Gamification of Education

What is the “Gamification of Education
The Psychological and Educational Benefits of “Gamification”

What is the “Gamification of Education”?

“Gamification of Education” is the application of game principles and elements to achieve educational and behavioral outcomes and goals.

We all know and often speak about how young people seem to be addicted to video games and social media (Tik Tok, Facebook, Instagram, etc.). It almost goes without saying, lol. However, some things are going on within these young people on a psychological and physiological level which may be especially useful for learning and education. Later in this chapter, we will take a look at exactly what is going on that may be useful to teaching and education.

“Gamification’s Use as an Educational Tool

By learning through play children can develop social and cognitive skills, mature emotionally, and gain the self-confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments.

Young children learn by playing, being with other people, being active, exploring new experiences, talking to themselves, communicating with others, meeting physical and mental challenges, being shown how to do new things, practicing and repeating skills, and having fun.

Play develops children’s content knowledge and provides children the opportunity to develop social skills, competencies, and disposition to learn. Play-based learning is based on a Vygotskian model of scaffolding where the teacher pays attention to specific elements of the play activity and provides encouragement and feedback on children’s learning. When children engage in real-life and imaginary activities, play can be challenging in children’s thinking. To extend the learning process, sensitive intervention can be provided with adult support when necessary, during play-based learning.” [1]

The Physiological and Psychological Aspects of the “Gamification of Education”

The educational outcomes and goals of the teacher can be mapped out in the form of a game with challenges, rewards, badges, milestones, etc. In conjunction with an LMS (Learning Management System) the students’ progress and milestones achieved can be tracked, and intervention can be made through the use of certain characters, rewards, etc., to encourage the child along.

Games also encourage students to never give up and to keep trying until they succeed. Remember, in video games, when the students character “dies”, they just start the game over, this time careful to not make the same mistake over. Thus a failure is not the end, it is the way they learn proficiency. They learn that challenges and opposition are just opportunities for greatness and success! They learn to experiment and try different angles and ways to solve the same problem.

When we are young, we learned primarily through games, play, fun, songs that rhymed, etc. Education and discovery were fun! “Fun” is the keyword!

When we first entered school in pre-k or kindergarten, education and learning were fun. But gradually at some point, the “fun and games” came to an end, and education becomes hard, rigorous, stressful, and no fun! At what point in the education of children do we decide that education is supposed to be less fun and more rigorous and stressful? And more importantly why? Especially when science proves it would have been better to keep education fun!

Why are fun and games done away with as a core component of education? Learning according to the prevailing paradigm of education and learning is if a student is having too much fun learning, we must be doing something wrong.

It is now being “discovered” that playing games have immensely powerful effects on our “limbic systems” or what scientists call our “emotional brain.” In other words, playing games has a powerful and profound effect on our physiology and psychology!

The “limbic system” or “emotional brain” governs universal human emotions, human drives, and psychology. Games stimulate many qualities in our limbic system (“emotional brain”} which are very necessary and useful in achieving education goals and outcomes (both academic and behavioral). Games via the limbic system effect:

  • our motivations,
  • desire to achieve,
  • desire to overcome opposition, obstacles, and challenges,
  • the ability to dig deep within for strength to overcome and achieve,
  • desire to be part of a team, group, or society,
  • a desire for status to be achieved by one’s efforts,
  • desire to create and deploy strategy,
  • learning from our mistakes,
  • striving toward a goal,
  • desire to gain recognition and reward for our achievements,
  • desire to achieve meaningful goals,
  • desire to have purpose and goals.


Let us look a little deeper. My intention is not to get overly technical at this point, but at least a rudimentary understanding of what follows is necessary to understand why the gamification of education needs to be done nationwide as soon as possible!

There is a part of the brain referred to as the “mesolimbic pathway”, also referred to as the “reward pathway”.

The mesolimbic pathway sometimes referred to as the reward pathway, is a dopaminergic pathway in the brain 

The release of dopamine from the mesolimbic pathway into the nucleus accumbens regulates incentive salience (e.g. motivation and desire for rewarding stimuli) and facilitates reinforcement and reward-related motor function learning; it may also play a role in the subjective perception of pleasure.[2]

The above definition mentions several things which are of great importance to the understanding of why education must be gamified.

First, it is important to understand that the “mesolimbic pathway” as its name implies, is part of the larger “limbic system”.

The limbic system of man is like the core of the computer called the CPU. It is at the core of all of man’s emotions, motivations, learning, actions, etc.

The “mesolimbic pathway is the part of the limbic system dealing with processing rewarding and punishment and destining our motivations and actions based on this.

The mesolithic pathway motivates us to repeat actions and activities deemed good and beneficial by rewarding up with pleasurable feelings and emotions. It de-motivates from actions and activities deemed harmful and un-beneficial by making those actions produce un-pleasurable and even traumatizing feelings and emotions.

Thus when learning and education are made fun, the mesolimbic pathway makes the activity. (learning) feel pleasurable (via dopamine) and motivates to want to repeat over and over again. This is a form of biological and physiological positive reinforcement and the basis of reinforcement learning!

This is what is in operation on a physiological and psychological level when people play games and participate in social media like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. They employ this knowledge of the limbic system, which education does not, through gamification. The levels, badges, levels, etc of video games and the likes, shares, comments, etc of social generates their equivalent in the mesolimbic pathway, i.e., dopamine. Thus life itself is gamified and dopamine is its reward system (points, badges, levels, etc.!

This is the reason it seems like people are addicted to video games and social media because in a sense they are.

The points, rewards, levels, likes, shares, comments, etc. all stimulate dopamine secretion in the mesolimbic system and thus gives us a pleasurable feeling that motivates the repetition of the activity that produced it. Through the gamification of education, students become “addicted” to learning and education. Of course, the key is like the Buddha said, to take the “middle path” and strike the correct balance in the gamification so as not to “overdo it”.

When we make education rigorous, stressful, and not fun, we cause the students’ mesolimbic pathway to “hashtag” that experience as a non-beneficial activity to be avoided and not repeated. This is the reason why after the “fun and games” are removed from education, and as learning becomes more and more rigorous and in many of the headaches and stresses for teachers and the education system as a whole.

In some cases, it leads to truancy, dropouts, and extreme situations to deviant behavior and “school shootings.” When you make a person do something that the mesolimbic pathway (brain) is telling them not to do, and is unpleasurable, it is almost akin to traumatization and torture. Thus, we are increasingly producing in the education system our own little traumatized “monsters”.What you have in the education system is a form of traumatization producing traumatization in an ever-increasing cycle.

It is now time to stop this cycle and the teachers are the only way to stop this through the gamification of education in their classrooms at first and then their schools and school districts. In the days to come a gamified blended learning model will achieve amazing results and be implanted in school districts across the United States.

This is my purpose for writing this book and course, as well as a gamified blended learning model myself and which to extend to any teacher, school, or school district interested. Let us Make Education Fun Again!

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