Gamification’s Dark Side Horizon
by Matthias Heinz
Surprisingly, game elements most associated with negative effects in education are also the ones that are used the most: Leaderboards, Badges and Points. Game elements which are intended to motivate
Using game elements can be associated with a variety of risks and side effects, e.g. manipulation, demotivation, encouragement to show behaviour only when rewarded, replacement of intrinsic motivation by striving for extrinsic rewards, game optimization instead of concentration on the task and increased disclosure of information. Awareness of possible negative effects of gamification is important in several ways in the context of teaching and learning. Teachers who use game mechanics to make their scenarios motivational must know that positive aspects are not guaranteed and can turn into the opposite, e.g. a gamified teaching scenario can lead to learners being overwhelmed or distracted if the game and learning context are not sufficiently aligned. Learners must be made aware of negative consequences of gamification in order to prevent them from getting into a flow that distracts them from the actual learning goal or even causes effects (e.g. envy, fear) that hinder the learning process.
Studies on gamification mostly refer to the evaluation of single projects and their positive results without critically examining possible risks and side effects [16, 17]. Answering the question of what risks and side effects can be associated with the use
of gamification is crucial to the decision whether and how gamification is used. Thus, the study follows the research desideratum that potential negative, adverse or non-preferred effects of gamification should be explored . To this end, it is imperative
to look at the so-called Dark Side of Gamification (DSoG) by questioning what risks
and side effects are mentioned in this context and what alternative terms exist. The DSoG is made accessible via a literature review with the aim of identifying the horizon of possible risks and side effects of gamification. Another question aims to identify necessary keywords on the research gap for further analysis. 17 relevant publications were identified in three steps, which deal with the term DSoG. These were published in the years 2015 to 2020. Within these publications many risks and side effects are declared, which could be caused by gamification. In a group discussion among employees with expertise in the field of Game Based Learning, those were assigned to the jointly formed categories behaviour, motivation, intention, performance, data and emotion. An overview sensitizes teachers to possible risks and side effects so that they are considered before gamifying. To answer the second question, the alternative terms were clustered. These range from negative effects, consequences, outcomes and impacts to implications and issues as well as other DSoG alternative terms that cannot be further clustered. These potential keywords will be used in a future comprehensive search for risks and side effects outside the DSoG.
change things in a good and bad way, which can be intended or unintended, e.g. support and manipulate, motivate and demotivate.
generally be declared positive, as there is a bright, grey and dark side of gamification.