Systems based on user experience methodologies must consider the following factors: technological requirements; cognitive psychology in order to understand the user’s learning process of our design; and the design itself, which allows us to develop projects according to the necessary processes [1
] because they are planned according to the motivators and needs of the potential users to whom they are directed [2
]. The gamification of any content, system or environment requires prior studies to understand the technology and technique of the use of devices, sensors, systems or methods [3
]. This overall statement is important because, depending on the dynamics to be gamified, the context or device to be used and finally the user’s profile, it is necessary to consider various variables that can influence the success or failure of a gamified proposal [4
]. Starting from these premises, players and users become protagonists of the development process, promoting the creation of more effective systems from the beginning [6
]. The research presented here is based on the study of the system’s future users. Therefore, in this case, the users become the gamification experts.
To analyze and establish the process, an iterative design system is used, which allows continuous and improved redesign from the previous design phase [7
]. Therefore, we start by considering the discipline of user because the user’s experience will define the applicable methodology and technique; the expert thereby serves as the basis for the analysis to understand the mental model each expert adopts from the point of view of their work [8
For the development of our objectives, we opted for a qualitative approach because we are initiating an exploratory process with the participation of sector consultants. This approach will be the most successful because it will allow us not only to identify and weigh data but also to explain their origins in depth [9
The study is derived from an investigation of a methodology called I’M IN [12
]. The methodology aims to indicate the process of designing a workshop session with users, incorporates the user experience as a behavioral evaluation, and includes the application of gamification as a method of improvement/enhancement of the motivations arising during the work session. The test that emerges raises the need to work with expert professionals in the sector when analyzing the necessary requirements, thereby generating data focused on the people who should be using them.
In parallel, the main conclusions of the project are implemented in the development of the Game4City 3.0 project. This project addresses gamified and interactive strategies for viewing urban environments in 3D at the educational and social levels [13
]. The ability to create interactive and immersive virtual architectural models encourages a creative approach to architecture and fosters the acquisition of the skills needed to reproduce and understand the space [14
]. Initially, some expert users in gamification who are related to the Game4City 3.0 project participated in our study as a first step towards understanding all motivational issues to leverage during the different phases of the project, which is designed to facilitate the participation of nonspecialized users and students in the visualization, understanding and reinterpretation of urban models and spaces, the promotion of user-centered design, and participation in design initiatives [15
]. The main results and phases of the project have been widely published [16
], which validated the motivational and user profile approach used. Adopting those previous results to the present work was justified because it was necessary to adapt the gamification as a function of the user and their needs [21
According to Ryan, Rigby and Przybylski’s theory of self-determination in video games [22
], gamification is used as part of the motivational design that can influence the behavior of the players based on the stimuli they receive; therefore, having useful information regarding motivators (which may include those of future users) can yield a very effective design proposal [23
]. Innate psychological needs such as competence, autonomy and relationships, if satisfied, cause an improvement in self-motivation and mental health; conversely, when they are frustrated, they can produce a reduction in the motivation and well-being of a person [24
]. Taking this parameter into account can provide added value for projects targeted for gamification. The term “degamification” was introduced by Margaret Robertson [25
] who stated that in a gamified system, the commitment of the player to the game must be monitored. If the player is initially frustrated, they may stop participating in the challenge. Therefore, when the fictional elements of the games disappear, the game itself disappears as well. The decision in regard to choosing the mechanics, dynamics and game elements [26
] is essential so that the player does not lose engagement [27
] and stays immersed from the beginning to the end of the process. The various game elements can serve different motivational mechanisms, so several elements can be combined with these mechanisms [28
]. For example, most games have a shelf life of 12 to 18 months, so in order to generate long-term commitment to a game, the key element of motivation is required.
On the same path and according to Mollick et al. [29
], gamification separates the work that a person does from the work that they perceive themselves to be doing; thus, to understand gamification, it is necessary to understand the motivation for it. For this, the motive can be treated as a reward structure, and it can therefore define the behavior that the designer wants to encourage. It can help to train the person as a player—that is, to train the person to participate in the investment environment—and can help the player focus on tasks that are interesting to him.
The same concept is reaffirmed by Savignac [30
], who indicated that gamification can improve the quality of life because it is a motivational tool and is therefore applicable to work environments.
This described link between gamification and motivation serves as a key feature in understanding the objective of the project (gamification key-points) that is to be proposed and the player profile for which it is designed because it reflects an emotional factor that drives a user to carry out an action.
Emotional behavior is based on the emotions that users experience while participating in the use of systems or projects, and these emotions are part of the human character. Using the definition of emotional behavior offered by Don Norman [31
], three key factors of the users can be taken into account: the emotions evoked by the product during the interaction, the user’s mood and the user’s feelings associated with the product prior to the interaction.
In this sense, the user experiences various emotions during their interaction. The individual’s state of mind or humor can condition the emotions elicited by the product [32
]. Taking into account the idea that user emotions can change over the course of their product interactions and be detected by a system, sensor, or device, our study is relevant because it provides gamification experts tools and allows their future improvement through the prism of knowledge surrounding the motivators related to user experience in gamified approaches. In this way, the article proposes new tools for experts by which to define the mechanics related to a gamified environment depending on the sensor or sensors used: fixed, mobile, multiuser environment, etc.
There are several studies that highlight the need to personalize gamified systems. Hexad, for example, is a system that allows a 24-question survey to define user preferences and that concludes in one of the following: philanthropist, socializer, disruptor, free spirit, completer or player [33
According to Brave et al. [34
], emotions are transmitted towards the use of the product during their interaction. Feelings are states not of the person but of the association that a person has with the product as a result of previous experiences with the same or similar products. Emotions affect attention and memorization capacity, user performance, and assessment. Therefore, the emotional aspects of the user influence the interactive use of the products from a hedonic perspective, as well as the cognitive processes [35
]. The user experience as a methodology can be applied in several ways, and a clear example would be the evolution of virtual reality. The evaluation of the experience is carried out with various instruments: the Simulator Sickness Questionnaire (SSQ), the Fast Motion Sickness Score (FMS), the User Experience Questionnaire (UEQ-S) and the Virtual Reality Neuroscience Questionnaire (VRNQ) [36
To address this problem, motivators are used as a conceptual framework. As presented in a previous study, the design of strategies based on motivators with a clear goal orientation results in an approach that encourages participation and the design of strategies [37
]. From the approach of the design of strategies based on motivation, studies have focused on gamification wherein the main objective is based on enhancing motivation in the participation of users—this time, in learning environments [38
]. The design of the technique is based on the link connecting gamification with motivation and commitment, and the results offer evidence on the effect of gamification on the motivation and commitment of students in three university courses [39
When talking about the user’s previously associated feelings, one works from the point of view of intrinsic factors or motivational factors, that is, those feelings that are part of the individual, such as achievement, responsibility or recognition. These aspects can be conditioned by extrinsic factors, such as social and cultural elements, the product itself and the context of use. Therefore, the experiences that an individual has previously felt or lived can condition the feelings attributed to the product [40
The link between user and player experience provides specific assessment tools in specific gaming environments, and there are several techniques that are recommended, particularly for games [41
Therefore, gamification is linked to the will that drives effort with the interest in or purpose of achieving certain challenges. Because our behaviors are spurred mainly by motivations that give us the impetus to do something, deciding on the right game mechanics becomes a key element. A game must be voluntary, and motivation helps. As shown in Figure 1
, as stated in engagement loops [42
], when we work on motivation, action and feedback, feedback allows us to push back the motivation defined initially. According to the overlapping value structures, they determine that the type of player motivators must be known [43
]; in this way, we avoid gamification remaining only on the surface.
The research starts from two initial premises: in light of the fact that there are several definitions of game mechanics and several gamification frameworks, can there be a consensus on game mechanics? In addition, game mechanics are directly related to provoking the motivations of the players. Can the most appropriate motivation be defined for each of the mechanics? The result of the study aims to establish a single criterion that allows applicability to various types of system [43
In this section, the results obtained from the study are analyzed, focusing both on the evolution of the selection of game mechanics and the study of the link with the most related motives.
The selection of game mechanics is based on a study carried out previously using the card sorting technique. This study is based on an aggregation of three of the most commonly used mechanisms in gamification projects: Octalysis de Yu-Kai Chou, Gamification Model Canvas by Sergio Jiménez and Gamification Inspiration Cards by Andrej Marczewiski. The results identified a total of 58 items considered to be game mechanics according to the experts; these serve as the starting point for the analysis presented. Working with experts in the project allows us to focus the results on an objective they might find useful and necessary for their new projects in the gamification sector.
As reflected in previous studies, gamification can be a key element to motivate or involve people to achieve the challenges that are proposed to them, for example, in software development organizations. It has a direct impact on productivity and the quality of production. The entire contribution of the person is based on intrinsic motivation [68
The study starts from a review of the previous selection wherein experts are asked to evaluate the proposed items according to whether they consider them to be game mechanics. The result shows a great dispersion of opinions, so with a consensus of a minimum of 50% of the professionals, a total of 15 mechanics have been obtained, requiring a total of 43 proposed items from the previous test to be thrown out, out of which 17 items have a percentage of coincident selection of 14% or less.
From the selected mechanics, links with the proposed motives are indicated. The most selected motive, with a 55% link, is that of Achievement. According to the definition of gamification and the main objectives, this makes sense because a clear motivation is to overcome challenges and achieve success or excellence. Consequently, many designs are precisely based on this type of objective, and for this, different game elements are applied. The next most linked motives, at 28%, are Autonomy and Hedonism. On the one hand, Autonomy is based on an approach motive, and there is a certain preference for being independent and making decisions autonomously. In the case of Hedonism, which is based on the avoidance motive, the achievement of challenges is pursued, but with some ease, saved effort and reduced tension. In both cases, the personal valuation of the players is appreciated, and in a certain way, these two are also linked to the motive for overcoming challenges through making decisions. With lower percentages of selection are Affiliation, Power and Contribution; these are motivators whose focus lies in the preference to be with others and form a group, with the desire to lead others to win and succeed and with the desire to help and contribute. In this case, as in the case of Achievement, these are concepts closely linked to the objectives of why projects are gamified. The list continues with the values of Cooperation, Exploration and Conservation; in these cases, the motivations are focused on maintaining a type of relationship with others in an egalitarian way, with an interest in variety, innovation and learning and with the value of conserving one’s own property. The motive least linked to mechanics is Certainty; maintaining security and avoiding uncertainty is not a parameter very closely related to gamification, but even so, at 10%, it appears to be important for at least some mechanics.
Taking into account the qualitative evaluation—which captures the point of view behind the choice and offers definitions of the game mechanics—allows us to understand their indicated relations with the motivators. Therefore, our approach allows us to understand not only the result but also the motive for the result.
From these results, the percentages of motives selected according to the game mechanics are indicated. The significant value of this type of information is based on the fact that the selection of an appropriate element for a gamified design is decided based on the motives personalized according to the players’ profiles. Therefore, it is key information to be effective in the initial phase of a proposal.
The mechanism with the greatest consensus in the selection of the motive is that of Group quests, with a 100% percentage link to Cooperation; knowledge of this motive can add value in how to include this parameter. This motive is centered on the desire of users to maintain a type of egalitarian relationship, thereby avoiding power and rivalry.
The mechanics with the highest consensus are those of Exploration, Competition and Challenges. In the case of Exploration, the linkage is 75% with Exploration. Although this is a high percentage, not linking it with the eponymous motive would be striking. By definition, Exploration describes a user who likes to explore, learn and discover. However, for this mechanic, some of the consultant’s highlight autonomy when making decisions and the achievement or objective in achieving challenges. Competition is mostly linked to the desire to help others and contribute to society; therefore, experts appreciate competition in the field of gamification outside of power and achievement. In the case of Challenges, a concept focused on Achievement is appreciated.
The game mechanics with less consensus among experts is that of Build from scratch because it is divided among five different motives: Autonomy, Achievement, Certainty, Exploration and Contribution. All of these motives are based on the preference to be independent, to achieve challenges to achieve excellence, to achieve security with an interest in learning and the desire to help others.
As a result of the study, a classification of the mechanics is obtained with the priority motive. From these data, experts can choose the appropriate mechanics for their potential players and can, in this way, ensure more effective gamification.
Carrying out the study using the evaluations of gamification experts allows us to obtain subjective results through quantitative data and related qualitative data. Developing a study leveraging an iterative design and the participation of experts is key to adding value to this type of proposal and, therefore, was a decision needing to be made in the design phase.
The realization of the study of motivators using a questionnaire administered in the market of potential players allows us to achieve rigor in the results obtained and very valuable information when making decisions. When decisions are made with game mechanics, potential players have the necessary association to understand the profile.
It would be very beneficial to obtain a certain consensus in the materials that can be used at the design level of a gamified product to select the most used game mechanics. The research has made it possible to understand the need for a study that would allow the extraction of the items, but even so, a second study has again seen differing opinions among the experts.
The motivators should not be interpreted as enhancing elements alone; they can also be elements to mitigate. If the stimuli of the player profiles are known, the experts, depending on the objectives of the project, can decide what they are interested in using.
Engagement is essential when considering this type of system, so understanding the stimulus and real emotions of the players allows the creation of a more effective system. In the case of the application of the results in our current Game4City 3.0 project, we have taken into account the need to adapt the interaction of the gamified system as a function of the user to maximize the engagement. Additionally, we have identified how different types of profiles use a gamified environment and interact in significantly different ways, illuminating the need to personalize this interaction. Students perceive the use of new representative systems to have great exploitative potential for their architectural projects and have high motivation to continue their training in these methods and systems. However, once specific training has been implemented, such as that proposed in the subject, there is still a certain resistance to its widespread use, even when accompanied by high levels of satisfaction and aid in the spatial understanding of the project.
By analyzing engagement with teachers and professionals, it can be perceived that part of the problem lies in the lack of training of professors in these systems. Typical professors who use CAD and photographic composition systems do not have the necessary training in new technologies that allow their use to be transversally promoted within their subjects. Due to this lack of use, students do not perceive the usefulness of advanced tools within their training and sense them as complex training. The present study could help define a gamified system adapted to the motives of the students and thus propose a more effective type of education focused on their needs. On the other hand, the individuals who have played with the Game4City 3.0 proposals describe a high level of engagement, autonomy, exploration and valuable contribution to the space design, identifying different aspects that were not contemplated in the initial architectural and urban projects. These positive results can be related to the previous experience realized by the game designers who participated in the current experience, who have identified some motivators to empower in the design and implementation of the architectural project.
As a next step and as part of the iterative design process, the results obtained should be analyzed in the application of a project design to understand their effectiveness in decision making, with regard to the interpretation and training of experts before the evaluation of the results of the motivation questionnaires, and for the degree of effectiveness of the gamified design.