Immersion into the World of Gaming: An Approach of Introducing
Gamification in an Educational Context
Korbinian Otto, Corinna Kr
ohn and Barbara Sabitzer
School of Education, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Altenbergerstraße 69, Linz, Austria
Gamification, STEM, Digital Education, Secondary Education.
The use of game elements in the real world is part of a trending topic in science, called “gamification”.
Game developers and companies are using gamification tools and the knowledge about player types and their
characteristics, to successfully affect the behaviour of their players or customers. The success of apps like
Adidas Running” and “Pokemon Go” (Niantic) and their millions of constant players tell us, that gamification
can work. But the potential of gamification goes beyond selling healthy lifestyles or marketing strategies, it
also finds its way into the educational system. The paper takes a closer look at definitions of gamification
and different player types. Furthermore, it investigates the topic in an educational context where the authors
concentrate on motivational aspects of learning environments as well as downsides and risks of gamification.
In a pilot study in two classes at a secondary school, the authors investigated different gamification tools to
motivate students to increase the participation in class, do more off-school assignments and finally improve
their grades.
Playgrounds are not only found in parks and city cen-
ters, but also in kindergartens and elementary schools.
The benefits of play and its role in the early child-
hood as well as in education have been acknowledged
a long time ago. But when children enter middle
school we do not find any playground or play areas.
Suddenly unstructured play is no longer part of the
school day. Students may take part in physical educa-
tion classes or play during break periods but nothing
more (IRMA, 2018). Studies show that early adoles-
cents still have the urge to play and it is suggested that
those students continue to play, especially as they un-
dergo significant changes during that important life-
time (Millar et al., 2010).
Another interesting detail to take a closer look
at, is the neurological change during puberty. This
period involves increased excitability and sensitivity
to dopamine and noradrenalin (IRMA, 2018). Gru-
ber, Gelman & Ranganath (Gruber et al., 2014) stated
that dopamine is also involved in curiosity, attention,
learning and memory.
All in all, schools have already installed the basic
concepts of gamification into their classrooms. Stu-
dents get points when they complete tasks and those
points are then transferred to grades. Furthermore,
students are rewarded for desired, and punished for
unwanted behaviour. If they finish well, they “level
up” at the end of the academic year (Lee and Ham-
mer, 2011).
The paper takes a closer look at definitions of
gamification and different player types. Furthermore,
it investigates the topic in an educational context
where the authors concentrate on motivational aspects
of learning environments as well as downsides and
risks of gamification. Besides, section 4 outlines
different tools for educational gamification, such as
“Classcraft”, “Kahoot!”, or “Khan Academy”. Sec-
tion 5 focuses on the pilot study that was conducted
in a secondary school in two different classes and dif-
ferent subjects.
Deterding et al. define gamification as “the use of
game design elements in non-game context” (Deterd-
ing et al., 2011). Game elements or game mechan-
ics specify for instance different key properties of
games like goals (e.g. finite end or infinite play), rules
(e.g. team playing) or settings (e.g. leaderboards
Otto, K., Kröhn, C. and Sabitzer, B.
Immersion into the World of Gaming: An Approach of Introducing Gamification in an Educational Context.
DOI: 10.5220/0009343402450252
In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2020) - Volume 2, pages 245-252
ISBN: 978-989-758-417-6
2020 by SCITEPRESS – Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
or badges) of the game (Robson et al., 2015). The
use of these game elements in a learning environment
is called “gamification of education” (Simoes et al.,
Ifenthaler (Ifenthaler, 2019) created the ABC-
model of game design” (see figure 1) where he de-
clared three important components for designing edu-
cational games: Affect (A), Behaviour (B), and Cog-
nition (C). The affective (A) design components spec-
ify emotional engagement. Accordingly, educational
games always require features that nurture satisfac-
tion, relatedness, choice, and curiosity. This could be
integrated causing negative or positive effects: Inves-
tigation, fantasy or exploration are (A) design com-
ponents that have a positive learning effect, whereas
confusion and disappointment are (A) components as
well, but foster negative feelings. Behavioral (B) de-
sign factors refer to behavioral engagement. Those
components require real-time feedback during game-
play to maintain the students’ interest. The (C) design
component (cognition) specifies declarative, procedu-
ral, strategic, and metacognitive knowledge that is re-
quired to play the game. For instance, it is very im-
portant to determine the prior knowledge of the stu-
dents to create games that are neither too easy nor too
hard. The major part of the game design literature fo-
cuses on the (A) components because if students are
emotionally involved, the intrinsic motivation rises.
But when creating games, one must not forget to con-
sider the other design components as well (Ifenthaler,
Figure 1: ABC-Model of Game Design (Ifenthaler, 2019).
Considering game elements and motivation, it
is important to take a closer look on different
player types. Bartle identified four different player
archetypes killer, achiever, socialiser and explorer
and their behavioral traits in Multi User Dungeons
(MUDs) (Bartle, 1996), which describe a multiplayer
real-time virtual world. His taxonomy declares, why
different users act differently in the same game and
why players are attracted by different game elements.
The four player types are described best by consid-
ering the graph in figure 2. The axes represent the
source of the players’ interest in the game. The x-
axis describes the emphasis on players (left) to the
emphasis on the environment (right), whereas the y-
axis goes from acting with (bottom) to acting on (top).
While “killers” are playing the game to doing things
to other people, for example in acting on other play-
ers, “socialisers” are interested in interacting with
other players. Achievers” want to act on the de-
signed world and their goal is to master the game.
They are proud if they can finish the game or reach
a high status in a short time. “Explorers” on the other
hand are interested in having the game to surprise
them, so they want to interact with the virtual world
(Bartle, 1996).
Figure 2: Players’ Interest in a MUD (Bartle, 1996).
Although those four player types are presumably
the leading ones in literature, there also exist vari-
ous other definitions. Another taxonomy is the player
satisfaction model “BrainHex”, which defines seven
different archetypes (seeker, survivor, daredevil, mas-
termind, conqueror, socialiser, and achiever) and
is based on insights from neurobiological findings
(Nacke et al., 2011).
By adding game-design elements like rewards, leader-
boards, and badges to the classroom, it is not
only possible to provide differentiated instructions,
but also significant challenges for learning (IRMA,
2018). The so-called “PBL-triad” (points, badges,
& leaderboards) should be found in each and every
lesson that implements educational games (Gabriel,
2018). A gamified curriculum could introduce the
freedom to fail without penalty and the opportunity
to explore multiple identities and experiences. Yet
CSEDU 2020 - 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
the evidence for these powers is lacking. What is
shown is that the application of gamification in school
may or may not work depending on the pre-planning
phase, design, and development of the gamified les-
son. Nonetheless, gamification enters the educational
system and with this numerous barriers result, such as
logistics of game-school integration and the lack of
support for teachers to integrate games into the cur-
riculum (IRMA, 2018).
Several studies have shown that students develop
more efficient strategies to solve problems when play-
ing games compared to other classroom activities.
Games enable it to take on new personalities and
allow “learning by doing”. Furthermore, it is ob-
served that children easily gather new information
when playing games, like remembering the names of
all the characters, analyzing game-structures or con-
necting related concepts. In addition the act of cre-
ation is believed to be one of the highest varieties
of learning because students must not only remem-
ber but also apply and use newly gained concepts to
build something that does not exist yet. This concept
can also be transferred to gamified lessons (IRMA,
Another important finding is that games can com-
bine “soft skills” with social learning. Klopfer, Os-
terweil, and Salen (Klopfer et al., 2009) observed that
games naturally build up 21st century skills like meta-
cognition, development of ethical understanding and
collaboration in teams as well as positive social inter-
3.1 Motivational Aspects
When we speak of gamification we also have to take
a look at motivation. If the motivation is primarily
driven from the learner, this is called “intrinsic” mo-
tivation. Vice versa “extrinsic” motivation derives
from an external factor (Knapp, 2012) . Taylor et
al. (Taylor et al., 2014) show that intrinsic moti-
vation plays an important role in predicting school
achievements. Their findings also highlight the partic-
ular importance of intrinsic motivation for the future
academic success of high school and college students
(Taylor et al., 2014). Knapp (Knapp, 2012) applied
the four-factor ARCS” model developed by Keller
(Keller, 1987), to examine the motivation of learners
regarding gamification. This model represents “atten-
tion”, “relevance”, “confidence”, and “satisfaction”
(Taylor et al., 2014)(Keller, 1987):
Attention: In the world of gamification it should
not be an issue to stimulate the curiosity of the
learner by presenting the given task as a role play
or hands-on experience. By varying the assign-
ments the learners’ attention can be maintained.
Relevance: There are different methods to iden-
tify what is relevant for the learner and what is
not. One suggests that the goal is presented to
the learner beforehand, to increase his or her mo-
tivation. This is a common concept in gamifica-
tion, too. Another method is to provide famil-
iar elements during the studying phase, like coins,
awards or lives in game playing.
Confidence: This represents the learners’ expecta-
tion to achieve success. One way to help the learn-
ers in this, is to clearly state the tasks and require-
ments beforehand. In gamification this would rep-
resent for example a map that has to be followed,
where users can see the way to reach their final
Satisfaction: Learners have to get the opportunity
to apply their new knowledge in a real or sim-
ulated setting, to experience positive encourage-
ment and maintain intrinsic motivation.
According to the self-determination-theory the
most self-determined form of behavioral regulation
is intrinsic motivation (Dicheva et al., 2019) (Ryan
and Deci, 2000). According to this theory humans
have three fundamental psychological needs: auton-
omy, competence (ability to perform behavior), and
relatedness (social connections). If all of those three
factors are satisfied, intrinsic motivation is very high
(Dicheva et al., 2019).
In summary, it can be stated that if teachers gam-
ify their lessons they should consider these theories to
increase the motivation of their students.
3.2 Downsides and Risks
Gamification is just a framework that offers a variety
of possibilities. But like every other framework it just
offers the tools. How to use them lies in the responsi-
bility of the person who wants to use it. Gamification
platforms may give a preset of tools and target a spe-
cial audience. But if the developers or teachers are
not aware of the possibilities and limits of gamifica-
tion, it is not hard to make wrong decisions (Cugel-
man, 2013). Without a careful monitoring and con-
trolling process, there is a chance to avoid unwanted
side effects, caused by the usage of the wrong game
elements or the wrong settings, like lowering the self-
esteem by choosing goals that are too difficult (Ste-
fanidis et al., 2018).
Andrade et al. identified three problems by adding
game elements without the appropriate consideration
(Andrade et al., 2016). If the gamification system of-
fers mechanics, which are unassociated to the educa-
Immersion into the World of Gaming: An Approach of Introducing Gamification in an Educational Context
tional outcome, the student could get distracted. The
possibility to customize the own avatar or to commu-
nicate with the group members via built-in chat can
help that users spend more time playing on the plat-
form or interacting with the system, but it increases
the possibility for spent time without learning and
leading to off-task behavior.
Leaderboards are one of the favourite gamifica-
tion elements and used often. Commited and gifted
students may get a motivation boost to keep the first
place or to reach it, which can help to increase produc-
tivity. But when the light of the first places vanishes,
the darkness of the last places appears. Students with
low performance are forced into a competition with
their peers at the far end of the leaderboard. This un-
desired competition can reduce their engagement and
interest on the system. Systems that try to change the
players’ behavior with rewards, can also create de-
pendence. Furthermore, addiction in gamified learn-
ing systems could lead to loss of the ability to learn
without getting extrinsic motivation.
The tool used in the pilot study was “Classcraft”
which is a cloud-based platform that requires no in-
stallation. It operates on a real-time web engine
like any other online video game. With this tool
the teacher can transform the classroom into a role-
playing game where students can create their own
avatars (see figure 3) (Crx4Chrome, 2019).
Figure 3: Screenshot from Classcraft Avatar (Crx4Chrome,
Inspired by the popular role-playing game “World
Of Warcraft”, the avatars are placed in teams by four
to six players that divide into Mages, Warriors, or
Healers (see figure 4). Warriors are equipped with
more Health Points (HP) than the other characters and
have powers to protect other players. Healers have
less HP than Warriors but more than Mages but are
the only ones that can refill other players HP. Mages
have the least HP but the most dominant powers.
Figure 4: Characters in Classcraft (Classcraft, 2019).
Students are able to gain Action Points (AP) or
Experience Points (XP) by their behaviour in school
or during classes. These points help students to
level up or acquire powers. They even earn Gold
Pieces (GP), to customize their avatars (Sanchez et al.,
Figure 5: Screenshot from Classcraft Tools (Classcraft,
Classcraft comes with a built-in set of class tools
(see figure 5), which gamifies different situations in
class. The “Wheel of Destiny” randomly picks one
student or one group. The “Riders of Vay” chooses
an event (like one team gets 200 XP or all students
loose 10 HP) randomly of a pre-built list. Each event
appears just once and the list can be changed by the
teacher. “Makus Valley” shows the current volume.
This tool requires a microphone, hence it was not used
during the pilot phase, because there was no micro-
phone at the computer in class. “Boss Battles” are
revisions of subject matters wrapped in a battle ver-
sus a big boss. If the students know the answer to
the given question, the boss will be destroyed. If they
do not know the answer, each student looses health.
“White Mountain” is a built-in timer. The stopwatch
“Forest Run” and the grade converter “Treasures of
Tavuros” were not used during the pilot phase (Class-
craft, 2019).
Classcraft uses maps (see figure 6), to guide the
students on their journey to knowledge. The teacher
CSEDU 2020 - 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
Figure 6: Screenshot from Classcraft Map (Classcraft,
sets quests and determines possible ways between
those quests. The quests also form a guideline
through the lessons and contain the major part of the
background story to form a game.
5.1 Methodology
This pilot study was part of the PhD Thesis of one
of the authors who is also a teacher. The research
question, leading to this experimentation is defined as
the following: Can gamification improve the lessons
in school? The tested hypothesis was: Gamification
can improve all parts of the lessons (e.g. the grades,
participation during the lesson and the presence of the
students) and can maintain these improvements over
a longer trial period.
The experiment was conducted in a secondary
school in Austria in two different classes and different
subjects. Group one consisted of 25 male students at
the age between 12 and 14. The final group decreased
to 23 students, hence one student left school during
the first semester and one did not take part in the sec-
ond test and the major part of the lessons in second
semester. The two subjects taught were history and
political education and the lessons were held twice a
week for one teaching unit (50 minutes) each. Group
two consisted of 12 male students at the age between
13 and 15. The subject taught was computer science
and was held once a week for two teaching units.
The study concentrated on the first group and
was divided into three parts. Part one was a ques-
tionnaire to determine the “BrainHex” player types
and the frequency, how often students play computer
games in their spare time. The second part consisted
of one semester of gamification gentrified teaching.
The third and last part was a second questionnaire
to determine the “BrainHex” player types again and
a subjective grading of the students, if gamification
helped them. The pilot phase lasted the whole sec-
ond semester of the school year. As mentioned in
section 3, the platform “Classcraft” was chosen to be
used in this phase. Every student could choose an
avatar and was part of a self-chosen group. During
the lessons, the students could win XP (Experience
Points), AP (Action Points) or GP (Gold Pieces) for
predetermined actions and use the special power of
their avatar. Other elements of Classcraft were used
as well.
In the following subsections the active coopera-
tion, homework and grades are discussed. Active co-
operation was recorded every lesson and classified in
three categories: 1 (active cooperation), 0 (no coop-
eration) and -1 (disrupted class). Homework was also
rated in these three categories, 1 (great work and sub-
mitted in time), 0 (homework with some mistakes or
submitted too late) and -1 (not submitted or wrong).
In Austria, there are ve different grades: very good
(1), good (2), satisfying (3), sufficient (4), and insuf-
ficient(5). Hence the classification was made in these
five categories.
5.2 First Results
Figure 7: Active Cooperation in Class.
Figure 7 shows the active cooperation in class dur-
ing the whole school year. In the first semester, ap-
proximately every third student had a good and ac-
tive cooperation during the lessons. About two out of
three students did not participate actively during class.
In every lesson, there was in total just one out of the
23 students who actively disrupted the class. In the
second semester the distribution changed. Every sec-
ond student participated actively and in a positive way
in the lessons, while every other remained quiet dur-
ing class. On average two out of 23 students disrupted
class. The classification into the three categories 1, 0
and -1 enables the opportunity to calculate the average
participation. Taking a look at the first semester and
the individual lessons, there was not even one lesson
with a negative average.
Immersion into the World of Gaming: An Approach of Introducing Gamification in an Educational Context
Furthermore, figure 8 shows that all lessons, ex-
cept five, got an average value of active cooperation
in class between 0.5 and 0.
Figure 8: Average Active Cooperation in Class 1st
Semester (without Gamification).
Figure 9 shows, that during the second semester,
there were eight lessons above 0.5 and two below 0.
Figure 9: Average Active Cooperation in Class 2nd
Semester (with Gamification).
Figure 10 shows the overview of homework dur-
ing the whole school year. Both values for “not
handed in or bad” as well as “too late or not good”
decreased over the year, whereas homework graded
with “in time and good” increased.
Figure 10: Overview Homework.
Figure 11 shows the quantity of submitted vol-
untary homework. Since each submitted voluntary
homework was rated “very good”, there were no qual-
itative differences.
During the first and second semester, there was
one test each. Figure 12 shows the test grades. In the
Figure 11: Voluntary Homework.
first semester without gamification 3 out of 23 stu-
dents reached “very good”, 3 students “good”, 7 stu-
dents “satisfying”, 6 students “sufficient” and 4 stu-
dents failed. Whereas in the second semester that im-
plemented gamified lessons, 5 out of 23 students got
“very good”, 10 students “good”, 5 students “satis-
fying”, 2 students “sufficient”, and only one failed.
Concluding, the arithmetic mean went from around
3.22 (first semester) to 2.30 (second semester). The
median rose from 3 (satisfying) to 2 (good).
Figure 12: Test Grades in 1st and 2nd Semester.
5.3 Discussion
During the first semester, the class split into a mix of
active students, non-active students, and students that
disrupted class. While few students were actively dis-
rupting the lessons, most of the students were passive
recipients and only few clever students were enriching
the lessons with their questions and corresponding an-
swers. In the second semester the biggest part of the
students (passive recipients) split up. One third of the
group could catch up on the active students with bet-
ter grades by active cooperation. Two thirds stayed
in the same peer group. For the most part of the first
semester, the active cooperation kept stable. Beside
two weeks during the general exam time, the average
active cooperation rose in the second semester and de-
creased only slowly during the rest of the semester.
The number of noticeable positive grades in-
creased from one third of the group in the first
semester to half of the group in second semester. The
lessons changed more and more from a teacher cen-
CSEDU 2020 - 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
tered speech to a conversation, where the students ex-
plored the new topics.
The results have to be interpreted with caution.
On the first glance one can summarize that the intro-
duction of gamification in the second semester lead to
the improvements of grades and active cooperation in
class. But there are also various other factors to con-
sider. First, the teacher was new both in school and
in class and students need time to adapt to a teaching
style. Furthermore, most of the students’ grades in-
crease towards summer, because they want good end
In summary, it can be stated that there is no one-size-
fits all design for the successful installation of gamifi-
cation into a lesson. Diverse player types have various
traits and react different to the used game elements.
Pedro et al. show that game mechanics in a par-
ticular game have different effects for students with
different genders (Pedro et al., 2015). They stud-
ied female and male students in standard educational
systems versus virtual learning environments (VLE).
While girls felt more pressure during the the gamified
lessons, boys were more motivated and received bet-
ter scores compared to the standard educational sys-
tem. Overall, one can summarize that in educational
context it is important to consider gender differences
to draw better conclusions about the impact on mo-
tivation and learning (Pedro et al., 2015). There was
not a single female student in both of the classes of the
pilot study. This is why in future research we have to
concentrate on female students as well.
As it turned out, the concepts of gamification
helped this particular class in the pilot study to en-
hance their grades. The next step will be the evalu-
ation of the “BrainHex” player types and the possi-
ble correlation of the player type and the educational
achievements of the corresponding student. Further-
more, it is planned to take a closer look at the sec-
ond group of the pilot phase as well. Those students
had their lesson just once a week and the group was
significant smaller. A detailed analysis of their par-
ticipation in class and grades, as well as the compar-
ison of both groups may provide further information
of how flexible the applied gamification platform and
game elements are and how they perform on different
player types.
Andrade, F., Mizoguchi, R., and Isotani, S. (2016). The
bright and dark sides of gamification. volume 9684,
pages 1–11.
Bartle, R. (1996). Hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades: Players
who suit muds.
Classcraft (2019). Classcraft - komplette plattform f
bildungs-gamifizierung. Available at https://www.
Crx4Chrome (2019). Classcraft 1.0 screenshot. Available
at 36962/ .
Cugelman, B. (2013). Gamification: What it is and why it
matters to digital health behavior change developers.
JMIR Serious Games, 1(1):e3.
Deterding, S., Khaled, R., Nacke, L., and Dixon, D. (2011).
Gamification: Toward a definition. pages 12–15.
Dicheva, D., Irwin, K., and Dichev, C. (2019). Gamifying
with oneup: For learning, grades or fun? In Gentile,
M., Allegra, M., and S
obke, H., editors, Games and
Learning Alliance, pages 343–353, Cham. Springer
International Publishing.
Gabriel, S. (2018). Was Schule von digitalen Spielen lernen
kann. Open Online Journal for Research and Educa-
tion, pages 259–264.
Gruber, M. J., Gelman, B. D., and Ranganath, C.
(2014). States of Curiosity Modulate Hippocampus-
Dependent Learning via the Dopaminergic Circuit.
Neuron, 84(2):486–496.
Ifenthaler, D. (2019). The abc-model of game-design.
Available at https://
fig1 328465807.
IRMA, I. R. M. A. (2018). Gamification in education:
Breakthroughs in research and practice. IGI Global.
Keller, J. M. (1987). Development and use of the arcs model
of instructional design. Journal of instructional devel-
opment, 10(3):2.
Klopfer, E., Osterweil, S., and Salen, K. (2009). Moving
learning games forward. The Education Arcade.
Knapp, K. M. (2012). The Gamification of Learning and
Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for
Training and Education - Karl M. Kapp - Google
Books. ASTD, New York, 1 edition.
Lee, J. and Hammer, J. (2011). Gamification in education:
What, how, why bother? Academic Exchange Quar-
terly, 15:1–5.
Millar, D., Roshan Patel, H., and Hornsby, A.-J. (2010).
Solving Preadolescent Anti Socialism Through Play.
Technical report.
Nacke, L., Bateman, C., and Mandryk, R. (2011). Brainhex:
Preliminary results from a neurobiological gamer ty-
pology survey. volume 6972, pages 288–293.
Pedro, L. Z., Lopes, A. M. Z., Prates, B. G., Vassileva, J.,
and Isotani, S. (2015). Does gamification work for
boys and girls?: An exploratory study with a virtual
learning environment. In Proceedings of the 30th An-
nual ACM Symposium on Applied Computing, SAC
’15, pages 214–219, New York, NY, USA. ACM.
Immersion into the World of Gaming: An Approach of Introducing Gamification in an Educational Context
Robson, K., Plangger, K., Kietzmann, J., McCarthy, I., and
Pitt, L. (2015). Game on: Engaging customers and
employees through gamification. Business Horizons,
Ryan, R. M. and Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic
Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions.
Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25:54–67.
Sanchez, E., Young, S., and Jouneau-Sion, C. (2017). Class-
craft: from gamification to ludicization of classroom
management. Education and Information Technolo-
gies, 22(2):497–513.
Simoes, J., D
ıaz Redondo, R., and Vilas, A. (2012). A social
gamification framework for a k-6 learning platform.
Computers in Human Behavior, 29.
Stefanidis, A., Phalp, K., and Ali, R. (2018). Conceptualis-
ing gamification risks to teamwork within enterprise.
In The Practice of Enterprise Modeling: 11th IFIP
WG 8.1. Working Conference, PoEM 2018, Vienna,
Austria, October 31–November 2, 2018, Proceedings,
volume 335, page 105. Springer.
Taylor, G., Jungert, T., Mageau, G. A., Schattke, K., Dedic,
H., Rosenfield, S., and Koestner, R. (2014). A self-
determination theory approach to predicting school
achievement over time: The unique role of intrinsic
motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology,
CSEDU 2020 - 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Education