Gamified Challenges in Online Weight-Loss Communities
54 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2018 Last revised: 28 Aug 2020
Date Written: April 5, 2018
Gamified challenges, one of the most popular features of online weight-loss communities, enable users to set weight-loss goals and compete with other challenge participants via leaderboards. In this paper, using the data from a leading online weight-loss community, we study the effect of gamified challenges on weight-loss outcome. We employ a dynamic model, using a system generalized method of moments estimator combined with an inverse probability weighting approach, to address endogeneity issues. Our findings indicate that participation in gamified challenges has a positive and significant effect on weight loss. We found that, on average, the participants achieved a weight loss of 0.945 kg by participating in at least one challenge a month. We demonstrate that not all gamified challenges are equally effective; effective challenges do not include a numeric weight-loss target, focus on exercise-only instructions, and have a large active group size. The results also show interaction effects between challenge goal characteristics and challenge size. We discuss the potential underlying mechanisms, using goal-setting theory and the prior findings on competition dynamics. Our findings have implications for designing gamified challenges in the online weight-loss communities and can serve as a guide for designing gamified information systems in goal-setting environments.
Keywords: Online weight-loss community, Weight-loss challenge, Goal setting, Gamification, System generalized method of moments (GMM; Blundell-Bond), Inverse probability weighting (IPW)
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