The term "gamefulness" is used often in business, healthcare, and government as the goal of gamification but do we really know what it means? In fact, many disciplines have been using the term "gamefulness" interchangeably with "gamification" and "game thinking". We get away with it because there is no precise or consistent definition of "gamefulness" in the game studies literature.
HCI researchers from the Games Institute, Lennart Nacke and Gustavo Tondello, published a paper with Richard N. Landers, Dennis L. Kappen, Andrew B. Collmus, and Elisa D. Mekler to address our need to more precisely describe what happens when someone interacts with a gameful system. The paper, entitled "Defining Gameful Experience as a Psychological State Caused by Gameplay: Replacing the Term ‘Gamefulness’ with Three Distinct Constructs," was recently published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies.
Not having a specific and theoretically grounded definition of "gamefulness" leads to many problems in the gamification process. What is the ultimate goal? What processes can and should be employed? In the paper, the researchers suggest replacing the term "gamefulness" with "gameful experience". According to Tondello, "having a precise definition of 'gameful experience' will allow us to develop a way of measuring it in the future. Then, we will be able to clearly tell if a system or intervention made to be gameful is fostering the desired user experience, which is something that we cannot reliably do yet".
Nacke, Tondello, and their colleagues draw from literature on HCI and psychology, as well as other related fields, to define "gameful experience" with three specific constructs. Then they outline the effects of those constructs in process models.
"Most critically, we argue that gameful experience is the core focal construct of this theory and define it as an interactive state occurring when a person perceives non-trivial achievable goals created externally, is motivated to pursue them under an arbitrary set of behavioral rules, and evaluates that motivation as voluntary" (Landers, Tondello, Kappen, Collmus, Mekler, & Nacke, 2018).
Click here to read the paper in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies
Landers, N. R., Tondello, G. F, Kappen, D. L., Collmus, A. B., Mekler, E. D., & Nacke, L. E. (2018). "Defining gameful experience as a psychological state caused by gameplay: Replacing the term 'gamefulness' with three distinct constructs". International Journal of Human-Computer Science. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2018.08.003