Humans have been playing games for a long, long time.
From the Ancient Egyptian board game Senet (3500 BCE) to current video games like Call of Duty, people have played games throughout history. In some ways, we are wired to enjoy games.
While games are old, the term “gamification” is new. Gamification is the activity of applying gameplay methods to non-games to make them more engaging. According to experts, the term gamification didn’t become popular until 2010; however, people have been “gamifying” since the late 1800s.
The history of gamification
Here’s a brief timeline of the history of gamification:
- 1896: Sperry & Hutchinson Co. created a reward program using “Green Stamps.” Shoppers collected stamps and later redeemed them for rewards (like the modern Monopoly game from McDonald’s).
- 1908: Boy Scouts started using badges to incentivize members to learn skills, attend events, and do other activities to earn badges and rewards.
- 1981: American Airlines launched the first frequent flier program that encouraged customer loyalty by offering monetary rewards for customers.
- 2002: The term “gamification” first appeared when Nick Pelling coined the word.
- 2020-2025: The gamification industry is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 30.31% over the next five years. As of 2019, gamification was already a 7.17 billion dollar industry.
Gamification history shows that gamification has been utilized as a marketing strategy and a tactic to engage learners. By using gamification, people are more likely to take specific actions (like purchasing or learning) because they enjoy playing games.
Why is gamification effective in learning?
Unfortunately, we’ve all had the experience of nodding off in class, at a training, or while studying. Despite our best efforts, sometimes learning just isn’t “fun.”
This is where gamification comes in.
On a basic level, we are wired to learn from play. From the time we are little, we learn through “playing pretend:” acting out imaginative scenarios that are instructive for development and socialization.
As adults, games still have the power to transform tedious tasks into engaging, pleasurable activities. Gamification is so effective in learning (for children and adults) because the learner forgets they are “working” and instead feels they are “playing.”
Additionally, scientific studies show that students who learn with gamified content experience increased long-term retention. According to the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, gamification increased retention by 12.23% and increased overall performance by 7.03%.
A systematic review of gamification’s effectiveness also found that:
“Gamification promises to increase engagement with online programs…Results of this systematic review indicate that gamification positively impacts engagement and downstream behaviours (e.g. health behaviours and academic performance), especially in the short term. Preliminary evidence also indicates that leader boards may be a particularly effective gamification feature, however more research is required to confirm this” (study).
As far back as 1997, the U.S. Department of Defense used gamification to train soldiers safely. They saw astounding results: “an 11% increase in knowledge recall, a 14% increase in procedural knowledge, and a 9% greater retention of knowledge” (study).
Overall, gamification apps help learners engage authentically with content and forget that they are “working”. Gamification is one of the most effective ways to increase learner engagement, retention, and recall by reducing barriers to learning.
Effective Gamification with EdApp
At EdApp, we infuse gamification strategies into the core of our microlearning platform. Why? Gamification triggers real emotions in learners (like the desire to win or earn prizes) that motivate learners to engage with content authentically.
Mobile microlearning, combined with gamification, puts modern workers in the best position to learn. That’s why companies who use EdApp’s platform have experienced increased completion rates, increased engagement in training, and increased retention.
Here’s how it works:
Prizing and real rewards
The EdApp platform allows you to provide real rewards to employees. Example rewards include gift cards, free coffee, or food vouchers from Uber Eats.
As employees progress in their gamified training, they can redeem rewards based on criteria set by you, the trainer. Motivate employees to learn by giving them rewards based on course completion, frequency-of-use, and performance.
EdApp’s leaderboard function allows employees to compare their learning progress with others. People are more motivated to learn when there are real stakes, like winning and losing. Leaderboards promote healthy competition and push employees to get excited about the learning experience.
Rapid authoring gaming templates
We offer diverse, premade gaming templates for you to customize. Templates range from True/False to a Jeopardy simulation. These easy-to-use templates allow you to transform your current training system into gamified content within a few hours (or minutes, depending on how fast you work!).
Case study: “The Bar World of Tomorrow” course
In collaboration with Pernod Ricard, Trash Tiki, and the Sustainable Restaurant Association, EdApp recently released a course called The Bar World of Tomorrow. During this challenging time of COVID-19, the course aims to prepare professionals for the future of the service industry. You can take the course for free here.
The course contains 14 microlessons and focuses on the best sustainability and responsibility practices in the bar world. All content is aligned with the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Learn how to use responsibly-sourced ingredients, reduce food waste, and address common bar problems with actionable solutions.
Bonus content includes: transforming your bar checklist, mocktail and cocktail recipes, a seasonality chart, and more!
The course uses gamification in two ways: badges to reward learners when they reach goals and gamified course content. Here’s what it looks like:
#1 – Categorize and match game
In this game, the learner matches the word in the middle with 1 of 2 categories. As they play, they gain points for correct answers. This game tests the learner’s knowledge through a fun, interactive game within the flow of learning.
At the end of the game, the learner can review their progress and even try the game again to get a higher score.
#2 – Letter Jumble
Letter Jumble is an excellent game to review newly-learned vocabulary words and visualize the words. How it works: gain points for placing the correct letter in the missing box to form the word.
At the end of the game, the learner can review their score and retry the game again to earn a higher score. Points are an excellent way to motivate learners to “win” and keep learning. This activity encourages repetition in learning through gamified content.
Key takeaways from The Bar World of Tomorrow course:
- Gamified elements keep a learner engaged throughout a microlesson. While games work well as a review tool, they also keep the learner engaged when they are embedded throughout the lesson.
- Gamified lessons can take multiple shapes and forms, depending on your needs as a trainer or curriculum designer.
- Gamified content doesn’t feel like a “test,” but learners are testing their knowledge while playing. Gamification increases learner retention and motivation by making work fun.
EdApp and gamification
At EdApp, we know that gamification is not an “add-on” to learning—it is an integral part of the learning process. Microlearning and gamification work hand-in-hand to perfect the mobile learning experience for the modern learner. Get better training outcomes for your team today by creating your own course.