Gamification for Studying

two students studying with a laptop

Are you tired of studying? Are you spending more time playing video games like Escape from Tarkov, Overwatch, Fortnite, Candy Crush, and Among Us? Well, games provide us with something that studying alone does not do—excite us to keep playing! We get excited to beat a level and move onto the next one. We feel accomplishment by defeating the big boss at the end level within a chapter or world. We go out of our way in games to collect inventory and money in order to “buy” more inventory for our avatars. Unfortunately, studying alone does not have these gamification features but we can transform studying using these features. Throughout this blog, I will refer to Abnormal Psychology, a class I took, to help visualize gamification for studying.

Something that draws us into video games is the exciting storyline² and how our character³ is involved in manipulating that storyline. While this uses creative time and effort, it enhances the studying experience and increases memory retention. For instance, I studied the major subtypes of specific phobias in Abnormal Psychology. There are 5 that I learned: blood-injury-injection phobia, situational phobia, natural environment phobia, animal phobia, and separation anxiety phobia. These content-specific terms will be on the midterm, but they are boring to study. In my Phobia game, my character is the adventure-seeking doctor named Dr. Anti Phobic. The setting is in a post-apocalyptic world because everything is now. While Dr. Anti Phobic hunts for food, they notice a child screaming and rocking back-and-forth in a fallen trash can (situational phobia). Since claustrophobia is common, Dr. Anti Phobic picks up the trash can and sees the child roll out of it, already feeling better. Along the way, Dr. Anti Phobic notices a group of teenagers gathered around a turkey with spears, but they are screaming and inching away instead of killing it (animal phobia). Dr. Anti Phobic goes in for the kill and happily walks away with their dinner for tonight; the teenagers surprised Dr. Anti Phobic made such a power play. In Phobia, I am personifying these content-specific terms into characters which makes reviewing this lecture more engaging and I can sit here imagining more stories about these phobias. This study strategy would benefit those who tend to daydream and let their minds wander into other worlds.

Another gamification feature is PvP², or player versus player. In Phobia, I play in first- or third point of view like in Escape from Tarkov. With PvP, I am competing against someone else in the game, such as Overwatch. PvP mode allows virtual competition where learning is strengthened along the way. If I were to turn Phobia into a PvP game, I would remain as Dr. Anti Phobic and a friend could be, Dr. Fear, who has the same missions as I do. The competitive component is who finishes the mission first. In order to get through missions more efficiently, Dr. Anti Phobic and Dr. Fear need to know content well and apply them to real-life situations. In a way, Dr. Anti Phobic is also racing against the clock¹ because I want to complete the mission before Dr. Fear. Dr. Anti Phobic has to accurately apply their knowledge of specific phobias to solve obstacles quickly like the child in the trash can and teenagers surrounding a turkey. As long as I can recall and apply my Abnormal Psychology content well, I can focus on beating Dr. Fear and win the game. The PvP competition motivates me to implement content knowledge because I want bragging rights and see the badge³ at the end saying I won. Here, I described Phobia as a video game. PvP can also happen in study groups simply as a quiz show (e.g., Jeopardy) with your friends or physical obstacle courses you create somewhere¹. PvP is a way to interact and have fun with your friends while studying the content for any upcoming assessment. This study strategy would benefit those who are extrinsically motivated and like competition.

So far, I discussed two study strategies driven by gamification: narratives and PvP mode. These are common gaming features you can find in a variety of games and can be applied to a variety of content-areas. If you are curious on learning more about these study strategies, schedule an appointment with an academic coach. In an upcoming blog, I plan to discuss how to deal with losing missions and gamified instant gratification.



Joyce Macaraeg, Academic Coach, Spring 2021