The definition of addiction in general has been given by many researchers along with the signs i.e., behavior changes that occur when a human being is subject to addiction. According to Pollak (1970), addiction is defined as a set of uncontrollable and impulsive behaviors driven by a desire to experience pleasure and euphoric sensations notwithstanding the risk of negative consequences. Medical professionals view addiction as a disease caused by biological or neurological predisposition (Peele, 1985).
According to Goodman (1990), there are two behavioral cues that characterize addiction; ‘powerlessness’ to control a behavior, and ‘unmanageability’ of a behavior resulting in continuation of it despite negative consequences. He also called addiction a ‘process’ that can produce both pleasure and a sense of ‘escape from internal discomfort’ from a behavior.
Later, many other researchers gave other definitions of addiction that nearly reflected the same behavioral cues as put forth by Goodman (1990). Sinnott-Armstrong & Pickard (2013) elaborated on ‘control’ and ‘harm’, where they further argued that addiction is a kind of ‘compulsion’ to a degree that the behavior becomes uncontrollable. Although addiction is also researched in the context of positive psychology, linking it to productive activities like running and meditation (Glasser, 1976), it is often perceived as undesirable and has a negative connotation, sometimes even used synonymously with substance addiction (Sinnott-Armstrong & Pickard, 2013).
In this research, however, where the word addiction is used in general, which includes any behavior that is incontrollable as discussed above; it is only used to show the addictive nature of gamification and is never used to relate it with substance addiction. In particular, this research explores smartphone addiction (SA) in the context of mobile application design. SA has similar diagnostic behavioral cues, though inclining more towards ‘control’ than ‘harm’ in the aforementioned context of addiction in general. Detailed explanation of SA is given under the next heading.
Smartphone Addiction (SA)
Compulsive use of smartphone is smartphone addiction. More precisely, SA is a condition that leads to unrestrained smartphone use despite negative consequences in personal and social life. Usage of smartphone for information seeking, entertainment seeking, and gaming has been associated with smartphone dependency (Bae, 2017). Situational factors such as special events, depressive mood, and alcohol use are said to cause excessive use of smartphone (James & Drennan, 2005; Park, 2005). The problems associated with SA are low self-control (Billieux et al., 2015), low self-esteem (Bianchi & Phillips 2005), skipping meals and cardiorespiratory problems due to sedentary lifestyle (Lepp et al., 2013), and can even cause fatal accidents if used when driving (Billieux et al., 2015) etc.
Links between overuse of smartphone and addiction have been proven by Montag et al., (2019), where it is also made clear that the problem lies within applications installed on smartphones than smartphones themselves which are rather used for more productive purposes. However, in light of taxonomy, the inclusion of the term ‘addiction’ is looked upon skeptically from the clinical perspective. It is argued that the wide use of the term ‘smartphone addiction’ is a priori and has not been clinically proven to have exact similar symptoms as in substance addiction. Panova & Carbonell (2018) argue that addiction is a serious health condition with severe physical and psychological health concerns, and so suggest that over-pathologizing excessive use of smartphone as addiction is an exaggeration. Therefore, they rather labelled the condition as ‘problematic use’ as it indeed comes with problems that must be addressed.
Lopez-Fernandez, Kuss, Griffiths & Billieux (2015) have suggested a more proper term with an acronym i.e., ‘Problematic Mobile Phone Use (PMPU)’ which has similar aforementioned definition of smartphone addiction. Moreover, Billieux, Maurage, Lopez-Fernandez, Kuss, & Griffiths (2015) have highlighted three pathways that lead to PMPU, one of which is ‘impulsive pathway’ that is addictive in nature. There may be less evidence in the literature for the identicalness of smartphone addiction and substance addiction, nevertheless, the term smartphone addiction is widely used to date in the literature and other terms such as problematic use or Problematic Mobile Phone Use (PMPU) are not widely accepted terms. Therefore, we have used the term smartphone addiction to describe the condition of impulsive, excessive use of smartphone.
The term « gamification » has sparked a lot of debate in the recent years in many different disciplines and industries. Gamification refers to the application of game aspects in non-gaming systems to increase user experience and engagement (Deterding et al., 2011) in a variety of areas, including finance, health, education, sustainability, business, software design etc. Researchers frequently use the terms gamification and serious games interchangeably (Wouters et al., 2013) as game features are incorporated in serious, productive activities, however, they differ as techniques.
Gamification has been discussed mostly with a positive voice in the literature supporting and appreciating the use of it. It has been used to increase interest levels in activities and even persuade for change in behavior (Llagostera, 2012; Negruşa, et al., 2015) and is largely acclaimed for these reasons. However, very recently, the dark sides of gamification have been discussed in academia (Nyström, 2021), technology (Silva, et al. 2020), workplace dynamics (Hammedi, et al., 2021) and health management (Yang & L, 2021). It has also been studied as a threat to disclosing personal information (Trang, & Weiger., 2021) and even as a mere marketing strategy (Widyani, 2021). It is even associated with addiction by Andrade et al. (2016) in the context of education, which is one of the most important mentions in this study. Therefore, dark sides of gamification are being explored extensively in all disciplines. In this research, we have explored addiction as a negative aspect of gamification when employed in mobile application design.
Gamification applied to HCI (Human Computer Interaction) has also been a focus of researchers. A non-gaming application is gamified when gamification is applied to its interaction design with the use of game elements to improve user engagement (Bitrián & Catalán, 2021). The most popular game elements used in mobile application design are points, badges, leaderboards, levels, likes, shares, and some hidden elements, such as being a member for a period of time, which lead to rewards (Harwood & Garry, T., 2015) that are used in gamification. Other game elements in mobile applications, according to Neyman (2017), are infinite scrolling and streaks. Neyman has also given examples of some gamified applications, such as LinkedIn that shows number of views on a user’s profile, MyFitnessPal that shows fitness goals as compared to past achievements, etc. More examples of game elements that are rarely mentioned in the literature are push notifications, feedback, and use of mascots and avatars.
Just as dark sides of gamification in general have been recently highlighted in the literature, gamified applications have also received some negative views recently. In fact, even the dark sides of gamification in User Experience have been discussed by Goethe (2020). However, research in dark sides of gamification in the context of mobile application design is in its nascent stages. We have tapped into this scarcely researched area and found out through our research if these game elements have the potential to contribute to SA. In-depth analysis of these game elements will be done later in the discussion of survey results to answer RQ2.
In this research, we have used game elements that have been discussed in the extant literature as shown in Table 1. The most commonly used elements have been identified from this list by conducting a mini survey to find out elements that are most familiar. These most familiar elements have later been used in the main survey of the study with easily relatable user situations concerning the elements to discover their addictive nature.
As search strategy to find out the game elements from the extant literature, we selected the most recent papers (2017 and later) as they include the mobile applications and game elements currently in use. Moreover, as indicated under delimitations of this research earlier, we have only used social, communication and e-commerce mobile applications. Therefore, the keywords were selected around these applications to find out relevant game elements. The keywords we used for the searches were Smartphone Addiction AND App design, gamification framework, game elements in snapchat OR TikTok OR Instagram, game elements AND user choice, gamification on social networking app, revolution in mobile instant messaging OR gamification in mobile instant messaging, gamification AND online shopping, gamification AND TikTok.
Although keywords used for literature search 1 were related to the three types of mobile applications selected for the study, results of the search also included studies with random game elements used in any context and/or any mobile application. The selection criteria were based on either studies that included game elements concerning these three types of applications or studies that discussed game elements in general, in which case selective elements were then extracted from the list of elements discussed in these papers that are used in these apps.
Self Determination Theory (SDT)
Deci & Ryan (2012) developed an empirically derived theory on human motivation after thirty years of experimenting and observation. The theory states two kinds of motivations that drive human action: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The basic human psychological needs were also outlined as competence, autonomy, and relatedness, which we will discuss briefly in the literature review in Section 4 & 5. They also included amotivation as a type of motivation where a human is not motivated at all to perform an activity, which is outside the scope of this research as gamification techniques are only designed to tap into intrinsic or extrinsic motivations.
When a human autonomously takes an action or involves in a behavior where the want comes from within, the motivation is said to be intrinsic.
According to SDT, a task is more likely to be intrinsically enjoyable or internalized if it meets three basic human psychological needs: competence i.e., the sense of having the skills needed to complete the task at hand, autonomy i.e., the sense of being in control of a situation, and relatedness i.e., the sense of being involved with others (Ryan et, al.,2000). Although mostly praised, IM does have a few negatives. Shin & Grant (2019) highlight low performance and lack of interest in other tasks if IM is high in one task as a dark side of IM. They also compared this state of immersion in one task with addictive technology such as video games. Another study by Chin-Sheng & Chiou (2007) of adolescent game addicts in Korea posits that it is in fact intrinsic motivation that causes game addiction and not its notorious counterpart, extrinsic motivation. However, there are merely a handful of studies that highlight the negative sides of intrinsic motivation.
Table of contents :
1.1 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.2 PURPOSE AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.3 SCOPE AND DELIMITATIONS
2 Theoretical Framework
2.2 SMARTPHONE ADDICTION (SA)
2.4 GAME ELEMENTS
2.5 SELF DETERMINATION THEORY (SDT)
2.5.1 Intrinsic Motivation
2.5.2 Extrinsic Motivation
2.6 FLOW THEORY
2.7 HEXAD FRAMEWORK AND FIVE-FACTOR MODEL
3 Methods and Implementation
3.1.1 Literature Review
3.2 DATA COLLECTION
3.3 DATA ANALYSIS
3.4 VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY
4.1 LITERATURE REVIEW
4.1.1 Search Strategy
4.1.2 Findings of the Literature Review
4.2.1 Target Group
4.2.2 Symptoms of Addiction
4.2.3 Role of motivation in addiction
4.2.4 Frequency of problematic smartphone use and smartphone addiction
4.2.5 Factors that cause or trigger smartphone addiction
4.2.6 Gamification and user engagement
4.3.1 Mini Survey
4.3.2 Main Survey
4.3.3 Key Findings of the Main Survey
4.4 KEY FINDINGS FOR RQ1
4.5 KEY FINDINGS FOR RQ2
5.1 SMARTPHONE ADDICTION – IS IT REALLY THAT BAD?
5.2 GAMIFICATION THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS OF ADDICTION
5.3 GAMIFICATION IS CERTAINLY NOT ALL DARK
5.4 WHAT WE MAKE OUT OF OUR RESULTS
6 Limitations of this Research
8 Directions for Future Research
10.1 APPENDIX A: SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEW QUESTIONNAIRE
10.2 APPENDIX B: SURVEYS