Are you tired of studying? Are you spending more time playing video games like Escape from Tarkov, Overwatch, Fortnite, Candy Crush, and Among Us? Well, games provide us with something that studying alone does not do—excite us to keep playing! We get excited to beat a level and move onto the next one. We feel accomplishment by defeating the big boss at the end level within a chapter or world. We go out of our way in games to collect inventory and money in order to “buy” more inventory for our avatars. Unfortunately, studying alone does not have these gamification features but we can transform studying using these features. Throughout this blog, I will refer to "Abnormal Psychology", a class I took, to help visualize gamification for studying.

Storyline and Characters

Something that draws us into video games is the exciting storyline2 and how our character3 is involved in manipulating that storyline. While this uses creative time and effort, it enhances the studying experience and increases memory retention.

For instance, I studied the major subtypes of specific phobias in "Abnormal Psychology". There are 5 that I learned: blood-injury-injection phobia, situational phobia, natural environment phobia, animal phobia, and separation anxiety phobia. These content-specific terms will be on the midterm, but they are boring to study.

In my Phobia game, my character is the adventure-seeking doctor named Dr. Anti Phobic. The setting is in a post-apocalyptic world because everything is now. While Dr. Anti Phobic hunts for food, they notice a child screaming and rocking back-and-forth in a fallen trash can (situational phobia). Since claustrophobia is common, Dr. Anti Phobic picks up the trash can and sees the child roll out of it, already feeling better. Along the way, Dr. Anti Phobic notices a group of teenagers gathered around a turkey with spears, but they are screaming and inching away instead of killing it (animal phobia). Dr. Anti Phobic goes in for the kill and happily walks away with their dinner for tonight; the teenagers surprised Dr. Anti Phobic made such a power play.

In Phobia, I am personifying these content-specific terms into characters which makes reviewing this lecture more engaging and I can sit here imagining more stories about these phobias. This study strategy would benefit those who tend to daydream and let their minds wander into other worlds.

Player Versus Player

Another gamification feature is PvP2, or player versus player. In Phobia, I play in first- or third point of view like in Escape from Tarkov. With PvP, I am competing against someone else in the game, such as Overwatch. PvP mode allows virtual competition where learning is strengthened along the way. If I were to turn Phobia into a PvP game, I would remain as Dr. Anti Phobic and a friend could be Dr. Fear, who has the same missions as I do. The competitive component is who finishes the mission first. In order to get through missions more efficiently, Dr. Anti Phobic and Dr. Fear need to know content well and apply them to real-life situations. In a way, Dr. Anti Phobic is also racing against the clock1 because I want to complete the mission before Dr. Fear. Dr. Anti Phobic has to accurately apply their knowledge of specific phobias to solve obstacles quickly like the child in the trash can and teenagers surrounding a turkey. As long as I can recall and apply my "Abnormal Psychology" content well, I can focus on beating Dr. Fear and win the game. The PvP competition motivates me to implement content knowledge because I want bragging rights and see the badge3 at the end saying I won. Here, I described Phobia as a video game.

PvP can also happen in study groups simply as a quiz show (e.g., Jeopardy) with your friends or physical obstacle courses you create somewhere1. PvP is a way to interact and have fun with your friends while studying the content for any upcoming assessment. This study strategy would benefit those who are extrinsically motivated and like competition.


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.

If you are curious on learning more about these study strategies, schedule an appointment with an academic coach.

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