Gamification is the Future of Education

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Anyone who’s played video games and enjoyed them knows how engaging they can be. They employ a combination of problem-solving, storytelling, and reward systems, as well as colorful worlds and characters. Video games may seem like mindless entertainment, but something fundamental about them requires further scrutiny. Researchers are indeed looking closer into integrating gaming mechanics into other activities, particularly when it comes to education. At the same time, college courses are emerging that are specifically geared toward the study of gamification.

The move toward gamification in education has been a long time coming. Dating back to the 80s and 90s, educational software, especially for children at younger ages, has often featured some sort of reward system and tactics for keeping them engaged. Educational software has become more sophisticated with advances in computer hardware and research into the benefits of video games in general. What’s more, it’s now possible to pursue a college-level education in gamification, where job opportunities in the sector are becoming more common.

What makes video games so engaging?

Over the last couple of decades, a slew of research has gone into why video games are so engaging, and at times addicting. However, despite their tendency to be addictive, video games have been shown to offer cognitive benefits to those who don’t play in excess. Some benefits include increased hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, creativity, and even social skills if the game is multiplayer.

Video games often feature complex puzzles to solve in order to advance levels. This acts as a cognitive exercise that tends to be so fun that it’s sometimes hard to tell that you’re even engaging in such puzzles.

Furthermore, fast-paced video games such as first-person shooters require a level of dexterity to succeed. Gamers who frequently engage in these games also develop better spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination. Navigating large in-game maps repeatedly can increase spatial memory, much like what has been seen in the brains of taxi drivers who remember routes in large cities.

An often overlooked component of video games is also their tendency to bring people together. For people with social anxiety or inadequate social skills, video games can offer a gateway toward social interaction disguised underneath fun and engaging game mechanics. For example, massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) such as the widely popular World of Warcraft series can connect people online while they’re still at home. That’s great for people who may be afraid to leave the house to meet new people. In addition, many MMOs have cooperative elements that require players to participate in common objectives. This can increase bonds between people, much like what is expected to happen with team-building exercises.

Other benefits to video games include anti-anxiety and the promotion of relaxation, particularly with more accessible, arcade-style games. The proliferation of mobile game apps has seen a massive rise since the inception of smartphones. This is mainly due to how accessible they are to people who don’t even consider themselves gamers.

Deconstructing the benefits of playing video games and understanding what makes them so engaging has led researchers to see the potential in gamifying activities outside of entertainment alone. More specifically, gamification in education is gaining a lot of traction as it appears to be a great way to help people learn better.

How you can contribute to the field of gamification

If you enjoy video games, then you might find interest in pursuing an education in gamification. A field such as this would require a multidisciplinary understanding of game design, programming, psychology and storytelling. For this reason, the use cases for gamification extend outside of just educational technology and can encompass marketing and business too.

The list of universities offering gamification-centered courses is ever-increasing. As computer hardware improves, video games are becoming more immersive. Fully immersive virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) devices, which seem to be the holy grail of video games, are on the horizon and offer opportunities to expand gamification to other parts of society. Studying gamification could lead you down a career track that involves coding AR and MR applications that can be used in education, business, or industrial tasks.

Computer programming is undoubtedly a large part of video games and is highly relevant to gamification studies. But depending on your ultimate career goals, you may find that a gamification college track supplemented by marketing courses is preferable as well. Digital advertising and marketing are becoming essential for online businesses and show no signs of slowing down. Understanding search engine optimization (SEO) and how Google ranks web pages can inform businesses on how best to implement gamified advertising that captures consumer attention better. Adding elements of game design to marketing tactics could increase sales conversions too.

Perhaps the most important application of gamification lies solely in educational technology. Helping people to be better learners is at the core of the growth of all industries. Applying all of the above-mentioned elements of video games to education could ultimately lead to a society eager to learn any subject, especially those difficult science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses.

Pursuing an education in gamification can take you down a very fruitful path with opportunities in just about any industry. All the while, the technology that you’d be creating would directly benefit you and everyone around you in real-time. Thus, as the need for gamified applications rises, so will the need for people educated in gamification.

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