Gamification for Studying Part 2: Motivation

picture of student studying

Points to Look for:

  • Motivation (Extrinsic & Intrinsic)
  • Self-Efficacy
  • Metacognition


Quite recently, I found myself playing a video game called Divinity: Original Sin 2 for hours. Instead of grading assignments and planning the next assessment, I was playing Divinity: Original Sin 2 because it is more engaging. How could I make educational tasks more engaging? In this blog, I focus more on the motivation behind games and how to translate that into studying.

Some background on the game: my selected character is the human enchantress named Lohse who has a literal inner demon that plagues her thoughts and magical powers. Lohse’s mission is to stop a powerful God King from misusing Source powers on Rivellon. One reason why I was glued to Divinity: Original Sin 2 was because I wanted to keep completing missions, inching closer to finishing the storyline despite my losses. Lohse died quite a few times during my intense battles… Luckily, I was playing with someone so they could use a Resurrection Scroll on my character. So, instead of starting from a saved game, we were able to continue where Lohse died.

My gaming experience as Lohse allowed me to draw connections to education.

  • Game: Life: Rutgers University 2
  • Character: Lohse, Teacher in Training
  • Goal: Completing each semester to become a master teacher
  • Missions: exams and projects

Motivation (Extrinsic & Intrinsic)

Unlike with studying, I feel more motivated to redo a mission in Divinity: Original Sin 2 than redo an exam or project. Richter et. al. (2015) explained that “motivation is demonstrated by an individual’s choice to engage in an activity and the intensity of effort or persistence in that activity” (24). As a reflection, why am I choosing to continue playing Divinity: Original Sin 2 instead of getting ready for the upcoming school week? I feel both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation with Divinity: Original Sin 2 compared to mostly extrinsic motivation with studying (Richter et. al., 2015, 24). With Divinity: Original Sin 2, I feel extrinsically motivated because Lohse receives rare equipment after completing missions that I can use in battles or as bartering items. I feel intrinsically motivated because I am learning new skills and how to apply them in battles. “Extrinsic motivations are created through external factors, rewards, or incentives” (Richter, et. al., 2015, 30). Meanwhile, intrinsic motivation is related to our perception of enjoyment and ability to be successful.


My main extrinsic motivator is grades after exams and projects. I realized that my intrinsic motivation was self-efficacy. I was nervous waiting to start exams because I doubted how well I recalled information and if I can apply them accurately to tricky high-level questions (Bandura, 1994, 2). Afterwards, I would see the published score and realize that I did just fine. This would ultimately increase self-efficacy. While it is easier to obtain through video games, self-efficacy in studying is just as motivating. Richter (2015) explained that “people with high self-efficacy [...] invest more effort; they persist; and when failure occurs, they recover more quickly and maintain the commitment to their goals” (27-28). Bandura (1994) takes this concept a step further by stating, “After people become convinced they have what it takes to succeed, they persevere in the face of adversity and quickly rebound from setbacks” (2). It is easier to understand this concept through games, but how does this apply to studying?

Changing Metacognition

Well, studying under the gamified perspective allows me to rewrite my metacognition. I can understand that grades are feedback on how I am doing; not whether I am good enough. When I receive scores lower than my expectations, I can study more effectively for the next assessment and see it as another mission Lohse needs to prepare for. Lohse needs to practice newly acquired skills on smaller missions such as in-class Clicker quizzes, homework assignments, and discussion posts. Lohse is ready for the big boss exam once the smaller missions prove successful (Bandura, 1994, 3). A way to recreate my gamified perspective is changing my extrinsic motivation. Instead of just seeing a high score and feeling successful, I can also view an A as celebrating with friends; a B as eating at my favorite restaurant; and a C as having a homecooked meal with family. Of course, redefining extrinsic motivators varies based on individual wants and needs. Similar to playing games, each success is rewarded in some way that feels good. Each loss is a chance to prove the character’s self-efficacy.




Joyce Macaraeg, Academic Coach, Spring 2021