A Study of Game Elements Impact in Gamifying Education

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The idea of using game in learning is not new. Teachers create their own kind of game whether traditional style or modern style game to help student in learning and to solve important issues related to the adaptation of the learning process. But with today’s technology, gamification is a new way to attracts young learners gain skills and better understanding. The basic idea of gamification is to use motivational power and elements of games for other purpose not just entertaining purposes of the game itself. The aim of this paper is to study and present the impact of game elements that used for gamification in education.

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Gaming environment have been used in many industries like defence, education, politics, and medical. When watching others playing games especially video games, it is evident that the motivational and emotional involvement during playing can be immense [1]. Gamification’s main goal is to rise engagement of users by using game-like techniques such as scoreboard and personalized fast feedback [2] making people feel more ownership and purpose when engaging with tasks [3].

In circumstances of education. The idea of using games for learning is not new. This is customary especially in case of direct interaction between teacher and student. Furthermore, today’s learner grew up with digital technologies and have different learning styles, new attitude to the learning process and higher requirements for teaching and learning. Gamification allows students to receive instant feedback about their progress in the classroom and acknowledgement of an accomplished task [4].

Despite the many amount of research on the engagement of students in the classroom and works. There still is difficulty to keep students engaged and understood in their activities. It is complex for students to develop the necessary levels of engagement to reach the full learning potential [5].

Facing these facts, a great deal of research are being continuously developed with the objective of unravelling which factors would promote the engagement of students. Gamification is one of way to raise the engagement and understanding of students. To make learning session fun, engaging and easy, we can use gamification [4, 6, 7]. Gamification relies on the motivational power characteristic of good games which, unlike traditional learning materials, can deliver information on demands and within context [8], balancing challenge difficulties according to one’s abilities. This prevents players from becoming bored and frustrated, and allow them to experience flow [9, 10]. With gamification, game-based elements (such as points, levels and rewards) are added to learning environment to motivate students, circumventing the need to develop full-fledged games [11]. This paper will present review on impacts of game elements that used for gamification in education.


Conceptually gamification can be defined as “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts” [12], that is, a game or game elements are used for purpose other than entertainment. Deterding, Dixon, Khaled, and Nacke [12] understand the origins of the term gamification from the digital media. According to the authors, the first use of this expression happened around 2008. Its popularization started on the second semester of 2010. Therefore, gamification is still a quite recent concept, on the market as well as in research, but it has a big potential. It has been added to the Web Courseworks 2018 eLearning predictions. Web Courseworks group state corporate training attempts at gamification are still the worst thing ever, but board-prep apps that help learners study for high-stakes certification exams using adaptive quiz algorithms are surprisingly gamelike and very popular with highly paid professionals [13].

According to Kiryakova [14], there are some terms and concepts that have similarities – gamification, game inspired design, serious games, simulations and games. The boundaries between them are not clearly defined:

  • Game inspired design is the use of ideas and ways of thinking that are inherent in game. Game inspired design does not express in adding game elements, but rather in using playful design.
  • Gamification is the use of game metaphors, game elements and ideas in a context different from that of the games in order to increase motivation and commitment, and to influence user behaviour.
  • Serious games are games deigned for a specific purpose related to training, not just for fun. They possess all game elements, they look like game, but their objective is to achieve something that is predetermined.
  • Simulations are similar to serious games, but they simulate real-world things and their purpose is user training in an environment resembling real life.
  • Games include everything mentioned above and they are designed for entertainment.All the above-mentioned concept have one thing in common, they use elements that are inherent in games and their purpose is to support learning and to improve user’s engagement [14].

Game Elements

Game elements is important in gamification, which describe the specific and characteristic components that can be applied in gamification [15]. There have been different attempts to create lists of those game elements, which can be applied in gamification. Werbach and Hunter [15] provide different levels of abstraction of elements that is dynamics, which constitute the big picture aspects, mechanics, which describe the basic processes, and components, which are specific instantiations of dynamics and mechanics [15]. According to Kiryakova [14], games have some distinctive features which play a key role in gamification:

  • Users are all participants – employees or clients (for companies), students (for educational institutions.
  • Challenges/tasks that users perform and progress towards defined objectives.
  • Points that are accumulated as a result of executing tasks.
  • Levels which serve as reward for completing actions.
  • Ranking of users according to their achievements.

Kapp [4] lists typical game elements like goals, rules conflict, competition, cooperation, time, reward structures, feedback, levels, storytelling, curve of interest and aesthetics. When trying to gamify an application there are some components that need to be taken into consideration and that build up a coherent overview of the entire functionality of an application [17]. Game mechanics and features are compromised in order to create the gameplay. Cristina [17] state game mechanics are set of rules and feedback loops that create the gameplay. They represent the fundamentals of any gamified context. Each game mechanic is characterized by three attributes:

  • Game mechanics type: Progression, feedback, behavioural.
  • Benefits: engagement, loyalty, time spent, influence, fun, virality.
  • Personality types: explorers, achievers, socializers and killers.

According to Sailer [18], typical game elements are points, badges, leaderboards, progress bars, performance graph, quests, meaningful stories, avatars and profile development. These elements can be found on a surface level and can in most cases be described as components:

  • Points can be accumulated for certain activities within the gamification environment.
  • Badges are visual representations of achievements, which can be collected within the gamification environment.
  • Leaderboards are lists of all player, usually ranked by their success.
  • Progress bars provide information about the current status of a player towards a goal.
  • Performance graphs provide information about a player’s performance, compared to previous performance.
  • Quests are little tasks, players have to fulfil within a game.
  • Meaningful stories players live through within gamification.
  • Avatars are visual representation a player can choose within gamification.
  • Profile developments refers to the development of avatars and attitudes belonging to such avatars.

Nah reviewed the literature cited by Bruce [11] and found only eight design elements that had, thus far, been used for gamification that is points, level/stages, badges, leaderboards, prize and rewards, progress bars, storyline, feedback. All these elements fulfil different functions. The different authors follow distinct strategies for their attempts to create such lists of game elements. One is to create liberal sets of elements found in any game. Another strategy is to providing lists of elements which are characteristic to most game and which play an important role in gameplay is an attempt to meet both strategies [12, 15, 18].2.2. Gamification Impact in EducationAccording to Abramovich, Schunn, and Higashi cited by Van Roy [19], in education, motivation is regarded as one of the most important factors leading to academic success. However, research in educational environments revealed that student’s motivation diminishes during academic semesters and years, and throughout learner’s school careers [19]. Therefore, to reverse this trends, researchers and practitioners have been looking into techniques to motivate learners and one of such techniques is gamification. Van Roy [19] design three game-elements aimed at supporting in their basic psychological needs:

  • Challenges: were designed to induce reflection in students.
  • Non-announced badges: tokens rewarded for performing certain activities.
  • Group competition: Students chose their preferred assignment topic out of two and were randomly assigned to one of two teams working on that topics.

And below graphical figure is the results throughout the semester after they implement three game elements: Figure 2. Graphical illustration of growth models of different types of motivation after implementation of need-supporting gamification, with time on the x-axis (t0 = week 1; t1 = week 5; t2 = week 10; t4 = week 15) and motivation on a scale from 1 to 7 on the y-axis [19].

Van Roy [19] concluded that their data suggested that student’s motivation decreased continuously after implementing need-supporting game elements.

Another research on gamification in education is done by Cater, Kang and Pollanen [11]. They introduce an online instructional model that employs cognitive principles, such as testing effect, in a gamified environment to allow students to receive the individual level of practice that they require within a context that both engages and stimulates them. They use the original version of Xero interactive learning environment that introduce by Pollanen [20], which is designed to create as highly randomized assignment as possible, so as to provide students with a considerable degree of challenge. An assignment of 30 questions is created by selecting 30 random templates in a random order from much larger template pool. Students were allowed to complete the assignment by answering questions in order. After each question was answered, a student would be informed by the software as to whether he or she got it correct or not, and would be shown a solution. Figure 3. Screenshot of an exercise in the interactive homework from Xero [11].The original Xero already have challenge, rewards and feedback element, the improvise Xero, they add time-limit where the question must be answered within session and they include random bonus questions that worth more marks. So, the new Xero have challenge, rewards and more rewards, feedback, and time-limit elements. According to Cater [11], students found the format of this assignment to be game like is interesting in that assignment consisted entirely of a series of mathematics questions, with no visible game-like elements. He concluded this model is efficient from both the instructors and student perspectives.

Faghihi [21] used intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) tools, gaming technology, as well as artistic animations, to create college level mathematics lessons that are fun, combining play with learning. They describe their system as MathDungeon, which is conceived to teach mathematics concepts at the college level. They design and implement the MathDungeon environment by following these major steps:

  1. For each specific concept, they identified possible solutions and various ways that necessary concepts could be taught.
  2. For each concept and lesson, they designed corresponding gaming environment and elements in real games.
  3. For each concept, the lessons and solutions were discussed from an artistic point of view: artistic and real life examples were used to make the lesson concepts fun.
  4. The psychological component of the lesson were considered: they found real life entities that can be associated with every math concept and lesson.
  5. They integrated the gaming environment and ITS tools into MathDungeon.
  6. They designed the environments in such a way that allows learners to choose how to learn and solve problems in the game.
  7. They integrated gamification tools such as badges and scoring.
  8. They integrated ITS’s tools such as scaffolding into the MathDungeon.


Dungeon individualizes the concepts and exercises according to the learners’ preferences and offers a variety of choices: either for training sessions or for the problem solving sessions. In addition to including tutoring elements such as hints and feedback for each specific concepts, the system also offers different levels of difficulty and gaming environments to match various lessons and exercise. The different levels for each mathematical concept are designed to be intuitive, in such way the system will not cause any confusion to the learners. Figure 4. Screenshot of MathDungeon game, A) factoring a quadratic formula. B and C) are the explanation of the quadratic formula for learning [21].

To understand what the learner is doing continuously, they made a parser for the learners’ activities. Accordingly, the system can decide to assign score, give hints, presentation, change some specific fonts, play an audio file, blink buttons or level up, and each problem required to be solve in a specific time frame [21].

In their experiment phase, they selected 30 students from Sul Ross State University (SRSU), and divided them into three groups, 1) the MathDungeon group (n=10), 2) the Assessment and Learning, K-12, Higher Education (ALEKS) group (n=10) and 3) a comparison group which received no tutoring help (n=10). The students were given a quiz of 20 questions pertaining to the quadratic formula and factoring with same level of difficulty. They running a median test, and found that there are greater number of students scoring above the median score in the group having played MathDungeon than in the other group. The graphical illustration of results of the experiment [21].

Furthermore, they found that students who remembered the quadratic formula were those who had play MathDungeon compared to the other two groups.3. ConclusionThe impact of implementing game elements in education may vary towards other factors such as the user age, personality, and psychology. Also, the type of game elements that used for gamification in education also can affect towards user engagement, understanding, motivation and fun in learnings. In conclusion, implementing game elements in education is an effective approach to make positive change in students’ behaviour and attitude towards learning process, it can improve their motivation and engagement. Also, it can affect the student’ results and understanding of the educational content and create conditions for an effective learning process.AcknowledgmentsThis work was supported by the Mathematics, Graphics and Visualization Research Group (M-GRAVS), Faculty of Science and Natural Resources, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and financed by the UMS Grant (SDK0021-2017).

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