Purpose: Although the concept of transformative gamification is mentioned in previous research, no research has provided a theoretically based explanation of how gamification can lead to transformative change. This paper aims to provide the explanation for the first time by combining storytelling elements with cognitive behavioural therapy logic and incorporating these into a framework to show the process of transformative behaviour change through gamification. The proposed framework not only furthers the theoretical understanding of transformative gamification services but also provides practical insight into design and implication of such services.
Design/methodology/approach: This paper is based on critical analysis and synthesis of literature from different fields of research such as transformative service research (TSR), gamification, game studies, social marketing, storytelling and journalism. Ergo, several propositions based on the extensive literature review are proposed and aggregated in a conceptual framework.
Findings: This paper argues that apart from game mechanics that are often considered as an inseparable aspect of gamification services, immersive storytelling and a mechanism to encourage reflection are the pivotal components of transformative gamification services. In addition, this paper suggests that although reflection and immersive storytelling are often considered as opposite sides of the spectrum, they can have a synergistic effect once they work in tandem in gamification services.
Originality/value: This paper proposes a novel framework and an operational definition for transformative gamification services. It contributes to TSR, gamification and health promotion research through differentiating this concept from similar concepts, such as mHealth, propelling gamification to a more meaningful and user-centric version and providing service researchers with a practical guide to make use of gamification as a tool to serve TSR.