Now I know the title to this is kind of obvious. Wait - you don't think it's obvious?
It's obviously obvious - motivation is the state of (mental) arousal as a result of some percieved future pleasure - it's closely linked with the emotional processes of the brain.
Sure - you can force yourself to work on something, or study, but if you can convince yourself that you really want the results, you'll likely perform far better.
That's why things like enjoyment, love and hate can really motivate people, because the greatest influence on a human being is their emotional state. Heck, you can avoid jail time after shooting children if your emotional state is abnormal enough (although you'll still be sectioned).
Those suffering with depression, experience strong fatigue and anhedonia (not enjoying things that previously excited), which is why they are accused of wallowing or being self-pitying, yet surely everyone has had an experience where they are just completely unmotivated to do something? It can be critically important, or the most minor thing imaginable, but if it should have been done and you didn't, because you didn't "feel" like it, then you are what my primary focus has been about.
Why am I writing all of this? Simple - Gamification is an attempt to identify "winning values", and then find a way to instil interest and good performance in the audience/consumer base involved. Sales teams making scoreboards based on performance, athletes trying to beat one anothers scores, competition can be a strong source of motivation for many. Some, however, do not thrive under such pressures, floundering and eventually failing to achieve at their best.
Kohn argues that Competitiveness is a critical part of "American" culture (which I would replace with "Western", as often the use of American is unnecesarily singular) . He continues to outline his research into academic performance by young learners - to summarise (and save you reading the article): he finds that Competition is unhealthy.
He goes so far as to state that the term "Healthy competition" is a contradiction, and that competition is to self esteem what sugar is to teeth, a constant erosion.
Now, some of you likely enjoy competition, but consider that "in a competitive culture, a child is told that it isn't enough to be good -- he must triumph over others. Success comes to be defined as victory, even though these are really two very different things."
This boils down to the idea that success, and competitiveness, is boiled down into victory over others. Concerning, given the Occupy campaigns around the world.
What does this mean? Is Gamification simply another way to encourage people to beat eachother and prove superiority?
Luckily, competitiveness is rarely a trait employed by gamification coders to encourage their participants. After all, the majority of people in a competition lose, and gamification is (unlike most aspects of our lives) about encouraging every single participant to improve.
Increased self-esteem creates increased performance and motivation, which can further increase self-esteem. When someone's work is a source of pride, and they enjoy their job, they (in my humble, young and unexperienced opinion) have succeeded.
If you try and fill the void that results from not achieving such success with competitiveness and that brief moment of exultation as you outperform your lessers, flaunting your skill and superiority, then you are merely dependent on failure. You actively require failures to validate yourself.
Is success personal, or is it comparative? Is motivation personal, or is it comparative?
What someone might percieve as very driven and dedicated, might be "just going through the motions" for the other (their true motivation being something truly worthy of admiration).
What motivates you? Have you ever been so driven to do something that your success felt almost natural, rather than a conflict within a predefined structure or system?
That is what gamification is about. Not simply making horrid tasks enjoyable and competitive, it's about emotions.
It's about unlocking those positive feelings towards yourself and your skills, and attempting to further them. You no longer compete against others, but try and build on your own achievements.
Mikhail Baryshnikov, renowned dancer and choreographer, once said: "I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself."
So, you heard the man, get dancing.
(And, I apologise in advance for that cliched extension of his literal quote to serve my ends, I'll try and better my writing in the future [and gain more confidence in my performance as a result].)
Finally, here's an example of memetic success: