Why Bother with Games in Education?

Why Bother with Games in Education?


Research for Games in Education

Gamification/game-based learning and schools can be either complementary or, depending how it is done, make things worse. Using games in education, according to a paper published by two Columbia University educators, Joy Lee and Jessica Hammer.

The good news about gamification is…

Gamification in the classroom can be a particularly effective motivational tool for engagement. It can also be a enable teachers to closely guide and reward their students and bring the students into a truly immersive way to learn. Then there’s the fun and joy in a learning experience that result in a “blurring of boundaries” between the formal and informal learning that students will experience all their lives.

But the challenges are…

Gamification has two significant downsides: (1) it taxes the teacher’s ability to keep the learning experience organized; and (2) it sometimes teaches students that the process of learning should also include external rewards.  When play becomes mandatory, gamification could “create rule-based experiences that feel just like school” and take the joy and spontaneity and freedom out of the experience.

Not a universal cure in providing value to schools…

Lee and Hammer recognize that some gamification projects will be successful, and others will not. Gamification is just like anything else in curriculum design and execution: its projects have to be carefully designed and “address the real challenges of schools.”

That means gamification has to focus on where it can provide the best value, based on the best research and overcome the previously mentioned challenges. Likewise, the classroom gamification projects must include ways to assess whether they are working.

The bottom line…

Gamification is spreading in the real world and will continue to impact the classroom. Educators who want gamification to positively impact our kids need to make sure that gamification projects are based on the best educational research and are “theory driven” and complementary to curriculum goals. The exciting thing about gamification is its potential to tap into the energy of students and direct them toward a new and joyful experience of learning.

Image via Sean MacEntee


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  1. I’ve seen similar benefits and challenges in the corporate world with adult learners. Making sure the motivators are not all extrinsic is important, because the leanered behavior will disappear once the motivator is gone. We have the benefit of an analyis phase during which we can gain a greater understanding of the audience’s values and use that to frame intrinsic motivators. Perhaps in schools this could be done by polling students on their interests. Sometimes an intrinisic motivator is as simple as having fun or being validated in front of your peers, we all want to be popular right? We developed an infographic on Four Reasons Games Work that covers some of these same concepts. You can check it out here: http://sweetrush.com/what-we-do-for-you/games-simulations/

    John-Carlos Lozano

    Creative Director