We all already know how gamification can be useful for teams, customers, and citizens, but how it actually works when we talk about emotion?

The success of gamified systems depends on their ability to engage players by eliciting both positive and negative emotions.

Before we go deeper let’s understand what emotion is in a gamification context. Emotion exerts a powerful influence on reason and, in ways neither understood nor systematically researched, contributes to the fixation of belief.

We, as humans, experience a rollercoaster of emotions on daily basis, therefore emotions are central to the experience of engagement.

The goals of gamification vary with the task(s) being gamified, and include increasing attention and engagement, stimulation innovation, improving decisions, promoting learning, and changing behaviours. Emotion in the gamified experience is key to each such goals.


Cognition and emotion

Cognition refers to mental activities such as attention, learning, language processing, problem solving, and memory that are related to knowledge acquisition and application.

On the other hand, emotions are internal mental states of varying intensity representing evaluating reactions to environmental stimuli. Emotions are the result of a valanced reaction (positive or negative) to the consequences of actions of agents, events, or aspects of objects. Different emotions are triggered through each of these sources and may be further subdivided on the bases of more granular conditions.


Gamification & Emotion

The relationship between gamification and emotion still is an emerging are of research. Gamification is the incorporation of game design elements into an existing system while retaining the system’s instrumental functions.

We already discussed in the past some examples of game elements used in a gamified environment, but in this context elements of game design (include points, leaderboards, levels, badges, etc) are generally defined as building blocks of which games are typically comprised.

The previously mentioned game design elements may elicit specific emotions in the user, either individually or in combination, and these emotions can be harnessed to promote desired outcomes of the gamified experience. It’s through elements of game design that gameful experiences manifest, and these elements should interact evoke a sense of emotional engagement in the player/user.


MDE Gamification Framework

MDE is the acronym for Mechanics, Dynamics, and emotions. The MDE framework takes an important initial step toward highlighting the importance of emotional experiences in motivating human behaviour.

Mechanics comprised the “designed” aspects of the gamified system, including goals, rules, context, boundaries, and types of interactions. Rule mechanics refer to the goals, allowable actions, and constraints (e.g., time limits, achievement criteria). Progression mechanics refer to the rewards and reinforcements that are used to influence player behaviour (e.g., points, badges, and leaderboards).

Dynamics relate to the action of the player. Players/users may approach a game with different strategies and may react to game mechanics in different ways. It’s important to keep in mind that dynamics difficult to predict, and it is through dynamics that unintended consequences of gamification can arise.

The MDE framework contends that enjoyment, which can be derived from a range of positive emotions including excitement, surprise, and triumph over adversity, is the most crucial player engagement goal.


Emotion and Memory

Memory and learning are closely associated, with learning often occurring as a result of effort over time, and a memory reflecting a mentally stored representation of a specific occurrence at a point in time.

Gamification has been shown to influence both working memory and episodic memory.

Episodic memories are often connected with strong associations with a certain time or location, the potential for establishing such memories through immersive games is significant. For instance, rewards have been studied as antecedents of episodic memory, with reward value and reward uncertainty proposed as factors in a reward signal.


The success of gamified systems depends on their ability to engage players by eliciting both positive and negative emotions.



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