Meaningful gamification for psychological empowerment: exploring user affective experience mirroring in a psychological self-help system

Manning Li, Patrick Y.K. Chau, Lin Ge

    Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: Inspired by the dynamic changes in our daily lives enabled via quantified-self technologies and the urgent need for more studies on the human-computer interaction design mechanisms adopted by these applications, this study explores the value of user affective experience mirroring and examines the empowerment effect of meaningful gamification in a psychological self-help system (PSS) that aids people in work stress relief. Design/methodology/approach: Based on an analysis of the existing systems and theories in relevant fields, we conducted mixed-method research, involving semi-structured interviews, experience sampling experiments and user bio data triangulations, to identify the benefits of user affective experience mirroring and examine the impact of visual impact metaphor–based (VIM) meaningful gamification on PSS users. Findings: For a gamified PSS, users generally perceive VIM as arousing more feelings of enjoyment, empathy, trust and usefulness, empowering them to gain more mastery and control over their emotional well-beings, especially with relieving their occupational stress and upbringing their level of perceived happiness. Overtime, VIM-based meaningful gamification further boosts such value of a PSS. Research limitations/implications: Weaving together meaningful gamification and psychological empowerment theories, the results emphasized that successful empowerment of user through gamification in PSSs relies heavily on whether a deeper and meaningful affective connection can be established with the users, in short, “meaningful gamification for psychological empowerment”. Such an understanding, as demonstrated in our research framework, also sheds light on the design theories for persuasive technology and human influence tactics during human computer interactions. Practical implications: The results of the study demonstrate to practitioners how to make the best use of gamification strategies to deeply relate to and resonate with users. Even without complicated game-play design, meaningful gamification mechanisms, such as VIM facilitate the empowerment of users while gaining their appreciation, establishing a deeper connection with them and eventually generating persuasive effects on intended future behavioural outcomes. Social implications: The effective management of work-related stress with handy tools such as a VIM-based PSS can be beneficial for many organizations and, to a large extent, the society. Originality/value: This study proposed and empirically demonstrated the empowerment effect of meaningful gamification for PSS users. In this cross-disciplinary study, theories from different research domains were synthesized to develop a more thorough and multi-faceted understanding of the optimal design strategies for emerging information systems like this VIM-based PSS.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)11-58
    Number of pages48
    JournalInternet Research
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2021


    • Bio data triangulation
    • Human-computer interactions
    • Meaningful gamification
    • Psychological self-help system
    • Visual impact metaphors

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Communication
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Economics and Econometrics


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