Mandatory Fun: Consent, Gamification and the Impact of Games at Work
Ethan R. Mollick
University of Pennsylvania - Wharton School
University of Pennsylvania - Management Department
August 13, 2014
The Wharton School Research Paper Series
In an effort to create a positive experience at work, managers have deployed a wide range of initiatives and practices designed to improve the affective experience for workers. One such practice is gamification, introducing elements from games into the work environment with the purpose of improving employees’ affective experiences. Games have long been played at work, but they have emerged spontaneously from the employees themselves. Here, we examine whether managerially-imposed games provide the desired benefits for affect and performance predicted by prior studies on games at work or whether they are a form of “mandatory fun.” We highlight the role of consent (Burawoy, 1979) as a psychological response to mandatory fun, which moderates these relationships and, in a field experiment, find that games, when consented to, increase positive affect at work, but, when consent is lacking, decrease positive affect. In a follow up laboratory experiment, we also find that legitimation and a sense of individual agency are important sources of consent.
Keywords: games, gamification, affect, performance, workworking papers series
Date posted: June 10, 2013 ; Last revised: August 20, 2014
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