What's the Point? A Review of Reward Systems Implemented in Gamification Interventions

Zakkoyya H. Lewis, Maria C. Swartz, Elizabeth J. Lyons

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Rewards are commonly used in interventions to change behavior, but they can inhibit development of intrinsic motivation, which is associated with long-term behavior maintenance. Gamification is a novel intervention strategy that may target intrinsic motivation through fun and enjoyment. Before the effects of gamified interventions on motivation can be determined, there must be an understanding of how gamified interventions operationalize rewards, such as point systems. The purpose of this review is to determine the prevalence of different reward types, specifically point systems, within gamified interventions. Electronic databases were searched for relevant articles. Data sources included Medline OVID, Medline PubMed, Web of Science, CINAHL, Cochrane Central, and PsycINFO. Out of the 21 articles retrieved, 18 studies described a reward system and were included in this review. Gamified interventions were designed to target a myriad of clinical outcomes across diverse populations. Rewards included points (n = 14), achievements/badges/medals (n = 7), tangible rewards (n = 7), currency (n = 4), other unspecified rewards (n = 3), likes (n = 2), animated feedback (n = 1), and kudos (n = 1). Rewards, and points in particular, appear to be a foundational component of gamified interventions. Despite their prevalence, authors seldom described the use of noncontingent rewards or how the rewards interacted with other game features. The reward systems relying on tangible rewards and currency may have been limited by inhibited intrinsic motivation. As gamification proliferates, future research should explicitly describe how rewards were operationalized in the intervention and evaluate the effects of gamified rewards on motivation across populations and research outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-99
Number of pages7
JournalGames for Health Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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