How game-based learning motivates students and helps them pay attention

From childhood to adulthood, there is one activity that remains constant in the lives of most people – playing games.

According to Statista, there are approximately 2.7 billion gamers in the world as of 2020. A significant proportion of these people are adults, with the average age of gamers being 32, as per Entertainment Software Association.

Gaming is just as popular among children. CNET reports that 91 percent of children are gamers!

The elements of games that make them so addictive can be incorporated for optimum learning among individuals. Gamification can help hone various skills in people. In fact, when used in an educational setting, it can improve student attention and motivation.

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Understanding game-based learning

Game-based learning is a comparatively new and much more innovative approach to education. It leverages the inclination of students towards gaming and uses it in the academic setting to clarify concepts and boost engagement.

Different computer games and apps, each of which possesses certain educational value, are used for teaching enhancement, learning support, and evaluation of the strengths of the learners. Different elements, ranging from gratification to prompt feedback, are used to ensure attention and collaboration.

In an educational context, game-based learning can include:

  • Simulation games to recreate concepts, like OurCity – a Facebook game that help individuals develop knowledge about cities and resources.
  • Puzzles and online quizzes that increase the feeling of competition among peers. For example, National Geographic Kids offers quizzes of various topics like Sharks, Space Exploration, and the Solar System.
  • Collaborative gaming, like that allows students to learn how to work in a team while building the largest snake.

Various studies have showcased that game-based learning is positively correlated with increased motivation, attention, and interest among learners. For instance, a literature review conducted by Katrina Serrano of the University of Northern Iowa showcased that collaboration encouraged by gamification can help boost motivation.

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However, caution has to be taken when deciding which games to incorporate into the academic world. Spam and incessant ads have their own pitfalls.

 As per a ResearchGate literature review, ads in games, regardless of the nature of the game, are marred with ethical concerns. This is because children don’t often possess the competence to correctly identify the intention of ad placement in games, thereby making them more vulnerable to promotions as well as spam.

This is why academic professionals must sift each app and game with a fine comb. So for starters, it is advised to skim through apps. For this, consider the example of airG. It is a platform that offers services like chat communities, games, and marketing solutions.  Its games are fun and learning for adults and children alike. For example, the game Big Barn World by airG is a farming simulation which helps children in learning about the art of farming and harvesting.

But due to third party billing scams, it got trapped into airG spam scenario. Since airG was focused on a seamless app experience, it took quick action against the issue, where other developers might overlook clients’ concerns.

Therefore, you just need to conduct thorough research before finalizing your option. Peruse reviews about the games you wish to include in the curriculum beforehand. See if they have issues like excessive ads, spam, or privacy problems.

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Five ways game-based learning work

Many advocate for gamification to become a part of academic courses. Here is how game-based learning proves to be helpful to students.

  1. Building a connection with the subject matter

A lot is taught in a classroom setting. However, little is visualized and experienced. And even lesser is retained.

Game-based learning truly immerses a given individual into the topic. For instance, rather than reading about human anatomy, simulation games allow people to assume the role of a doctor and visualize the different parts of human anatomy first hand.


This helps in creating a connection with the subject matter. It is easier to understand the concepts being taught when you can see them in action.

For example, Minecraft is an excellent educational game. It teaches children about resource management by illustrating just how different items around us are made.

  • Instant reward and incentive

Research by the University of Chicago has showcased that student performance tends to spike if they are given rewards right before tests and incentives right after.

These insights illustrate why game-based learning is effective. All games have a point system. Players are faced with challenges of varying degrees. They get the motivation to continue playing because of intriguing storylines and for the desire to earn a high score.

The storyline acts as an incentive while points as a reward system. The gratification that students feel upon winning encourages them to focus on the task at hand. When educational, the chances of these tasks being retained are highly likely.

  • Tracking progress

Competition boosts performance. Games allow students to keep tabs on the performance of others while the instructor can track the efforts of all students at the same time.

What do you think makes online games like PUBG so attractive? It is the interaction with real players from all over the world! This increases the desire to win in masses.

In game-based learning, you get a chance to test your skills against students around the world. This helps in motivating students to try harder and achieve more.


For instance, Knoword is a vocabulary game that comes with a teacher portal that helps in tracking the progress of students’.

  • A road to individualized teaching

One criticism of the conventional educational system is that it is tilted towards those who are academically gifted and is against those who are challenged.


Well, this is because the questions and performance of brainy children tend to overshadow the struggles who underperform. Also, not to mention that with an average student-teacher ratio, it is hard to give attention to every child. It is also seemingly impossible to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses effectively.

For instance, games available on Lumosity keep track of user performance and alter their difficulty level accordingly. Consider the Pirate Passage game. It hones the problem-solving skills of individuals by making them find the best route to the treasure. The difficulty of finding the route will vary according to the performance of the player. So, within the same game, the experience of one player can be starkly different from that of another.


Another popular game is Highway Hazard, which involves dodging different obstacles as you operate a racecar. It helps in improving your information processing speed. The speed with which obstacles come, vary according to your performance.

Lumosity itself has conducted various studies to check the efficacy of its games. A random trial revealed that the cognitive performance of those who played the games was better than those who didn’t.

Game-based learning helps to thrive in a culture of individualized teaching and learning. Teachers can track the performance of each student, identify their weaknesses, and work on them.

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  • Feedback incorporation

Games are ever-evolving. Think about all the games and apps on your phone right now. The chances are that they have been updated multiple times this year. This helps in improving the gaming experience and to make it more user-friendly.

In game-based learning, this trend is immensely beneficial. This is because it can take into account how students are faring in the game and alter it according to the insights it gathers. For instance, in case everyone finds a level very challenging, the game can be altered to simplify the level to prevent feelings of frustration.

This real-time feedback incorporation allows games to evolve at the same pace as their players, thereby providing the perfect learning experience.

Researchers at the University of the Netherlands discovered that feedback during game-based learning helps in increasing initiation of the task and hence leads to more superfluous moves.

Ending Remarks

In conclusion, game-based learning can help immensely in revolutionizing the way education is imparted to the masses.

It doesn’t matter what era we live in. There are some things that won’t change. This includes the aversion students feel towards classroom learning and their interest in gaming.

However, the good news is that we are alive at a time when you can integrate the latter in their lives to combat the former. Game-based learning has opened new doors for the world of education and academia.

Time will tell how far technology will benefit students, especially via the video gaming niche. Are you an instructor? Implement game-based learning in your classes, and let us know how it fares for you!

Author Bio:

Evie harrisonis a blogger by choice.  She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences and express herself through her blogs.

 Find her on Twitter:@iamevieharrison

Evie Harrison

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