Gamification: the origin of the user’s motivation

Gamification: the origin of the user’s motivation

Several authors agreed to define gamification as the usage of game mechanics and principles in non-game applications like business, energy, and politics. The objective is to incentivize the user to participate in the process and catch their interest to continue interacting with the product/service/platform. Gamification is mainly backed by psychological methods rather than graphical design methods.

User’s motivation

Several authors indicate that it is necessary to understand how human motivation works to comprehend the principles in which gamification is supported (Hutter et al. 2011 and Wijnhoven et al. 2015). 

Entering into the human motivation topic, authors like Miller (1988) examined human motivation in a physiological study, determining that the user motivation can be divided into exclusive categories; intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

We have found interesting documents from Zicherman and Cunningham (2011), which examined what activities generated intrinsic motivation by different trials. The results indicated that the intrinsic motivation is enlarged by including activities and tasks that generate personal challenges, so it may be personalized tasks and also is found enjoyable by the user, so it may require some feedback into the application where the user can vote if he enjoyed the completion of a specific task.

On the other side, by giving some reward, material, or virtual to the different users, the authors determined that the extrinsic motivation was increased by having the object, the reward. Some experts in gamification decided to conduct an analysis of which elements perform better to the intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. Also, they created a sequence and methodology that enables other experts to implement gamification from scratch.

Gamification Models - Frameworks

One of the experts that decided to publish his methodology to implement gamification elements from scratch is Hunicke, who created the most widely known framework, the Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics (MDA), presented in the following figure.
The first part, or game mechanics, includes the basic actions that players can take in a game, responses, algorithms, stored data, etc. Game dynamics are the run-time behavior of the previously defined mechanics in response to the player input and the interaction among other mechanics types. Lastly, game aesthetics are the emotional responses produced in the player.

Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics (MDA) framework elements
Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics (MDA) framework elements

Six Steps for applying gamification is another framework that is widely known. The Six D’s is a framework created by Kevin Werbach in 2012, and it is composed of six steps:

  1. define the objectives that you want to achieve
  2. delineate the target behaviors that you expect from the users
  3. describe your player’s profile (interest, what drives them)
  4. devise activity loops (the process that the users have to follow)
  5. don’t forget the fun (think what make your users return) and
  6. deploy the appropriate tools (how the interaction will be measured, score systems, badge assignations, etc.)

If you want to get more details about those steps, you can check the website “For the Win” with details about the book that describes the framework in detail.

The Six D’s (6D) framework
The Six D’s (6D) framework

Marczewski proposed another framework in 2013 with the first name GAME with just four simpler components:

  1. gather what information will be collected
  2. design the best solution for your goals and the experience of your users based on the information that you have
  3. monitor the user activity and goals, iterate improvements and
  4. Enrich your solution over time to match the changes in society.

Improving his work, Andrzej evolved this methodology to the current RAMPS motivation model incorporating an additional model, the User Types Hexad Scale, which is used to identify users’ types, as displayed in the next image.

User Types Hexad Scale. The outer hexagon, in green, reflects the type ofuser. The inner hexagon, in red, displays the motivation per each type of user.
User Types Hexad Scale. The outer hexagon, in green, reflects the type ofuser. The inner hexagon, in red, displays the motivation per each type of user.

Chou (2015) proposed the Octalysis framework, which focuses on human design rather than functional design. This framework is depicted in an octagon shape determined by the core drivers, as seen in the next figure. According to the author, the octagon’s right side reflects intrinsic motivation factors, and the left side, the extrinsic motivation.

Octalysis Core drivers
Octalysis Core drivers

Business Model Canvas, as seen in Figure 5, is another important, flexible, and agile tool that enables representing in a single page all the necessary elements, tasks, and expected results of the gamified environment.

Gamification Model Canvas, with a display based on the Business ModelCanvas.
Gamification Model Canvas, with a display based on the Business Model Canvas.


  1. Hutter, K., Füller, J. and Koch, G. (2011). Why Citizens Engage in Open Government
  2. Wijnhoven, F., Ehrenhard, M. and Kuhn, J. (2015). Open government objectives and
    participation motivations, Government Information Quarterly 32(1): 30–42.
  3. Miller, K. A., Deci, E. L. and Ryan, R. M. (1988). Intrinsic Motivation and Self Determination in Human Behavior, Contemporary Sociology 17(2): 253.
  4. Zichermann, G. and Cunningham, C. (2011). Gamification by Design: {ProQuest} Tech
  5. Hunicke, R., Leblanc, M. and Zubek, R. (2004). Mda: A formal approach to game
    design and game research, In Proceedings of the Challenges in Games AI Workshop,
    Nineteenth National Conference of Artificial Intelligence, Press, pp. 1–5.
  6. Werbach, K. and Hunter, D. (2012). For the win: How game thinking can revolutionize
    your business, Wharton Digital Press.
  7. Marczewski, A. (2013). Gamification: a simple introduction, Andrzej Marczewski
  8. Chou, Y.-k. (2015). Actionable gamification, Beyond points, badges, and leaderboards
  9. Jiménez, S. (2013). Gamification Model Canvas. Accessed on 2019-06-26

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