses of goal-setting theory in gamification research • Explain the principles and elements of gamification within the framework of goal-setting theory • Understand how goal-setting recommendations can be implemented with gamification • Understand how goal-setting recommendations can improve gameful design 3
  • 4. Methods 1. Systematic literature review 2. Confrontation of Goal-setting and Gamification literature 4 Literature search: Google Scholar: 302 hits Not a peer-reviewed paper or book chapter: 80 papers Not a full paper: 5 papers Not available online: 8 papers Not written in English: 42 papers Total discarded: 135 papers Read papers’ title and abstract: 167 papers Gamification is not the main topic of the paper: 107 papers discarded Read the full paper: 60 papers Goal-setting theory is not mentioned in relation to gamification: 16 papers Goal-setting theory is not cited at all: 2 papers Total discarded: 18 papers Included papers: 42 papers
  • 5. Examples of current uses of goal-setting theory in gamification research To explain a specific gamification element • badges, leaderboards, rules, goals, challenges, progress bars To understand how gamification works in a broader sense • badges and levels can be mechanisms for implementing goal setting; progress bars are mechanisms of direct feedback [1] • incentives and rewards can be seen as goals [2] Evaluation of gameful interventions • investigating social motivations for using a gameful exercise service [3] • investigating the success of leaderboards [4] 5 [1] R. N. Landers, K. N. Bauer, R. C. Callan, and M. B. Armstrong, “Psychological theory and the gamification of learning”, in T. Reiners and L. C. Woods (eds.), Gamification in Education and Business, Springer, 2015, pp. 165–186. [2] G. Richter, D. R. Raban, and S. Rafaeli, “Studying gamification: The effect of rewards and incentives on motivation”, in T. Reiners and L. C. Woods (eds.), Gamification in Education and Business, Springer, 2015, pp. 21–46. [3] J. Hamari and J. Koivisto, “Social motivations to use gamification: An empirical study of gamifying exercise”, in 21st European Conference on Information Systems, 2013. [4] R. N. Landers, K. N. Bauer, and R. C. Callan, “Gamification of task performance with leaderboards: A goal setting experiment”, Computers in Human Behavior, 71, Elsevier, 2017, pp. 508–515.
  • 6. Goal-setting Basic Principles Goal-setting principle How it explains gamification Gameful design guidelines Related gameful design elements Specific goals Clear goals are specific Goals should be specific to focus the user’s attention and effort towards them badges leaderboards levels progress bars goals, challenges, points, achievements rewards boss battles certificates collections exploratory tasks quests ... Difficult goals Goals are difficult if the challenge is adjusted according to user skill Difficult goals should result in better performance than easy goals However, goal difficulty must not exceed user ability 6
  • 7. Goal x Performance Mediators Goal-setting principle How it explains gamification Gameful design guidelines Related gameful design elements Choice or direction Presenting the next best task helps focus user attention Always present the next best task once a goal is reached goals tasks Effort Increased motivation leads to increase effort Persistence Gameful systems allow users to try again after a failure Support mastery through repetition challenges glowing choice Task strategy Balancing skill x challenge allow user to practice new skills Adjust the challenges to the user’s skill and give practice time challenges Self-efficacy Feedback and purpose help user feel responsible for their success Provide feedback and meaning for the user’s actions feedback, badges, achievements, progress bars, levels, narrative, meaning, ... 7
  • 8. Goal x Performance Moderators Goal-setting principle How it explains gamification Gameful design guidelines Related gameful design elements Ability Breaking complex tasks into smaller pieces reduces complexity Divide complex tasks into smaller pieces that are immediately doable quests, goals, tasks, glowing choice, power- upsTask complexity Progress feedback Feedback on goal completion has been shown to increase performance Provide meaningful feedback that shows progress towards goal achievement points, levels, badges, achievements, leaderboards, narrative, rewards, ... Goal commitment Gamification can help the user understand the task importance and increase self- efficacy Context or meaning help the user understand the importance of the task and feel committed to it narrative, story, meaning, purpose, humanity hero, social network, collaboration 8
  • 9. Types of Goals Type of goals How it is implemented in gamification Gameful design guidelines Related gameful design elements Outcome goals Goals related to completing specific tasks challenges, quests, exploratory tasks Performance goals Goals that require the user to reach certain performance level badges, points, achievements, leaderboards, levels Process goals Topic open for future investigation learning Stretch goals Topic open for future investigation achievements SMART goals Goals usually are specific, measurable, and attainable Realistic and time-bound goals need further studies Goals in gameful systems should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound for optimal performance 9
  • 10. Takeaways Existing literature employs goal-setting theory to support, explain, or help design specific gamification elements Our new conceptual framework connects the most important gamification and goal-setting principles 10
  • 11. Takeaways How gameful experiences activate the mechanisms at work when goal setting is used to improve performance: 1. setting clear goals through gameful elements helps users focus their attention and efforts towards achieving the goals 2. gamification can encourage users to fail and try again until they achieve mastery, thus fostering persistence 3. gamification can help users learn new skills by scaling the challenges according to the users’ current abilities 4. gameful experiences usually lead to self-attribution of performance, positive affect, and self-efficacy, further enhancing the effect of performance improvement 11
  • 12. Takeaways How gamification can act on the moderator variables that influence the relationship between goals and performance: 1. gameful design guidelines suggest that the system should scale the difficulty and help users acquire new skills, so they would always feel they have the ability to pursue the goals 2. gameful systems usually provide constant and actionable feedback, which informs the users regarding their current performance and show the potential next actions towards the goals 3. gamification can facilitate goal commitment by helping users identify the importance of their goals and by fostering social interactions 12
  • 13. Opportunities for Future Work Propose new ways to implement goal-setting interventions with gamification Investigate the overall effects of gamification on task performance Measure the intensity of the mediating variables to understand if these mechanisms work in gameful experiences in a similar way than in traditional goal-setting activities Measure how much goal commitment, feedback, and ability influence overall task performance by variating the type of game design elements Investigate if different types of goals lead to similar or different overall performance, mediating, or moderating effects 13
  • 14. Full research paper: A Theory of Gamification Principles Through Goal-Setting Theory CONTACT Gustavo F. Tondello gustavo@tondello.com @GustavoTondello http://hcigames.com/ 14