Criticisms of Gamification in Education

Instructor: Loren Rozanski

Loren has a B.S. in History and a M.S. in Special Education. She works actively in the education field.

There are several drawbacks to gamification that should be considered before using this concept in your classroom.Let's take a look at some of the criticisms.

Gamification - What's Not To Love?

Let's take a look into Mrs. Green's classroom. Tired of teaching the Bill of Rights the same way every year, she found an online game that will introduce the topic to her students.

However, as her students start logging onto the website, she notices that they are being prompted to input personal information before they can play. Later on, she notices two students trying to click through the game as fast as possible, without reading the scenarios filled with content.

Mrs. Green starts to worry that she made the wrong decision in gamifying her lesson.

Is the gamification of your classroom a good idea?
classroom video games

Gamification is the incorporation of game-like features into learning. It has become a big trend, specifically in using online content. Games can be a fun and exciting way to bring new concepts into the classroom, but there are also several criticisms to consider before creating a gamified curriculum, or turning your classroom into an 'educational arcade.'


There are some more obvious drawbacks to educational gaming, mainly:

  • not being able to find a game that meets the needs of your learning objective
  • having a game take up precious class time while not fully covering your content

But there are other criticisms of gaming in the classroom that have become more prevalent.


One major drawback is introducing the concept of pointsification, or assigning points for mastery of a concept. Creating a culture of pointsification in the classroom can lead to students needing instant gratification as a motivator for learning.

While this may not occur if gaming is used infrequently, constantly assigning a points value to mastery can have unintended consequences and build habits in students that may be hard to reverse.

Retaining Information

While supporters may argue that students are more engaged and interested in learning when gamification is used, some see gaming as a way of bribing students. They learn the goals to unlock achievements, and therefore they are only learning for the sake of achieving a checkpoint of reaching a milestone.

Students may not be retaining information, but rather learning just enough to complete the challenge, then disposing of the information immediately after.


Another criticism is the potential for cheating within games, especially in education. There is little to stop a student from searching the internet or looking up an answer. If the games are the sole method of evaluation, it becomes near impossible to determine which information a student actually knows and which information has been looked up.

Although this is an issue across education due to the changing landscape of the classroom, gaming and especially the urge to win, may increasingly drive students to cheat.

Regulatory and Legal Issues

Another criticism of gamification of the classroom involves the regulatory and legal issues, and ultimately the ethics of introducing these concepts to students.

Some argue that there is a very thin line between gamification and exploitationware, which is the exploitation of gaming to get students to complete tasks. The term mainly refers to big business borrowing from the fun of playing games to introduce marketable content to their employees or clients, but can apply here too.

Whenever students come into play, privacy should always be a concern of educators. Specifically, the amount of personal information that students are required to share with the gaming program in order to gain access to the material.

Often times, account creation involves a first and last name, e-mail address, and other personal information. It may be difficult to hold the gaming site accountable for failing to protect students' personal information.

A second legal concern is the introduction of advertising and paid endorsements into the educational setting. While it is possible to find gaming systems that do not rely on outside funding, it's more rare.

This may lead to biased or advertiser-influenced content, which may or may not provide the most accurate setting for learning. Educators may have a difficult time ensuring that all content is unbiased and without advertiser influence.

Ways to Avoid Misuse

Spending a few extra minutes preparing to play a game in your room can help protect your students and ensure that their gaming is educational. Here are some tips:

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