Cuando jugar no es un juego. ¿Por qué aplicar la gamificación en educación?

Games have always been considered as a ludic activity, something entertaining and for the spare time. That is to say, an activity that we voluntarily make in order to escape from routine and have fun.

Usually, these actions have always been made without considering any kind of goal; we play just because we like it. However, in recent years, we have seen a really interesting tendency: games are no longer just for fun. Lots of authors wondered about the following question: why do we play? Let’s analyze this question.

Playing is not considered as a productive task. Nevertheless, we dedicate hours and hours to solve the challenges that games introduce us to, and we even repeat some parts endlessly if we don’t manage to overcome them. Why? Well, the answer could be much more developed, but to simplify it:

  • Because they motivate us.
  • They trigger positive emotions in us.
  • We have fun playing.
  • Achieving something makes us feel better.

Thanks to this analysis, what we know as gamification was born.

What is gamification?

Generally speaking, gamification is a process by means of which we give the specific characteristics of games to something that is intended to go beyond entertainment. Its main objective is to make it more appealing and motivating. With this purpose, methods and dynamics as classification tables, scores, challenges, levels or stages, rewards, competitions, etc. are used.

Following this definition, we see that any activity from any field can be gamificated and this, indeed, is what is happening.

Gamification in education

When we said that any activity can be gamificated we also spoke of  teaching-learning processes, both in the formal or non-formal framework. According to Zicherman, gamification in education is a great option to achieve some determined training targets.

We have also mentioned motivation. How should be this motivation translated into the field of education? In active participation and better results.

If we question ourselves which is the intrinsic motivation so that a person spends part of his time to play on a regular basis, we will probably get to the conclusion that it is because positive emotions lead to amusement and also for the satisfaction of making progresses freely.

Gamification could be a great choice in order to favor intrinsic motivation, together with the introduction of ethical activities that allow students or users to make decisions, establish their own goals and the way to reach them. That is to say, the gamificated activity must have an approach that allows free exploration, different approximations, in which making mistakes could be an incentive to find the right solution.

Giving a social dimension to gamificated activities is also necessary because cooperation and competition between equals, as well as forming part of a community and being able to share personal progress, prove to be an excellent strategy to promote interest and willingness to participate.

These activities must be enhanced with methods that encourage extrinsic motivation. The most usual is to use those characteristic of videogames that have been previously mentioned (establishing scores by actions, hints, rewards, individual or group challenges, badges…).

Continuous feedback is other of the distinctive features of videogames that is necessary to transfer in gamification processes in the educational area. Users must know at every moment the result of a specific action, at what point have they failed or got it right, the score that they get each time, etc.

Where are we going?

People carry out a series of activities voluntarily throughout the day (playing, going to the beach, making sport…) and others that are not so. In most cases, we do them in an automated way “because we have to do it”, as it could be going to work, sweeping the floor, or doing the weekly shopping. What has been observed during years of investigation is that the activities in which we have fun generate positive emotions, greater tolerance to frustration or failure and a much more optimist attitude and enthusiasm. As if this were not enough, we make them in a much more efficient way.

In short, they motivate us because we like them. Far from what it was believed some years ago and contradicting the vast majority of parents, playing is very productive. It is as ancient as human beings and something distinctive of mammals. Scientifics consider that without it we could not be social beings.

By playing we learn to develop strategies, specific knowledge according to contents and by playfulness, moreover, anxiety is reduced, creativity boosted, social relationships established, etc.

To give an answer to the question that heads this section: we are going in the direction that leads us to only making those activities that give us something at the personal level, that motivate us and with which we feel good.

That is why in the last years we are undergoing a boom in gamification, which is giving more dynamism and making more appealing all those activities that seemed more tedious; especially those of the business environment. The formula is simple: Those activities that are properly gamificated, increase motivation in participants, who at the same time get more involved in the work they have to develop, what derives into a greater productivity.

Logically, when it comes to gamification you have to do it with an objective in mind and following some guidelines according to the needs of each institution. What is more, if we want to gamificate our tasks with success, we have to keep this premise in mind: it has to be motivating and entertaining.


  1. MOTIVATION & FEEDBACK: The keys to learning - Snackson

    […] Motivation and feedback for Khan and Snackson are two key characteristics that are linked to offering content that has gone through a process of gamification. Gamification is the ideal way of learning as it involves positive emotions. On the one hand, it keeps students entertained, and on the other, it gives them a feeling of satisfaction as they can track their progress by gaining badges and points, for example. My colleague Juan Carlos explained this learning strategy in detail in the following post: When gaming is not game. Why should we apply gamification in education? […]

  2. Gamification: press start! - Snackson

    […] If you don’t know what is gamification already, we recommend you to read this post. […]

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