Digital games and beyond: What happens when players compete?

De Liu, Xun Li, Radhika Santhanam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

211 Scopus citations


Because digital games are fun, engaging, and popular, organizations are attempting to integrate them within organizational activities as serious components, with the anticipation that they can improve employees' motivation and performance. But in order to do so and to obtain the intended outcomes, it is necessary to first obtain an understanding of how different digital game designs impact players' behaviors and emotional responses. Hence, in this study, we address one key element of popular game designs: competition. Using extant research on tournaments and intrinsic motivation, we model competitive games as a skill-based tournament and conduct an experimental study to understand player behaviors and emotional responses under different competition conditions. When players compete with players of similar skill levels, they apply more effort as indicated by more games played and longer duration of play. But when players compete with players of lower skill levels, they report higher levels of enjoyment and lower levels of arousal after game-playing. We discuss the implications for organizations seeking to introduce games premised on competition and provide a framework to guide information system researchers to embark on a study of games.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-124
Number of pages14
JournalMIS Quarterly: Management Information Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Digital games
  • Experimental study
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Tournament theory


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