Tool or Toy? Does it matter for productivity how you perceive the application?

Where game and utility merge, users’ view of a system affect their continued use

Most information technologies  we use today are multifaceted services catering for a range of needs: We often use the same platforms for both leisure and work or at least many services have both aspects. For example, Pokémon GO encourages useful physical exercise but at the same time it is a leisure activity of catching virtual creatures. CodeSpells is a programming solution that makes use of the metaphor of wizardry, quests and levels. On Facebook, we manage both our work and leisure social networks and in Twitch we stream our leisure gaming activity for money. Increasingly, we both enjoy and work at the same time. While these examples merge leisure and work; a whole range of use cases from pure work to pure leisure can exist.

One of the persistent questions in the information technology field has pervasively been ‘why do people continue to use different services’. Therefore, in this study, we were interested to investigate how this duality affects people’s use of and productivity on the services that split leisure and work. Yet, how exactly do people conceive of these gamified services? Due to the use of game design for non-game ends, gamified systems converge hedonic and utilitarian benefits. They inherently involve a duality that can appeal to users’ need of joy and usefulness. Therefore, in the line where game and utility merges, these services may be seen differently by different people. Some may conceive them purely as a game and some may only appreciate their utility. Moreover, these differing conceptions may affect user experience and continued use: On the one hand, people that view the system as a game may stop using it for lack of enjoyment; on the other hand, those that see the system as a tool may be distracted by its hedonic elements and hence prefer a leaner design. For these reasons, recognition of user’s conception – the implicit classification that people attribute to a system, according to how they view and use it – and its effects are important for system success in the long run.

Recognizing its importance, our research studied how user’s conception interacts with users’ perceived enjoyment, usefulness and ease of use on their effect on continued use, discontinued use and contribution intentions. We study these effects on a gamified traffic application, myDriveAssist. myDriveAssist is one of the earliest applications utilizing gamification in the context of traffic and implements badge and score mechanisms to provide enjoyment to their users. We employ survey data collected among the users of this application (N=562). The results show that the more fun-oriented users conceive the system to be, the more enjoyment affects their continued and discontinued use intentions, and the less ease of use affects their continued use intention. User’s conception of a gamified system proves to be an influential aspect of system use and should be considered particularly when designing gamification.

Is it a tool or a toy? How user conceptions of a system’s purpose affect their experience and use

Dicle Berfin Köse

Benedikt Morschheuser

Juho Hamari

Reference: Köse, D. B., B. Morschheuser and J. Hamari. (2019). “Is it a tool or a toy? How user’s conception of a system’s purpose affects their experience and use.” International Journal of Information Management, 49, 461–474.

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The boundary between hedonic and utilitarian information systems has become increasingly blurred during recent years due to the rise of developments such as gamification. Therefore, users may perceive the purpose of the same system differently, ranging from pure utility to pure play. However, in literature that addresses why people adopt and use information systems, the relationship between the users conception of the purpose of the system, and their experience and use of it has not yet been investigated. Therefore, in this study we investigate the interaction effects between users’ utility-fun conceptions of the system and the perceived enjoyment and usefulness from its use, on their post-adoption intentions (continued use, discontinued use, and contribution). We employ survey data collected among users (N = 562) of a gamified crowdsourcing application that represents a system affording both utility and leisure use potential. The results show that the more fun-oriented users conceive the system to be, the more enjoyment affects continued and discontinued use intentions, and the less ease of use affects the continued use intention. Therefore, users’ conceptions of the system prove to be an influential aspect of system use and should particularly be considered when designing modern multi-purposed systems such as gamified information systems.

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