Meaningful Play in Gamification
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Gamification has been criticized by game scholars for its lack of meaningful engagement and data extraction techniques. Game scholars argue that commercial organizations tend to use game-inspired elements to merely drive user engagement and extract user data – calling this technique a form of exploitation by organizations. This form of gamification is referred to as gamification 1.0. This form of gamification mostly uses gameful elements, or a software’s formal structure, to deterministically influence users’ behavior. Commercial organizations tend to use the gamification 1.0 approach to their marketing goals. A more meaningful approach, called gamification 2.0, argues for the inclusion of more free-form of interaction (playful elements) within rigid structures (gameful elements) which is supported by a motivational experience. This research aimed to answer the research question of how organizations can create a meaningful experience within gamification software where they can also meet their organizational goals. By using Nike’s gamified app called Nike Run Club, it is analyzed that the goals of engagement and data extraction limits can limit some elements of play; however, at the same time, the app shows some promising opportunities for meaningful play. Thus, by using the Nike Run Club as an example, it is argued that organizations should depart from using brand engagement as an end goal for gamification and instead use a sustainable model called the circles of sustainability. The circle of sustainability is a model which regards societal wellbeing and within this model, organizations need to ask questions within an economic, political, ecological, and cultural domain. By placing organizational goals with gamification within this model, it can assist in creating a more meaningful experience for end-users. Being that gamification software is also a part of cultural production and the form of doing marketing is changing to a human-centered approach, it is more important than ever for organizations to produce less exploitative and more meaningful versions of gamification software.