Exploring the motivational potency of gamification

Carl Jesper Bengtsson

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis is an exploratory study of the subject of gamification (“the use of game elements in a non-game context”), a new proposed way of eliciting engagement in employees and consumers. The gamification industry has been under immense growth since its inception in 2010 but the efficacy and effects of such initiatives are still under debate. While there are several potential avenues for gamification implementation – this thesis is positioned within an organizational context and its effect on employee motivation. Because of the novelty of the subject, little theoretical underpinning has been established and as such, the research question that has guided the work is “Does motivational theory render gamification relevant?” The research question chosen is also contrasted against a larger problem statement that both includes controversy behind the claims of motivational potency of gamification initiatives: global technology advisory firm Gartner predicted in 2012 that 80% of gamification initiatives would have failed reaching their objectives by 2015. Because of the novelty of the subject, an abductive approach has been deployed to complement the initial exploratory requirements of the subject and to determine the viability of potential future hypotheses. Using the social constructionist theory of framing this thesis contrasts independent game elements derived from Werbach & Hunter’s gamification framework with the universal needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness as posited by self-determination theory. The main findings of this thesis are that while there seem to be certain motivational relevance for the use of game elements to elicit engagement, there also exist several previously unaddressed caveats. Above all, there is a heavy leniency towards competence facilitating game elements in current gamification discourse, and additionally, autonomy supportive game elements are independently non-existent. These caveats, and several others, are offered as potential explanations for why the predictions of failure rates have emerged, and are commented on as potential avenues for future research.

EducationsMSc in Strategy, Organization and Leadership, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages77