Making Your Gamification Efforts Count

Leveraging game elements outside of gaming isn’t a new concept, especially in eLearning. This proven strategy aims to boost motivation and engage learners while offering them a unique experience. Any new knowledge can be turned into a fun and challenging adventure, from fitness apps to language learning platforms. Learners strive to earn badges, collect points to increase their scores, and move up the leaderboard as they want to acquire more and more rewards. But is this enough to create a successful gamified lesson? What if it’s time to move past the rewards and focus on more meaningful elements?

Learners get the initial thrill of winning badges and achievements, but after a while, their enthusiasm fades. This creates the need for features that rely on other factors to motivate them—features that are more impactful and more likely to stick with them. Plus, it’s not always healthy for them to compete with their peers about scores, as there’s the fear that they may focus more on performance than learning itself. So, without further ado, let’s explore some ways you can incorporate meaningful gamification features that don’t rely on points and rewards.

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is what drives us to proceed to do something simply because we genuinely enjoy it. If something gives us pure joy and satisfaction, we do it without the need for rewards, as the reward is the feeling it leaves us. With that in mind, if you want to go beyond badges, points, and scores, you may try to tap into learners’ intrinsic motivation. First, you can try giving them more control, incorporating levels into the lessons, and defining a clear purpose. Below, we present 6 features that can motivate your learners without giving them the thrill of prize-winning.

6 Meaningful Gamification Features That Aren’t Reward-Based

1. Narrative-Driven Experiences

What’s better at sparking your learners’ interest than a captivating story? Turn each module into an adventure where every lesson unlocks a different part of the story. This way, learners will want to move forward not because they want to get to the next level but because they want to unravel the whole narrative while gaining knowledge. But how do you make a story engaging? First, you need relatable characters, whether it’s the protagonist, their loyal friend, or an enemy that tries to jeopardize everything. Then, create plot twists and urge learners to make choices that eventually affect the story’s outcome. This will make them emotionally invested and help them retain information.

2. Player Agency

Gamification gives control to learners, who are now in full charge of each lesson’s outcome, creating a game experience that unfolds based on their preferences and choices. They can choose a character, decide their path, customize in-game elements, adjust their pace, and much more, according to how they play and what they prefer. This is where player agency enters the picture. Learners realize that everything they click on matters and impacts the storyline. Shaping their own destiny in the course gives them plenty of confidence and motivation to perform better and keep engaging in the learning journey.

3. Social Interactions

A large part of gaming relies on playing with others and communicating with people who share the same interests as you. You can bring this element to eLearning with gamification features that foster a sense of communication and collaboration in courses. For example, incorporate multiplayer features to allow learners to achieve goals together with their peers and reach goals faster. Don’t forget about social features, like in-game chat, discussion forums, and options to embark on joined quests with their friends. This way, learning isn’t a solitary experience.

4. Skill Development

Gamified lessons shouldn’t focus solely on the fun part but on the skill-building aspect as well. You need to implement challenges that help them enhance their desired skills through innovative activities and immersive elements, all through a compelling story. Depending on what their learning goals are, your learners can sharpen their problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, conflict resolution, or creativity skills. However, gamification isn’t ideal only for soft skills. You can add simulations and quests to train learners on technical skills too, such as project management, data analysis, marketing, etc.

5. Progress Tracking

Learners need to have a clear picture of their progress, though not necessarily through points and scoreboards. Visualization of their progress is essential. It needs to be encouraging but not force them into unhealthy competition. For instance, you can incorporate percentages, like “You scored higher than 40% of the people taking this quiz.” This gives them a confidence boost without revealing who performed better. In-game messages can also do the trick. They can indicate their achievements or show praise and acknowledgment. In case of error, these messages can be guiding and in the form of tips or advice. Learners should also be able to find personalized reports about their performance that contain extended feedback.

6. Adjusting Difficulty

Challenges are thrilling and engaging, and when people complete them, they feel confident. But let’s not forget that there needs to be a balance between sharpening the brain and challenging it. Gamified lessons should test learners just enough to keep them interested but not overwhelm them, as this distracts them from gaining knowledge. The best you can do is, once again, give control to your learners by allowing them to choose the difficulty level on their own. The learning platform can identify the experience level of each user and, after assessment, recommend difficulty levels that resonate with their skills and expertise.


When you add meaning and purpose to courses with gamification features that aren’t discouraging, you allow learners to connect to the experience on a personal level. This goes to show that people can find joy in things even if they don’t gain rewards and only focus on acquiring knowledge and experience. The more meaningful gamification features you implement in your strategy, the more fulfilling the experience will be, resulting in successful outcomes.


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