Restarting the discussion around gamification

When the term gamification first came to be, it was advocating for a new, disruptive, way of doing things. With the promise of reproducing the appeal of games – their capability to be engaging, to convey feelings of autonomy and expertise, and their way of devising meaningful experiences – gamification soon reached heights never seen before in various fields, such as healthcare and education.

With time, it became an increasingly popular concept, perhaps overly so. Gamification became a buzzword and it faced oversimplifications and inadequate implementations, and subsequently criticism. Too often it was used as a magic word supposed to jazz up a product or a sales pitch. Opinions on Gamification started to change, as more and more infamy followed when allegations of simplistic, top-down, and exploitative practices emerged. Even though valuable research on gamification was to be found, the debate around gamification got stuck on damning accusations, criticism, and arguments over terms and ideas.

In the chapter Seven Points to reappropriate Gamification, Mattia Thibault and Juho Hamari address directly the confusion around the term and the frequent focus on poorly implemented and designed gamification. The chapter, therefore, aims to guide the conversation on the role and productivity of the concept of gamification in academia. Seven main points are articulated in the chapter, drawing a picture of the current conversation around gamification and making a case for where it should be heading. The authors go through the main issues and misconceptions related to gamification all the while presenting possible solutions to go past them. They insist on the importance of asking the right questions when researching gamification and call for a better understanding of the phenomenon and its various layers and nuances. In the article, Thibault and Hamari demonstrate thoroughly why the discussion around gamification should not focus on overly apocalyptic prophecies and pessimistic critiques, nor on over-positive and enthusiastic tones.

Simply siding solely on one side or the other has no place in gamification research, which must immerse itself on both the good and bad sides of gamification simultaneously and equally. Thibault and Hamari also remind us how it might take some time to strike the right balance in gamification research, especially given that the field is still in its early days, they remain optimistic. Rather than getting discouraged by the possible weaknesses of current research, one should be inspired by its potential and look at the promise of gamification as a method of understanding our current society and world.

Seven Points to Reappropriate Gamification

Mattia Thibault

Juho Hamari

Reference: Thibault M., Hamari J. (2021) Seven Points to Reappropriate Gamification. In: Spanellis A., Harviainen J.T. (eds) Transforming Society and Organizations through Gamification. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

See the paper for full details:




Games have always been everywhere. This is increasingly so because of the expanding pervasiveness of games in contemporary culture, shift to post-industrial era and the general awakening to the importance of human motivation, creativity and empowerment in the context of today’s human pursuits. This sudden but explosively expanding trend of gamification of our reality has suffered from growing pains, which has led to polarized, ideological and opportunistic discussions, narrative and debate about what gamification is, how it should be defined, how it should be applied (if at all), where it should be applied as well as about its overall ethical and societal premise and scope. In this chapter, we attempt to make sense of some of the prevailing foci of this discussion during the early growing pains of the development of gamification. We feel that this sense-making effort is crucial for a mature, constructive and healthy development of increasing pervasiveness of gamification, which commands an increasing meaning and importance in our daily lives. Therefore, in this chapter we wish to reclaim the discussion and help redirect it to its constructive rails and to save it from the dangers of Luddism toward ludism.


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