Abstract: It is heavily debated within the gamification community whether specific game elements may actually undermine users’ intrinsic motivation. This online experiment examined the effects of three commonly employed game design elements — points, leaderboard, levels — on users’ performance, intrinsic motivation, perceived autonomy and competence in an image annotation task. Implementation of these game elements significantly increased performance, but did not affect perceived autonomy, competence or intrinsic motivation. Our findings suggest that points, levels and leaderboards by themselves neither make nor break users’ intrinsic motivation in non-game contexts. Instead, it is assumed that they act as progress indicators, guiding and enhancing user performance. While more research on the contextual factors that may potentially mediate the effects of game elements on intrinsic motivation is required, it seems that the implementation of points, levels, and leaderboards is a viable means to promote specific user behavior in non-game contexts.
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