Mandatory Fun: Gamification and the Impact of Games at Work
Ethan R. Mollick
University of Pennsylvania - Wharton School
University of Pennsylvania - Management Department
June 5, 2013
The Wharton School Research Paper Series
Scholars have long noted that people often create and play games at work in order to make their experience more positive. As games have become more ubiquitous, managers have developed their own games for employees with the purpose of improving employees’ affective experiences and motivating them to work harder, a phenomenon known as gamification. Unlike the employee-generated spontaneous game play studied in the past, gamification is well-intentioned, but managerially-imposed, ‘fun.' Through a field experiment at a fast growing technology company, we examine whether managerially-imposed games provide the desired benefits for affect and performance predicted by prior studies on games at work, and we highlight and re-examine the role of consent in games (Burawoy, 1979). In our study, salespeople were assigned to one of three experimental conditions, the game condition and two control conditions. In the game condition, we also measured employees’ level of consent to the game. We find that games, when consented to, increase positive affect at work, but, when consent is lacking, decrease positive affect and to some extent performance. These findings highlight the important role that consent plays in how managerially-imposed games at work change the experience of work for employees.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 51
Keywords: games, gamification, affect, performance, workworking papers series
Date posted: June 10, 2013
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