I feel that gamification could help kids to get engaged with their courses. There is probably lots of ways to make school enjoyable and it's even more obvious when you look at stackexchange platforms.

But since gamification introduce rewards it also add some forms of competition between the kids. Even without score board they'll be able to compare their performance and maybe some will be pushed to lie.

So I'm wondering if it would be risky to "gamify" school (for kids between 6-14 years old) ? And if not, how to do it without taking any risks ? What to avoid and what to consider.

  • 8
    Isn't school already gamified with grades, sports, social standing, etc...? Jan 31, 2014 at 19:57
  • There is probably some things that could be considered like gamification but it's not done that way or at least it could be far more gamified. I know I didn't feel like I was playing a game when going to school at 6-14 years.
    – Gabin
    Feb 1, 2014 at 6:08
  • 1
    it is gamified, the trouble is that it isn't perceived as cool to win !
    – Toni Leigh
    Feb 1, 2014 at 16:54
  • Yes. I would gamify learning because [it has already been done] (intellimedia.ncsu.edu) and done well. That's not the same as gamifying school but school is much more than learning the subjects being taught. Feb 3, 2014 at 17:25

4 Answers 4


I wouldn't add gamification to education. School is not just a place where you learn math and physics, it is a place where you get to learn how to function within a society. It prepares you for your professional future.

No job offers gamification to its employees. And I doubt that senior management would embrace it even if somebody told them they should (which I am not even sure would be a good thing). In a job setting, an employee has to find her own motivation. She also has to find out how to filter out her tasks of what the boss tells her. To break them down into subtasks, to find a way to complete the tasks. To think outside of the box, to come up with new ideas for things which could be done. And all this without getting instant gratification in the form of some virtual currency, without somebody making "quests" for her for which she can gather more points if only she goes through the motions.

The school system as it is is already not so good at this. When they are graded for parroting a lesson somebody has pre-chewed for them, all they can at the end is memorize texts. When they are graded for answering multiple-choice, all they learn is how to spot the traps a teacher inserts into multiple-choice. If you also add gamification, they will learn to work for the gamification. They will even build an expectation that the world has to offer them the guidance and gratification which comes with gamification.

Personally, I had lots of trouble when I started my Ph.D. Even during my graduate time as a M.Sc. student, I had only had to learn what others had compiled for me. Doing research on my own was something I was completely unprepared for, and I wasted years running in circles until I got the correct mindset for doing it.

If the system had also gamification added on top of that, pupils may come out remembering a bit more math, but they will be woefully unprepared to function in a non-gamified life.

  • 1
    I don't agree with "No job offers gamification to its employees". Pretty much every job employs gamification, even if they don't know it. Whether that be with dollar incentive (bonuses) or competitions between stores in a retail environment. In a way, capitalism is nothing more than the gamification of society.
    – Brendon
    Feb 4, 2014 at 13:53
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    "No job offers gamification to its employees" - except sales, which is pretty much entirely gamification. Or many corporate careers which are pretty much games from the grad entry point: work your way up through the ranks by working hard, maximising billable hours etc. Feb 5, 2014 at 0:28
  • The distinguishing part of gamification is not competition. Competition has been part of life before there were games (and before there were humans). Gamification is more about creating an environment of controlled success, where the person who controls the environment defines what success is, then prepares clues in the environment where the gamer can find the path to the success, and rewarding him for finding it. Monetary or career advancement rewards for success in the job are a very weak form of this, with more chaos than control in the environment by the rewarding person. To (continued)
    – Rumi P.
    Feb 5, 2014 at 11:22
  • (continued) the extent to which we consider this to already represent gamification, I would argue that school with its strict assignments and grading system is already much stronger gamified than later jobs are, and indeed, I haven't seen recent graduates to have trouble with these parts of their jobs you are giving here as examples for gamification, they struggle more when they should do something which doesn't fit into these predefined frameworks and needs own initiative and a broad understanding of the situation rather than following a prepared path.
    – Rumi P.
    Feb 5, 2014 at 11:26

It is.

School is an auto gamification pointing system (no badges) so it will be stressful by adding rewards (or not giving to low scores -> double disappointment)

  • Levels to pass, exams = level bosses, final exam = end game boss. Auto save points, too: fail an exam and you don't have to restart from the first level.
    – MSalters
    Jan 31, 2014 at 15:06
  • But let's imagine we give badges to the ones that try to get better ? If we find some mechanics to motivate them, could it work ?
    – Gabin
    Feb 1, 2014 at 6:10

There already exists gamification in some schools. When I was introduced in Computer Science, we simply started with programming a game. Almost every student was totally into this course, additional excercises to get more "out of the game" pushed our motivation even harder. The best result was presented every week in front of the class and this pushed as even more to be the best group in the following week.

I think this all depends on "how far" you get into gamification. A scoreboard like you mentioned could also demotivate not so good students. Even showing the best students on the scoreboard could make some troubles - depending of what kind of school you are talking from. Students in age 12-16 would probably start to call good people show-offs and so they might be excluded from others.

From my experience: Especially in "practical" courses it's quite easy to give students extra motivation by gamification. Otherwise I don't know if gamification would fulfill courses like philosophy or math.

  • Thank you for this interesting experience. Just as you I think it's a powerful tool to get people motivated but actually I'm talking about kids (I edited my question to make it clearer). The fact they are not mature could make it risky.
    – Gabin
    Jan 31, 2014 at 6:35
  • Each volume of 'Capital' you read you get a sticker which you can put in the 'Canonical Socio-Econo-Philosophy Texts Sticker Album`
    – jsj
    Jan 31, 2014 at 6:39
  • at least the part in the middle would fit into your question ;) especially for people between 12-14 it can be kinda dangerous to have scoreboards or other elements like this. But well, gamification isn't about scoreboards/ranking though... so I'm interested to see other answers ;)
    – Frame91
    Jan 31, 2014 at 9:09
  • Instead of a Scoreboard, how about an experience point system and leveling? Each question a teacher asks has an XP amount for answering correctly, harder questions will give more XP. Rewards for leveling up would be a homework pass, extra credit, etc. There's an excellent video about this by Extra Credits.
    – Slurpee
    Jan 31, 2014 at 21:56
  • It would be powerful but what about the shyest ? The ones that never answer ? Even if there are no shy kids, it'll probably have a gap between them (some with a better score). How would they react ?
    – Gabin
    Feb 1, 2014 at 6:14

Gamification is a layer you add on top of an activity/subject to make learners have more interest on the subject. This means that this is only relevant for tasks that provide low intrinsic motivation. Let me expand on this.

Tasks with high intrinsic motivation

These are tasks you are willing to do, or even pay to do them. Driving a car is such an activity: most people take pleasure from driving, even though the main goal of driving is transporting you front point A to point B.

Tasks with low intrinsic motivation

These are tasks that you have to do, but you are not motivate to do so. Image doing the laundry: you hate to, but you must do it. The same applies to learning maths, physics. If the materials are exposed in a dull way, and you don't see how you can use them, or why they are interesting by themselves, then studying these materials is a task without intrinsic motivation.


Context is everything. What some people find motivating, other might not. Also, the context is also relevant:

  • If you are required to learn tangents, cosines and all that trigonometry, learning those subjects will have low intrinsic motivation, but
  • If you have to learn trig in order to implement a game and make your character turn, then you'll be motivated to learn it.

Benefits of gamification

With this, you can see that gamification will make tasks that are usually dull become interesting, not because of the task itself, but because of an additional motivation layer you have developed. This can be interesting for educational content for example between the ages of 6-14. Since most of the kids are not interested in learning maths and physics, you can try to add a layer of interest and hope that when that have learned enough, they can start appreciating the subject even when you remove the gamification layer.

Drawbacks of gamification

I can think of a few problems with this:

  • Your students might enjoy the gamification system so much that they'll cheat to get more points, badges, ... This defeats the purpose of learning for mastering a subject.
  • If you can't show that studying maths and physics is rewarding by itself, students will continue despising the task, which was not what you intend.
  • If there is a great gap between high-performant and low-performant students, the latter might stop trying at all.
  • -1. Unnecessary jab at those applying gamification. It's an entirely reasonable point of view to consider physics and math boring in the absence of real-world uses, and gamification proves that there really are real-world benefits. Just claiming that math will be useful is more hope than pedagogy.
    – MSalters
    Jan 31, 2014 at 15:03
  • I'm just saying that you don't need points and badgets to make maths, physics or computer science interesting. If you present the topics in an engaging way and with the right exercises, people will get motivated. Look at @Frame91 example.
    – jff
    Jan 31, 2014 at 15:31
  • I'll agree that points and badges aren't needed. But as Frame91 states, his example is another case of gamification. Should that therefore be seen as a personal defeat, as per your summary?
    – MSalters
    Jan 31, 2014 at 15:34
  • I think I'm not making myself clear, sorry for that. I think that Frame91 example is not gamification. The instructor of the course decided to make them implement a game (interesting software challenge), instead of presenting a dull exercise to the class. When I talk about "gamification", I'm talking about adding a scoring system, badgets or other incentives that don't have real world value, in order to make people compete/strive for those rewards.
    – jff
    Jan 31, 2014 at 15:47
  • Oh, I can totally see how such simple rewards are not going to help. But think about it: there are millions of games, literally, and most of them have points or badges. Yet some are fun and others not, and some of the games without points are still fun. Clearly, points are at best supplemental. Efficient gamification applies the fun part of games, and again points are at best supplemental. No wonder: school exams already have points. Adding more of the same doesn't help.
    – MSalters
    Jan 31, 2014 at 15:54

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