by Carlos Guevara

This buzzword appeared in 2004, but became popular in 2010 especially due to the proliferation of online games and virtual worlds.  Most of the discussion about gamification centers the business industry and very little attention has been paid to the education field.

So, what is Gamification?

“Gamification is the infusion of game mechanics, game design techniques,
and/or game style in any activity or application to make it more attractive and fun.”

Adapted from:

In a nutshell, gamification is the use of the same game mechanics applied in games to engage gamers to, in the case of businesses, persuade customers to buy a product, use a website, or promote a brand.  In the case of education, these game strategies can be used to increase class participation, academic performance, and to motivate students to be active participants in their own learning.  Ultimately, gamification helps to build a more engaging and fun learning experience.

How does it work?

The goal of gamification is to identify activities that need improvement, and apply game tactics to make it more stimulating to achieve greater results. There are three components in gamification that are important to understand in order to take full advantage of all its benefits:

  • Player journal:  A player’s experience and progression in the game (levels of difficulty), well-defined mechanics (rules, how it works), dynamics (motivation, discovery, surprise, competitiveness, etc.), and aesthetics (pride, surprise, curiosity, envy, trust, fun, etc.) at every level of the game.
  • Game flow: The design  of a gamified activity with skills and challenge levels in mind.  Find a balance between these two factors.
  • Engagement loops: A visible progress/reward, a motivating emotion, social engagement, and re-engagement incentives.

Keep these components in mind as you start brainstorming your gamifying class activities.

What are the benefits of using gamification in an educational context?

It increases:

  • Self-motivation
  • Participation (being part of the learning process)
  • Engagement (wanting to learn)
  • Desire to learn
  • Self-confidence

It also:

  • Empowers students to take ownership of their own learning
  • Makes learning a fun activity

Some examples from the business industry are companies that are using gamification concepts to attract their customers; for instance, Foursquare, Scvngr, Samsumg, Salesforce, Google, Badgeville, WightWatchers, Facebook, Twitter to name a few.


The education industry has yet to catch up with the other industries, especially when trends are predicting a higher usage of gamification techniques.  Gartner for example predicts that by 2015, more than 50 % of the companies will use gamification in their processes.  Some good examples in the education field are Scratch and Kodu (programming languages to create games), Badges for Lifelong Learning Initiative (a framework to build a community of practice and recognize the effort for learning), Quest to Learn (a school that uses game-like learning as a way to empower and engage students. URL:

What do we have in the classroom today? And how can we gamify it?

These are a few examples of what type of games can be used to transform class activities and make them more fun:

Short: jeopardy, monopoly, board games (chess, bingo), sports games, role-play, etc.

Long: transforming classroom activities to generate rewards/points/passes, convert the grading system as a leaderboard, use the CMS to create a scavenger hunt game.

When thinking about using any game to connect it to your class activities it is very important that you solve real problems, take advantage of the social nature of games, and generate surprise, adventure and create an epic experience.






Useful Resources to learn more about gamification:


  • Amy Jo Kim, Gamification Workshop Presentation, retrieved August 1, 2012, from
  • Csíkszentmihályi M., Nakamura J., The Concept of Flow, Handbook of Positive Psychology, 2002, page 89.
  • Gartner Gamification Report, retrieved August 1, 2012, from
  • Zichermann G., Cunningham C., Gamification by Design, 2011, page 68.

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