Assessment of physiological outcomes of gamification in a cultural tourism guide on smartphones

At a Glance

  • Location: Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Date: 10.05.2016
  • Institution: University of Lausanne
    Institute of Geography and Sustainability
  • Web Page:


  • Context: Doctoral Research Study
  • Number of participants:
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Since more than 10 years, the Institute of geography and sustainability from the University of Lausanne works on geoheritage assessment, protection and promotion. An assessment method for geosites has been developed that is used by several other universities in the world (Reynard, Coratza, and Regolini-Bissig 2009). Recently, the research focus has shifted towards scientific mediation and tourism promotion of geoheritage, widely for nature tourism. We developed a smartphone-based interactive guide for didactic itineraries covering several environmental topics and we have conducted user tests comparing different versions of the app (Reynard, Kaiser, et al. 2015). Currently, research is done to develop methods that can improve user experience, knowledge acquisition and create a fun learning and knowledge exploration environment. Methods and concepts of gamification – the use of game elements in a serious context – are studied in this context. Insights from gamification for education and for business can apply in the case of the GeoGuide application where the product is free and users have to be motivated to learn scientific facts on a voluntary basis outside of a scholar environment. Generally, studies on gamification for education is based on classroom experiments with students and teachers (C. Cheong, F. Cheong, and Filippou 2013; Denny 2013; Sousa Borges et al. 2014; Dicheva et al. 2015). While these studies certainly apply to our case, the additional dimension of motivation and voluntary knowledge acquisition needs to be taken care of.

Geoguide Lausanne V.1:

For the 10th anniversary of the Faculty of Geosciences and Environment of the University of Lausanne we developed a free smartphone application available for iOS, Android and a desktop version ( 1). GeoGuide offers an itinerary of 30 stops through the city of Lausanne to the campus of the University. The aim of the application is to present to the public the different research works of the faculty related to the field. The user gets to know the city from the perspective of hydrology, geology, geomorphology, urban planning, archaeology and history. Every stop shows one topic with texts, pictures, and movies.

Geoguide V.2 – Gamified:

In order to improve the interest of the app and the user experience and in order to understand what is the best way to communicate about science, we are working on a new gamified version of GeoGuide. This second version is not the GeoGuide v.1 with an add-on of some gamification tricks. In the gamified version of GeoGuide you go in a treasure hunt in the city. On the map, the user can only see the itinerary but he has to find the stops. While walking, if the user is near to a stop, he receives a notification on his smartphone that describes the exact position of the point of interest. From that, the user can launch other actions related to the stop. After the presentation there is always a multiple-choice quiz or something to do – like puzzle – in order to anchor the new knowledge.

Assessment of Physiological Outcomes:

We aim to understand what are the benefits of gamification in geotourism promotion. It’s now established that gamification can increase the motivation and the involvement of a product (Hamari, Koivisto, and Sarsa 2014). But as far as we know, these results are based on qualitative studies and physiological answer of gamification was never assessed. Our aim is to bring the gamification study to a new level in order to measure effective motivation through physiological outcomes. A study on “emotional response to map design aesthetics” (Fabrikant et al. 2012) gives us the idea to adapt SCR or EDA to our field.

Study design:

In order to evaluate the effect of gamification on user emotions and learning capacities, we will develop 3 version of the geoguide:
- Without gamified
 - With low gamification level
 - With high gamification level

For the study, the app will have 8 stops on different subjects distributed in the city centre of Lausanne (Switzerland). The participants will be a panel of 30 males2 between 15 and 60 years old. One of the 3 versions of the GeoGuide will be attributed randomly to each participant. They will be able to use freely the application for 1 hour. In order to measure the stress level we will monitor the heart rate and the skin conductance during the experiment. We will also measure the cortisol production in saliva before, during and after the experiment with SARSTEDT salivette &reg. Finally, we will evaluate a Task Load Index with questionnaires.
After crossing all the results of the different methods, we think that we will be able to evaluate the effects of gamification on the motivation.


We hope that you share our interest in the field of gamification and that you will help us on our research with the loan of Movisens edaMove sensors. We hope that the data collected with your product, combined with other methods will help us to have a better understanding of the effects of gamification.

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