gas-like elements


What is Gamification?

Gamification is an instructional strategy that combines intention with a coherent collection of game elements to produce an engaging learning experience connected to objectives and outcomes.

Other Common Names

Other common names for gamification include:

  • Game design
  • Game mechanics

Key Properties

There is a difference between element 42 (games) and element 21 (gamification). Games—as you’ll read in chapter 5, “Radioactive Elements”—are something you play, and are often isolated activities within a larger learning experience. Gamification, on the other hand, is an intentional design strategy applied to some or all of a learning experience.

If you’re curious whether your learning program has truly “gamified” the
experience for your learners, you may want to ask whether it has any combination
of these gamification properties:

  • Engages learners by carrying game-based elements throughout the design of a learning experience
  • Balances content delivery and game play in an ongoing basis
  • Introduces or reinforces new knowledge, skills, or abilities
gamification for learning

quotes from what's your formula about gamification

Whats Your Formula book
Order your copy to learn more about gamification and all of the related elements.

Elements that Bond with Gamification

lesson planLesson Plan

A game is something you play, while gamification is an intentional design strategy. Using a lesson plan (or for e-learning, a storyboard) to map out that design strategy can help you connect the dots and envision how a completely gamified program could work.

quiz softwareQuiz Software

Using quiz software such as Kahoot during a training session can be a fun way to introduce topics or engage learners in review activity. The system does all the work when it comes to keeping track of points and leaders, all you need to do is fill in the questions and the content. To bring this beyond a game into the realm of gamification, you can use quiz software as one element in a series of challenges whereby your learners must achieve a minimum threshold score to continue their quest for knowledge and new skills, only unlocking the next piece of content once the threshold has been reached.


There are several ways video can play a part in a larger gamification initiative. First, presenting your learners with a challenge to generate learner-created content and share during a session or post as part of an online program can be a way to earn points or complete a challenge that unlocks additional content or feedback. Video can also be used to allow SMEs (or even actors) to present content as a clue or part of a game component that learners need to piece together to uncover important content or be exposed to new skills.


Using a comprehensive narrative to help a learner navigate an overall learning experience can bring relevance to individual games and activities throughout an e-learning experience.


Not only can you learn a lot about the answers and choices a participant makes during a gamified experience, but you can assess a lot about the learner and their ability to work with others and problem solve as well.

augmented realityAugmented Reality

When you think about the gamification of learning programs, there are a variety of technologies that can be helpful; encouraging participants to use their devices can broaden their learning opportunities. Integrating the element of augmented reality allows your participants to see things that aren’t actually physically present in the training environment, which can add a unique touch to your training program. Take advantage of software tools like Zappar and send your participants on an augmented reality–based quest or scavenger hunt as part of a broader gamification initiative.


It would be very difficult to generate a gamified learning experience without the use of games. However, you need to remember that games—even if you put a series of games into one learning experience—are not synonymous with gamification. The games chosen, the game-like elements integrated, and the comprehensive nature of a learning experience are the pieces that need to be combined to create a truly gamified experience.

learning objectivesLearning Objectives Taxonomy

The whole key to success for a gamified learning initiative—and the element that will help differentiate between a fun, engaging experience and a valuable, effective experience—is the learning objective taxonomy that’s used, and specifically the learning objectives that have been defined for the program. If the activities don’t align with the best way in which to accomplish the learning objectives, then gamified or not, it’s not an effective learning program.

Books On Gamification

If you’d like to read in more depth about gamification, I also recommend Karl Kapp’s The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education.
For the Win! Game thinking
In their book For the Win: How Game Design Can Revolutionize Your Business, Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter outline a whole host of other game elements to include in any gamification design and strategy:

Download the Element Sanity Check

Even if you haven’t yet purchased the book (what are you waiting for?!) you can get access to worksheets that will help guide you through the use of the elements of amazing learning experiences.