Gamification is the use of game design elements, such as design techniques, game thinking, and systems of mechanics, in non-game contexts to solve problems and engage users (Deterding et al. 2011). As a new paradigm intended to change human behavior by adding playfulness and fun to existing information systems (ISs), gamification has been increasingly adopted for influencing and motivating people to participate in education (Richter et al.
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2015), training (Burke 2014), marketing (Bunchball 2010), crowdsourcing (Dergousoff and Sakatachewan 2015), and health care (Vyas 2015; Kapp et al. 2013). Inspired by systems that have been gamified for commercial reasons, business organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of fun and playfulness in workplace activities to promote employee engagement (von Ahn and Dabbish 2008; Liu et al. 2013).
Currently, many business organizations add game-like dynamics into their enterprise IS (Herzig et al. 2012), wherein employees are rewarded when they reach a milestone, track their records, set goals, join challenges, compete with others, and identify self-progress (Whitson 2013). Within an enterprise gamified IS, employees receive points, upgrade their levels, and achieve badges or trophies according to their workrelated activities, such as knowledge sharing, idea competitions, and sales performances. In doing so, employees’ activities are quantified and visualized, for example, when they create new documents, respond to discussions, comment on any content, or vote for an idea. Leaderboards are used to facilitate competition among employees.
Despite great possible practical values, organizations often fail to sustain user engagement (Kapp et al. 2013). This is because the perceived beneficial effects of the game elements used can be short-lived (Kankanhalli et al. 2012). Researchers point out that when a gamified IS simply focuses on game mechanics, such as points, levels, badges (PLBs), and leaderboards, the perceived beneficial effects of the game elements to engage users may not last over time (Kankanhalli et al. 2012; Suh et al. 2015). In this sense, researchers claim that a gamified IS should not rely merely on reward-based game elements, but should, in addition, provide meaningful connections between game elements and users’ interests (Nicholson 2013). Here, the term, “”meaningful”” refers to the extent to which users’ game-like experience leads to their positive psychological states in which they feel they interact with a gamified IS in a meaningful way, which is referred as “”meaningful gamification”” (Nicholson 2015; Chen et al. 2015).
However, few studies to date have theoretically explained the factors that make gamification meaningful or have systematically examined how gamification ideas can generate practical values in the workplace. To address these gaps in understanding, this study aims to develop a theoretical framework that can explain employees’ work engagement within an enterprise gamified IS with the following key question: How do game design elements help to engage employees in work-related activities, such as training, knowledge sharing, idea competition, and sales performance?
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