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From the same journal

Collecting Pokémon or receiving rewards? How people functionalise badges in gamified online learning environments in the wild

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Publication details

JournalInternational Journal of Human-Computer Studies
DateAccepted/In press - 3 Sep 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 6 Sep 2018
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jul 2019
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)62-80
Early online date6/09/18
Original languageEnglish


Do game design elements like badges have one, fixed motivational effect or can they have several different? Self-Determination Theory suggests that people situationally appraise the functional significance or psychological meaning of a given stimulus, which can result in different motivational states, but there is little empirical work observing actual functionalisations of game design elements. We therefore conducted a qualitative in-the-wild diary and interview study with 81 university students who reported on their experiences with badges on two popular gamified online learning platforms, Khan Academy and Codecademy. Participants functionalised badges in nine distinct ways that only partially align with prior theory. Functionalisations shaped experience and motivation and prompted function-aligned behaviour. Badge design details fostered but did not determine different functionalisations, while no user or context characteristics were identified that reliably linked to particular functionalisations. We conclude that future research may need to conceptualise game design elements in a more differentiated way to capture what aspects support different motivational functions.

Bibliographical note

© 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

    Research areas

  • Badges, Functional significance, Functionalisation, Gamification, Motivation, Self-determination theory


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