Recently, a number of research studies have been investigating how to personalize gameful applications to each different user. One of these studies was presented at CHI 2016 and investigated how different people respond to various gamification approaches in health-related habit tracking applications.
The researchers asked 248 participants to rate how helpful and enjoyable different game design elements seemed to be. Additionally, they seek to understand if there was any relation between the participants’ preferences and their personality traits, measured by the Big-5 inventory. The study investigated 10 of the game design elements most commonly used in commercial gameful applications: points, levels, feedback, clear goals, leaderboards, challenges, badges, progress, rewards, and avatars.
Preferred Game Design Elements
Results showed that, overall, levels and avatars were the two lowest-rated design elements. Additionally, they showed that participants who preferred points often also preferred levels, badges, and leaderboards. This means that these game design elements might be used together for better results. However, participants also expressed concern with a perceived lack of value for these design elements, that is, they could be disconnected from the application’s main purpose. Therefore, the researchers suggest that when incorporating these elements into gamified self-tracking apps, they should be connected in some way to the main purpose of the application. For example, a level up could unlock advanced tracking features.
In contrast, clear goal was the best-rated design element. Participants who preferred to have clear goals also often enjoyed challenges. However, some respondents expressed concerns regarding these two elements due to the pressure of avoiding failing. Therefore, the researchers suggest that goals should be customizable and the system should help users set up sub-goals so that all goals may be difficult but attainable.
Employing Game Design Elements for Specific Personality Traits
Results showed that people who are more extraverted are more likely to prefer points, levels, and leaderboards. Therefore, these game design elements might be used for an app that should specifically appeal to users who are more extraverted. Furthermore, the researchers suggest using a leaderboard for a more sustained engagement because it allows users to engage with a dynamic social group.
People with high emotional stability (i.e., low neuroticism) rated all design elements lower, and particularly points, badges, progress, and rewards. Some of these participants rated the application as “just a toy” or “silly”. Hence, the researchers suggest that there might be a limit to what gamification can accomplish and it might not be an effective approach for those people with high emotional stability.
Finally, people with a high level of imagination and openness to experiences were less likely to be motivated by avatars. The avatar used in the study was too simple and made these participants feel bored. Therefore, the researchers suggest avoiding using avatars in conventional ways to appeal to users with high level of imagination.
These results add up to the growing body of research showing that personalized gamification approaches have a greater potential than one-size-fits-all approaches. Several other studies have been presented or are yet scheduled to be presented this year regarding the personalization of gameful applications. Follow us to receive more news about this topic in the future!
Original publication: Yuan Jia, Bin Xu, Yamini Karanam, and Stephen Voida. Personality-targeted Gamification: A Survey Study on Personality Traits and Motivational Affordances. ACM CHI 2016.