Gamification Literature Review

Last Updated on 03/05/2022 by James Barron

As part of completing your preparation for a class you should conduct a review of literature relating to your area of practice, this is especially important when conducting action research.

Literature Relating to an Area of Practice for Action Research

“Gamification is a relatively new term, hence there are different existing definitions.” (Stieglitz, Lattemann, Robra-Bissantz, Zarnekow, & Brockmann, 2017) while “the idea of incentivizing people is not new but the term ‘gamification’ didn’t enter the mainstream vocabulary until 2010.” (Dichev & Dicheva, 2017) Out of the definitions available my preference is “gamification refers to a process of enhancing a service with affordances for gameful experiences in order to support user’s overall value creation” (Huotari & Hamari, 2012). These definitions support the integration of game elements, such as game mechanics, within an existing service, such as education. This contradicts a common belief that gamification focuses on the use of games within other industries; whereas this definition makes it clear that the phrase is “an umbrella term for the use of video game elements (rather than full-fledged games) to improve user experience and user engagement in non-game services and applications.” (Deterding, 2011, p. 1) Game mechanics is a particularly interesting aspect that can be integrated, “the problem is that too often gamified solutions prefer game aesthetics to game design” (Ebner, 2019), ignoring the game mechanics entirely, such as “points, levels, challenges, virtual goods, score boards and gifting & charity.” (BBVA, 2012)

Throughout the research into gamification there are several aspects that are consistent, “it is an interdisciplinary approach seeking to motivate users to achieve certain behavioural or psychological outcomes” (Stieglitz, Lattemann, Robra-Bissantz, Zarnekow, & Brockmann, 2017, p. 3) this is achieved through methods that “consists primarily of techniques with background in behavioural science and psychology.” (Ebner, 2019) This includes gamification attributes, such as an inclusive difficulty that “makes the player feel challenged – not overwhelmed” (Cassie, 2016, p. 4). The provision of “an element of competition and achievement of goals (whether it is competition against another player, against the system itself, or just a competition with oneself to achieve) ”(Kapp, 2013, p. 61) and provide “players meaningful choices that have lasting consequences, reward experimentation (trial-and-error), provide a like-minded community of players, gently punish failure and encourage risk-taking behaviour”. (Cassie, 2016, p. 4)

Gamification is being used in a wide variety of industries with a high level of “diversity of domains, including marketing, healthcare, human resources, training, environmental protection and wellbeing.” (Dichev & Dicheva, 2017) The primary area that I am interested in, and also “one key sector where gamification is being actively explored, (mainly for its potential to motivate) is education.” (Dichev & Dicheva, 2017) Over the past two decades game-based learning has grown increasingly into a popular instructional approach, due to its power to motivate and engage students in complex learning, such as problem solving, decision making, and metacognitive thinking. (Kim, Park, & Baek, 2008) “The rationality at the basis of gamifying learning is that adding elements, such as those found in games to learning activities will create immersion in a way similar to what happens in games” (Ravid & Codish, 2014) the goal of many gamification projects has been to create a gamified classroom “in which some, many, or all of the elements of curriculum and instruction correspond to and bear the hallmarks of various game mechanics” (Cassie, 2016, p. 4).

“Games have a proven positive effect on the cognitive and analytical abilities of children.” (Aquarius Education, 2015) Despite some ongoing debates over positive or negative impact of digital games, there is sufficient empirical evidence to support the benefits of digital games … for learners (Ge & Ifenthaler, 2018) however, alternative studies “show that its effect on motivation or participation is lower than the expectations created by the hype” (Broer, 2014) and that not all student groups respond well to gamification, for example, “not everyone is willing to play and not all of the learners are eager to change their learning routines.” (Ebner, 2019) The varying response from student groups can be particularly challenging, children are likely to be more accepting due to high levels of game usage, “for adults, training is often considered a serious activity in which they are investing their time and attention. Therefore, anything that does not look serious enough can be suspicious.” (Ebner, 2019) While competition is often seen as a key aspect of gamification and “is often used as a tool in the classroom to increase motivation but findings are somewhat mixed concerning whether it is beneficial or harmful to intrinsic motivation” (Hanus & Cruz, 2018, p. 453). Competition is rated only 4th in gamers motivation to play computer games. (Johnson, 2019)

“As we discussed earlier, gamification and games do share some of the same game mechanics, like points, badges, and leader boards, but the relationship between games and gamification ends there. Gamification is about motivation, not fun. But the distinction is lost on many people, and it makes gamification a hard sell” (Burke, 2014).


Aquarius Education. (2015, Feb 4). How to incorporate gamification into adult education. Retrieved from Medium:

BBVA. (2012). Gamification The Business Of Fun. Innovation Edge, 18.

Broer, J. (2014). Gamification and the trough of disillusionment. Mensch & Computer, 389–395.

Burke, B. (2014). Gamify: How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things. New York: Bibliomotion, Inc.

Cassie, J. (2016). Level Up Your Classroom. Alexandria: ASCD.

Deci, E., & Reeve, J. (1996). Elements of the Competitive Situation that Affect Intrinsic Motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Deterding, S. (2011). Gamification: Using Game Design Elements in Non-Gaming Contexts. Hamburg: University of Hamburg.

Dichev, C., & Dicheva, D. (2017). Gamifying education: what is known, what is believed and what remains uncertain: a critical review. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education.

Ebner, G. (2019, 02 19). Gamification in adult learning: expectations vs reality. Retrieved from Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe:

Ge, X., & Ifenthaler, D. (2018). Designing Engaging Educational Games and Assessing Engagement in Game-based learning. Hershey: IGI Global.

Hanus, M., & Cruz, C. (2018). Leveling up the Classroom: A Theoretical Approach to Education Gamification. Gamification in Education: Breakthroughs in Research and Practice, 503-603.

Huotari, K., & Hamari, J. (2012). Defining Gamification – A Service Marketing Perspective. 16th International Academic Mindtrek Conference. Berkeley California: School of Information.

Johnson, B. (2019, April). 2019 Video Game Industry Statistics, Trends & Data. Retrieved from WePC:

Kapp, K. M. (2012). The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

Kapp, K. M. (2013). The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook: Ideas into Practice. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Kim, B., Park, H., & Baek, Y. (2008). Not just fun, but serious strategies: Using meta-cognitive strategies in game-based learning. Computers & Education.

Ravid, G., & Codish, D. (2014). Academic course gamification: the art of perceived playfulness. Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects, 10, 131–151.

Stieglitz, S., Lattemann, C., Robra-Bissantz, S., Zarnekow, R., & Brockmann, T. (2017). Gamification. Cham: Springer.

Author Profile

James Barron
My first experience of teaching was in 2016, when I was asked to
deliver a talk to a group of 16-year-olds on what it was like to start
your own business. I immediately knew I wanted to become more
involved in teaching but I didn’t know where to start as I had not
previously considered a career in education. A few weeks later I
agreed to teach a class of Chinese students from the Shanghai
Technical Institute of Electronics and Information, who had travelled
to the UK to learn English and Software Engineering, after that I was
hooked. Within the next few years, I taught hundreds of students of
many different nationalities, aged from 16 to 60, and from
levels 2 to 6. I focused my time teaching with Bath University and
Bath College for several more years until I felt a change was in order.
For the last few years, I have taught remotely with several private
training organisations, provided dedicated one to one coaching
sessions, provided consultancy on teaching and assessment practices
and written about my experiences as a teacher. I plan to continue
with my current activities for the foreseeable future but I’m always
open to new teaching experiences.

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