3 Common Misconception about Gamification

11 Apr, 2014



In this post we address 3 prevailing misconceptions about gamification.


Myth 1. Gamification is just about badges

Gamification is the concept of incorporating elements of game playing and game mechanics into other activities, such as learning, with the aim of increasing engagement and motivation for a particular task.

In November 2012, Gartner claimed that by 2014, 80% of current gamified applications would fail to meet business objectives due to poor design. The key here is poor design. When designed well, gamification can have a big impact on motivation. However, many companies have jumped on the ‘gamification bandwagon’, adding a few badges to existing processes or training programmes and calling them “gamified”. Just adding badges or a point scheme to an activity won’t necessarily increase engagement. Instead we need to think about what really motivates us in our learning and how to address this with gamification.

Gabe Zichermann believes that gamification increases learner motivation by allowing us to do and achieve things. The release of dopamine we experience when we achieve something and have that achievement recognised makes this a very effective tool in learning. Game mechanics address this by setting goals and recognising when those goals are achieved in a fun and engaging way.


Myth 2. You don’t learn anything from games

There is a common misconception that video games don’t teach anything, that they are “bad for you” and shouldn’t be incorporated into learning. A lot of research has actually shown the opposite to be true.

HopeLab conducted a study to determine how playing a game would impact on the health-related outcomes and behaviour of adolescent and young adult cancer patients. The study found that playing the game Re-Mission “significantly improved key behavioural and psychological factors associated with successful cancer treatment”.

Video games enable us to develop skills in problem solving and decision making and allow us to learn through trial and error. The immersive nature of video games increases players’ motivation and engagement. Replicating this level of immersion in learning is important, as it not only increases motivation to learn but also increases memory recall.

As Ian Livingstone points out, “human beings are playful by nature. We enter this world as babies, interacting with everything around us.” Using gaming elements in learning incorporates this kind of interactivity and sense of enjoyment and achievement into learning – which almost always translates into better results.

One of Immerse Learning’s avatars; an example of using 3D gaming graphics for learning


Myth 3. Gamification is just a fad

There is a view that gamification is just a gimmick and won’t be around for very long. However, elements of game playing have been used in learning for years, both with and without the help of technology. For language learning, for example, games are often used in the classroom to improve memory recall.

As gaming technology becomes even more integrated into everyday life, it only makes sense that it will continue to be used as a tool to engage and motivate people in other tasks, such as learning. When it comes to corporate training, many Generation Y employees expect technology to facilitate their work and learning. According to a Training Industry article, “Being exposed to the most advanced technology and being not only aware of but very dependent on those technologies has caused workers of Gen Y to require advanced technologies in the workplace and in their training.” Gamification, particularly when it incorporates advanced technology, catches and maintains the (notoriously short) attention span of Generation Y and makes learning more engaging for them. Given that Generation Y employees are the future of the workforce it seems unlikely that gamification will die out any time soon.