Introduction to Gamification




Education affects everyone. It’s how humans learn both explicit material (facts, dates, formulas, methods) and implicit material (critical thinking, attitudes, judgment). It is important, though, to resist conflating the ideas of learning and education, especially regarding gamification. Learning, or the process of experiences translating into long-term behavior, takes place as soon as life begins. Even conditions in the womb will affect behavior in the future. Education, however, is a more formal process of learning being passed down from one generation to the next and is the process we will be discussing here.

A student’s ability to be successful educationally largely depends on how that particular student retains the information he or she receives from an educator. In return, the student’s ability to retain information largely depends on the mode of learning that suits the individual.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is adding game-like mechanics to non-game experiences to encourage a specific behavior and motivate learners. This does not mean you are having your learners play games. What it does mean is you are taking motivational elements from games, such as badges or achievements, and incorporating them to encourage your learners to perform a specific behavior.

An example of this in a web-based training application would be awarding learners badges for completing sections of training, and posting their scores to a leaderboard. These actions encourage learners and keep them engaged.

A more “real life” example would be Boy Scout badges the scouts receive upon completion of a specific task. The game-like mechanic (the badge), encourages and rewards the scout to perform a specific behavior (say, the ability to tie a certain knot).


  Why Gamification?


  1. Better learning experience.

The learner can experience “fun” during the game and still learn if the level of engagement is high. A good gamification strategy with high levels of engagement will lead to an increase in recall and retention.

  1. Better learning environment.

Gamification in eLearning provides an effective, informal learning environment, and helps learners practice real-life situations and challenges in a safe environment. This leads to a more engaged learning experience that facilitates better knowledge retention.

  1. Instant feedback.

It provides instant feedback so that learners know what they know or what they should know. This too facilitates better learner engagement and thereby better recall and retention.

  1. Prompting behavioral change.

Points, badges, and leaderboards would surely make training awesome. However, gamification is about a lot more than just those surface level benefits. Gamification can drive strong behavioral change especially when combined with the scientific principles of repeated retrieval and spaced repetition.

  1. Can be applied for most learning needs.

Gamification can be used to fulfill most learning needs including induction and onboarding, product sales, customer support, soft skills, awareness creation, and compliance.

  1. Impact on bottom-line.

On account of all these aspects that touch and impact learners (better learning experience, higher recall and retention, catalyzing behavioral change, and so on), it can create a significant performance gain for the organization.

How to gamify?


Depending on how much game like features are required, one or more of the following can be done

  • Add points to tasks that need to be completed
  • Define badges/rewards to be given out after a criteria is met
  • Create a Leaderboard to show top performers
  • Define levels to repeat tasks or to perform harder tasks
  • Earning of badges can be tied to unlocking higher levels

Success factors

The mantra to succeed in using gamification in eLearning is to create a concept that:

  • Captures (and retains) learners’ attention
  • Challenges them
  • Engages and entertains them, and
  • Teaches them

How can gamification help?

Gamification can accentuate the user experience one has with instructor led courses by introducing a level of interactivity and practice. This reduces the burden on the instructor a little bit to keep the attendees motivated and involved. In instructor led courses, gamification can also be the appropriate transition from one module to another or from one instructor to the next.

In computer based courses, games provide the much needed interactivity between the participants and also the ‘instructor’. Here, the instructor need not be an actual person but game based logic that can help a participant when they do not understand something or need help.

Difference between games and gamification

The following table lists the differences between an actual game and gamification

Game Gamification
Games have defined rules & objectives May just be a collection of tasks with points or some form of reward
There is a possibility of losing Losing may or may not be possible because the point is to motivate people to take some action and do something.
Sometimes just playing the game is intrinsically rewarding Being intrinsically rewarding is optional.
Games are usually hard and expensive to build Gamification is usually easier and cheaper
Content is usually morphed to fit the story and scenes of the game Usually game like features are added without making too many changes to your content

Types of Players

Games in general have four types of players, based off different personality types:


  • Achievers – Need to be at the top
  • Explorers – Need to find something new
  • Socializers – Need to interact with others
  • Killers – Need to eliminate other characters

For education based games, only Achievers and Explorers are the primary types of players. To understand why, let’s think this through. First of all educational games have a purpose beyond entertainment. So let’s see how each of our player types measure up to this new purpose.


  • An Achiever will do whatever it takes to complete the course.
  • An Explorer will explore all that the game has to offer thereby covering the whole course.
  • The Socializer will work with all the other players of the game but may not complete the course.
  • The course will have nothing that will motivate the Killer to complete it. Achievers and Explorers are the only types of players valid for educational games

Player Lifecycle

In a social game, there is a defined player lifecycle.

  • Newbie – Players new to the game. They need some hand holding. Initial levels need to be easy and help players get familiar with the game.
  • Regular – After players get to know the game, it needs to become a habit for them. The next few levels need to provide satisfaction as per the player type.
  • Enthusiast – These players have pretty much mastered the game and need new twists and challenges to continue playing

In an educational game, the player lifecycle is a little different.

  • Newbie – Players new to the game. They need some hand holding. Initial levels need to be easy and help players get familiar with the game.
  • Regular – Here, regular players are those who are familiar with the game and are working to complete the course.


Educational Games Example

–  Sony Wonderbook

Sony has launched a new device called Wonderbook. It is a device that hooks up with their PS3. It is meant to create a virtual world allowing people to view and participate in the stories of the book instead of just reading it. This participation allows the outcome of the book to be different like a game. Most notably, Sony has partnered with JK Rowling to create a wonderbook for her Book of Spells.

–  World Peace Game

John Hunter has created a board game called World Peace Game to teach 4th graders about by being future leaders by simulating real world scenarios. Some of the documented results from the game are

  • Students solving global warming
  • One student pre-empted a globally catastrophic war by blocking supplies to the offending country
  • Students shared resources with countries in need to bring overall prosperity to all countries

Due to this, John Hunter has been recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 12 education activists to watch in 2012.

– Ananth Pai

Ananth Pai is a 3rd grade teacher. He has incorporated games to teach his students about reading and mathematics. The result is that within 4.5 months Mr. Pai’s class went from being a below average 3rd grade class to a mid-level 4th grade class.















































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