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Why Gamification Matters in Learning & Development

5 May 2022

Gamification is not a new term – however, its use in training has evolved over a period of time.

I still remember the first compliance training which I was asked to complete. It consisted of HR policies and procedures that as an employee I had to follow. The training was approximately for 6 hours of duration with a lot of information to digest. I felt overwhelmed and walked away retaining very little information. Being an Instructional Designer, I was asked to redesign the same training and make it more engaging and I immediately thought of using gamification to captivate the audience and make it a fun learning.

Gamification is not just games

Most people on hearing the word “gamification” think of trainings that include high-end game strategies and elements that are complex to design. Although there is no doubt that such creatively curated trainings can be quite effective, there are a variety of simpler, user-friendly, cost-effective gamification-based elements that can be incorporated to create equally effective and engaging trainings.

Often, we see that game-based education and gamification are used interchangeably. But there is a difference in terms of how the game elements are integrated into the learning experience, and this leads to a huge difference in the outcomes that we are looking to achieve. Gamification uses the same mechanics as the game developers use to keep you engaged and motivated. In simplest terms, gamification is an implementation of game-based design elements in contexts that are not game-based1.

By incorporating game-based design elements into learning makes the hard part of learning more enjoyable.

What makes gamification an important element in your learning design?

Gamification helps you tap into your learners’ extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.

Motivators are factors that inspire us to take action.

There is no doubt that most of us have shopped at a supermarket and/or a retail store at some point because of the discounts/loyalty perks that they offer. This is extrinsic motivation or actions that are led by outside factors such as anticipating a reward or avoiding a punishment. On the other hand, engaging in activities that are personally rewarding to oneself such as reading book, gardening, painting, and so on qualify for intrinsic motivation.

At your workplace, you could certainly increase productivity of your employees by giving them bonus or incentive; however, the actual quality of work is influenced by intrinsic motivators.

Look at this example (see Figure 1) of two boys playing basketball that clearly differentiates between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Figure 1: Extrinsic Vs. Intrinsic Motivation 2

While you design your gamification elements, think of having a good combination of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators that can inspire learners’ interests. This way, we can ensure both employee productivity as well as quality of work at the same time.

How can we incorporate gamification into our learnings?

The best way to incorporate gamification into learnings is to start thinking from the audience’s perspective. Although, this is easier said than done.

Remember the video games that intrigued us as children? It used to be fun to cross milestones, play along, and earn rewards. We can achieve similar engagement results when game-based elements are applied to learning interventions.

Some of the game elements that can tap into your learners’ motivation are as follows:

These different ways of encouraging learners will help them synthesize new information and also assess their understanding of the subject in a way that is fun.

Let us review an example of how one of these game elements can be leveraged.

We can make learning fun and fascinating adventure for everyone says Geetanjali Vinod in her Ted Talk on Gamification3

Explaining the meaning of “gamification,” Geetanjali says, “It means to incorporate game elements like rewards, scores, points etc. into something like teaching.”

She had a chance to bake a cake while she learnt calculation, measurements, and more in mathematics. Additionally, she and her classmates enjoyed a delicious piece of cake at the end of this exercise. Imagine we adopting such motivational techniques to facilitate learning in an engaging and a fun way.

The core issue is not the actual concepts that are taught, but the way they are presented. Visualize your class teacher starting History class by saying “Today, we will know about World War II, turn to page 42.” Would we not feel bored even before hearing the teacher?

What if our teacher started with a narrative/story? “It was 1st Sep 1939, troops from various countries flew in preparation to the war.” This is a sub-element of gamification, storytelling, which helps you to grab learner’s attention. Not only can we help them understand concepts, but also solve real-world problems.

Finally, let us review a case study on how Indegene helped a client convert their existing training into an engaging learning journey.

Last year, one of the top 10 pharma company approached Indegene with a request to improve the engagement on their existing trainings that were in the static PDF formats. It was challenging as these assets were already approved, any changes to the content was not allowed, and the team had to use the existing PDFs as is. Our team used bright and engaging game-like visuals to create a logical journey using the existing PDFs. At the end of a particular set of PDFs that discussed related topics, we included a game-based quiz that allowed users to accumulate points and unlock the next set of PDFs on achieving a pre-set score. Users were awarded fun badges for accomplishing certain tasks (see Figure 2), such as getting 5 questions right in a row, being the first person to unlock a level, and so on. A leaderboard allowed users to get competitive and track their progress as compared to their peers. The game culminated with a knowledge pyramid where user-knowledge was tested and points were assigned based on the level of difficulty of the question (see Figure 3).

The outcome of using game-based design elements in learning was positive. By implementing formats that are engaging, more than 80% of end-users reported efficiency gains leading to the client recommending the same strategy to be applied across other products/verticals.

Here are a few snippets of how we converted the existing content into an engaging learning journey:

Figure 2: Unlocking Badges

Figure 3: Knowledge Pyramid

Simple gamification techniques when applied to complex problems have the power to deliver unexpected results.

Gamification is a type of human-centric design that can lead to happy, productive, and engaged workplace at your organization.

As Daniel Debow, VP, Product, Shopify says – It’s play that helps us do serious things better.


1. Gamification in Education: What is it and how can you use it? TrueEducation_P. Accessed April 4, 2022

2. Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation: What's the Difference? Cherry K. Accessed April 4, 2022. https://www.verywellmind.com/differences-between-extrinsic-and-intrinsic-motivation-2795384

3. Gamification: Learning the Fun Way. TEDx. Accessed April 4, 2022. https://www.ted.com/talks/geetanjali_vinod_gamification_learning_the_fun_way


Jyothi Kiran
Jyothi Kiran