Gamification and Growing Pains

I wanted to find a more recent research article for this week’s critique. Having read some of Deterding’s work during the first cycles of Games and Learing, I was eager to see some of his updated and current takes on gamification and research in a recent article titled The Maturing of Gamification Research which can be accessed by UC Denver students through the Auraria Library Portal.

“If the first wave of gamification research was held together by fundamental questions of ‘what?’ and ‘why?’, the current wave is asking differentiated questions around ‘how?’, ‘when?’, and ‘how and when not?’ More specifically, the papers collected here mark a maturation in three research domains: (1) theory-driven empirical studies, (2) design methods, and (3) application areas,” (Deterding, Sebestian & Nacke, E. Lennart, 2017).

Gamification has seen a lot of deserved scrutiny over the past few years as people came to understand gamification as solely being point systems, competition, and digital badges. Well, maybe that was what the term came to denote at the early stages of “what?” and “why?”

While the term gamification might not be salvageable as a term, the authors acknowledgement of theory-driven empirical studies, design methods, and application areas is needed to bring the term into a better light.

Discussing the way that researchers had approached gamification in the past and now present, the authors state that “the majority of papers in this special issue in various ways manifest this maturation from theory-less effect studies asking whether gamification works to theory-driven studies exploring how particular design elements work,” (Deterding & Lennart, 2017).

Gamification had close ties to marketing during the early years (and still). By focusing on “theory-driven studies” that explore “how particular design elements work,” researchers are moving in the right direction and expanding the term gamification to mean more.

The authors cite some great, varied studies in the article to show the varied, expanded, and matured approaches to researching gamification such as Rapp’s study involving World of Warcraft from 2015, Designing interactive systems through a game lens: An ethnographic approach where the author focused on “factors like opportunities for social interaction and user representation,” (Deterding & Lennart, 2017).

Another section of the article discusses recent studies on contexts for gamification, acknowledging the limitations for implementation and highlights recent findings.

When tackling the topic of future research the authors believe to be necessary as a next step, they claim that “we are still dearly lacking studies with rigorous designs that assess both psychological mediators and behavioural outcomes–and do so long-term and in the wild, not just short-term and in the lab,” (Deterding & Lennart, 2017).

Being as gamification is still a relatively young practice, this is a logical conclusion. It’s also important to note that the authors acknowledge the growth from a few things like badges and leader boards to an expanding field of study in what mechanisms and approaches are most beneficial.

Reading this article really gave me a lens to evaluate our current studies within Games and Learning and left me with an even more favorable feeling towards this course, the content within, and it’s value to my career and interests. It also gave me a lot more articles to read.

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