Gamification in the Workplace: GAMeeP Project

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Author:  Jordi Moretón Galí >> @jordimgali

Spanish version / Versión en castellano: Descarga

In 2015 we started the project GAMeeP for which we have been contracted by Compartia to support in tasks related to gamification in the workplace design, player profiling & dynamic Gamification engines design and development and finally for the experimental design and analysis of the pilot (you can register to be the first in getting the results).

GAMeeP: Gamified Platform for employee motivation and engagement is a project to develop a prototype of job processes gamification, co-workers relations and incentives to improve the quality of working life and whose final goal is to increase general productivity of teams and organizations and simplify the management of human resources while increasing the sense of well-being and employee engagement.

For tasks related to workplace motivation and the experimental design, Self-Determination Theory (SDT) was proposed as the model for the study. SDT (Deci & Ryan, 1985) is a macro-theory that analyzes the degree in which human behavior is volitional or self-determined, i.e., the degree in which people acts at a high level of reflection and commit with their own actions with a sense of choice. Nowadays the SDT consists of 6 mini-theories that explain the inner working of different facets of motivation or personality (Deci & Ryan, 1985, 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2000):

Self Determination mini theories for gamification in the workplace

Given GAMeeP promotes a distributed task management system where users a) have freedom of choice and less supervision, b) get results feedback and self-evaluation indicators and c) have the possibility of working alone or in groups, we focused on the Basic Psychological Needs Theory – BPNT. This theory develops the concept of evolutive psychological needs and their relation with psychological health and wellbeing, and defines that wellbeing and the optimal functioning are based on the well-known needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness:

  • The need for autonomy represents the inherent desire to feel volitive and experience a sense of choice and psychological freedom to carry out tasks. It allows to feel that behavior emanate from personal values, objectives, needs and interests and not from external regulators to which one can’t relate.
  • The need for competence is defined as the inherent desire to feel connected with the environment. It’s important in the proneness to explore and manipulate the environment and participate in new difficult tasks to assess and improve skills. It allows individuals to adapt to complex and changing environments.
  • The need for relatedness is defined as the proneness to feel connected to other individuals, i.e., to be a member of a group, to take care of it and to feel cared by it.

SDT in the Workplace

One of the advantage of the Self-Determination Theory is the extensive empirical evidence that supports it as a useful model in general and, specifically, in the job context. Broeck et al. (2010) revise and summarize the highlights of these evidences. Fundamentally they explain a positive relationship between satisfaction of basic needs (autonomy, competence and relatedness) and:

  1. Job satisfaction.
  2. Involvement/Engagement.
  3. A lesser degree of burnout.
  4. Favorable attitudes (lower staff turnover and lesser resistance to change).
  5. A higher performance.
  6. Increased well-being and less discomfort.

The authors also explain that studies that have examined the three needs separately –autonomy, competence and relatedness– show that each one of them is positively correlated with the optimal functioning of the employee.

This theory also alerts about adverse effects. Gagné y Deci (2005) explain that the use of extrinsic rewards to motivate job behaviors can decrease intrinsic motivation (and thus even in the performance of interesting or important tasks for the employee). However the authors also explain that the research also show ways in which tangible rewards can be used without decreasing intrinsic motivation.

Self Determination motivation continuum for gamification in the workplace
The motivation continuum according to the Self-Determination Theory. Source: Deci and Ryan, 1985

Precisely the Self-Determination Theory details the process by means of which extrinsic motivation can become autonomous and intrinsic motivation (based on interest) and autonomous extrinsic motivation (based on importance) can improve performance, satisfaction, confidence and wellbeing in the workplace.

SDT and Gamification

The use of SDT in game context is noteworthy. In gaming context, an study by Ryan, Rigby and Przybylski (2006) concludes that individuals are attracted to videogames in part because they experience autonomy, competence and relatedness while playing. In this scenario, the authors refer to autonomy to the freedom of choosing an activity over another as well as the way to carry it out; competence as the ability of effectively carry out these activities; relatedness as the connection between players. Their study states that these 3 theoretical needs can predict, independently, the level of enjoyment and the intention of playing again in the future. Also, intuitive controlling systems (usability and ergonomics) were shown to be facilitators of the sense of competence and autonomy.

A recent paper by Schlagenhaufer y Amberg (2014) reviews Gamification studies and note that SDT is the most recurrently cited motivation theory. However other factors have to be taken into account, like the fact that the Gamification field of study is very young (even the word doesn’t get attention until 2010) and the number of articles reviewed was initially 78 which decreased to only 9 when criteria was applied (among others, the citation of motivation theories). So, in this sense, SDT is relevant to the study of motivation in the field of Gamification, the most integral and with more empirical support, but further development of the field of study is still necessary for such support to be more meaningful.

Given the growing interest in organization research based on the SDT, several assessment tools like surveys have been developed. A relevant survey tool for the project is the Basic Needs Satisfaction at Work by the authors of the SDT:

This brief survey is answered with a Likert scale of 7 points in which 1 = “Not true at all“, 4 = “Somewhat true” and 7 = “Very true“. Starting with the seed statement “When I am at work” the survey asks 21 questions related to the satisfaction of autonomy, competence and relatedness needs. The following are three examples of its questions:

  • I feel like I can make a lot of inputs to deciding how my job gets done.
  • People at work tell me I am good at what I do.
  • I get along with people at work.

With the resulting answers we can obtain scores for each need. The fundamental idea of the experimental design of the pilot is to be able to compare scores before using the GAMeeP prototype and after using it, and analyze whether there are statistically significant differences that allow us to assess the effectiveness of a distributed, autonomous and gamified work model as GAMeeP.

On the other hand, the survey includes not only the satisfaction questions but also asks for demographics and emotions, and the results will be the basis for machine learning algorithms that will allow us to build and train a small demonstrator of player classifier and a dynamic gamification system that will react to the type of player and his activity. But we will see these in other posts :-)


Broeck, A., Vansteenkiste, M., Witte, H., Soenens, B., & Lens, W. (2010). Capturing autonomy, competence, and relatedness at work: Construction and initial validation of the Work-related Basic Need Satisfaction scale. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83(4), 981–1002.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior. Boston, MA: Springer US.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “What” and “Why” of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of Behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227–268.

Gagné, M., & Deci, E. L. (2005). Self-determination theory and work motivation. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26(4), 331–362.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. The American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78. Retrieved from

Ryan, R. M., Rigby, C. S., & Przybylski, A. (2006). The Motivational Pull of Video Games: A Self-Determination Theory Approach. Motivation and Emotion, 30(4), 344–360.

Schlagenhaufer, C., & Amberg, M. (2014). Psychology Theories in Gamification: A Review of Information Systems Literature. In P. N. M. Hindi, D. A. Ghoneim, D. M. Themistocleous, & D. G. Viscusi (Eds.), European, Mediterranean & Middle Eastern Conference on Information Systems 2014 (EMCIS). Doha, Qatar: Qatar University. Retrieved from 2014 Proceedings/emcis2014_submission_15.pdf

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