Skip to main content

A meta-analysis on the influence of gamification in formal educational settings on affective and behavioral outcomes


The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of gamification used in formal educational settings on student affective and behavioral outcomes. Using systematic procedures to identify and screen the manuscripts across 18 academic databases, we identified 13 studies with behavioral outcomes and 19 studies with affective outcomes employing gamification in educational settings. These manuscripts accounted for a total of N = 1974 (n = 987 in gamification, n = 987 in control) participants in the affective model, and N = 1596 (n = 760 in gamification, n = 836 in control) in the behavioral model. Employing random-effects models, we calculated two statistically significant medium overall effect sizes for affective outcomes at g = .574 [.384, .764] and for behavioral outcomes at g = .740 [.465, 1.014]. We also examined 14 different gamification design elements (e.g., leaderboards, badges, etc.) as moderators to pinpoint the conditions in which gamification may be effective. Additionally, we examined contextual elements as moderators, including the discipline, student level, and publication source. Publication bias was not identified as a threat to either the affective or behavioral model. We also provide a discussion of our findings, limitations, and suggestions for future research.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8


The citations for this meta-analysis included manuscripts with asterisk marks

  1. Alhalafawy, W. S., & Zaki, M. Z. T. (2019). The effect of mobile digital content applications based on gamification in the development of psychological well-being. International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies, 13(8), 107–123.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Alomari, I., Al-Samarraie, H., & Yousef, R. (2019). The role of gamification techniques in promoting student learning: A review and synthesis. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 18, 395–417.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Baptista, G., & Oliveira, T. (2019). Gamification and serious games: A literature meta-analysis and integrative model. Computers in Human Behavior, 92, 306–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bedwell, W. L., Pavlas, D., Heyne, K., Lazzara, E. H., & Salas, E. (2012). Toward a taxonomy linking game attributes to learning: An empirical study. Simulation & Gaming, 43(6), 729–760.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. *Bernik, A., Bubas, G., & Radosevic, D. (2018). Measurement of the effects of e-learning courses gamification on motivation and satisfaction of students. 2018 41st International Convention on Information and Communication Technology, Electronics and Microelectronics (MIPRO) (pp. 0806–0811).

  6. Bloom, B. S. (1965). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. David McKay Company Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Borenstein, M., Hedges, L. V., Higgins, J. P. T., & Rothstein, H. R. (2009). Introduction to meta-analysis. Wiley.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  8. Brown, K. G. (2001). Using computers to deliver training: Which employees learn and why? Personnel Psychology, 54(2), 271–296.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Cagiltay, N. E., Ozcelik, E., & Ozcelik, N. S. (2015). The effect of competition on learning in games. Computers & Education, 87, 35–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. *Çakır, M. P., Çakır, N. A., Ayaz, H., & Lee, F. J. (2016). Behavioral and neural effects of game-based learning on improving computational fluency with numbers: An optical brain imaging study. Zeitschrift Für Psychologie, 224, 297–302.

  11. Caton, H., & Greenhill, D. (2013). The effects of gamification on student attendance and team performance in a third-year undergraduate game production module. Reading: Academic Conferences International Limited. Retrieved from

  12. Chapman, J. R., & Rich, P. J. (2018). Does educational gamification improve students’ motivation? If so, which game elements work best? Journal of Education for Business, 93(7), 315–322.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Cheng, L., Ritzhaupt, A. D., & Antonenko, P. (2019). Effects of the flipped classroom instructional strategy on students’ learning outcomes: A meta-analysis. Educational Technology Research and Development, 67(4), 793–824.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112(1), 155–159.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Cooper, H. (2017). Research synthesis and meta-analysis: A step-by-step approach (5th ed.). Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  16. *Cosgrove, P. J. (2016). The Effects of Gamification on Self-Efficacy and Persistence in Virtual World Familiarization (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

  17. *Denny, P., McDonald, F., Empson, R., Kelly, P., & Petersen, A. (2018). Empirical support for a causal relationship between gamification and learning outcomes. Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems—CHI ’18 (pp. 1–13).

  18. Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., & Nacke, L. (2011). From game design elements to gamefulness: Defining “Gamification.” MindTrek '11: Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments (pp. 9–15).

  19. Dicheva, D., Dichev, C., Agre, G., & Angelova, G. (2015). Gamification in education: A systematic mapping study. Educational Technology & Society, 18(3), 75–88.

  20. *Domínguez, A., Saenz-de-Navarrete, J., de-Marcos, L., Fernández-Sanz, L., Pagés, C., & Martínez-Herráiz, J.-J. (2013). Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. Computers & Education, 63, 380–392.

  21. Duval, S., & Tweedie, R. (2000). Trim and fill: A simple funnel-plot-based method of testing and adjusting for publication bias in meta-analysis. Biometrics, 56(2), 455–463.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fabricatore, C., & López, X. (2014). Using gameplay patterns to gamify learning experiences. Proceedings of the 8th European Conference on Game Based Learning (pp. 110–117). Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited, Reading, UK. ISBN 978-1910309-55-1.

  23. *Frost, R. D., Matta, V., & MacIvor, E. (2015). Assessing the efficacy of incorporating game dynamics in a learning management system. Journal of Information Systems Education, 26(1), 59–70.

  24. *Hanus, M. D., & Fox, J. (2015). Assessing the effects of gamification in the classroom: A longitudinal study on intrinsic motivation, social comparison, satisfaction, effort, and academic performance. Computers & Education, 80, 152–161.

  25. *Haruna, H., Hu, X., Chu, S. K. W., Mellecker, R. R., Gabriel, G., & Ndekao, P. S. (2018). Improving sexual health education programs for adolescent students through game-based learning and gamification. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(9), 2027.

  26. Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge. ISBN 978‐0‐415‐47618‐8.

  27. *Hew, K. F., Huang, B., Chu, K. W. S., & Chiu, D. K. W. (2016). Engaging Asian students through game mechanics: Findings from two experiment studies. Computers & Education, 92–93, 221–236.

  28. Huang, R., Ritzhaupt, A. D., Sommer, M., Zhu, J., Stephen, A., Valle, N., Hampton, J., & Li, J. (2020). The impact of gamification in educational settings on student learning outcomes: A meta-analysis. Educational Technology Research and Development.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. *Kim, E., Rothrock, L., & Freivalds, A. (2016). The effects of Gamification on engineering lab activities. 2016 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE) (pp. 1–6), Erie, PA, USA, 2016.

  30. *Kyewski, E., & Krämer, N. C. (2018). To gamify or not to gamify? An experimental field study of the influence of badges on motivation, activity, and performance in an online learning course. Computers & Education, 118, 25–37.

  31. Landers, R. N. (2014). Developing a theory of gamified learning: Linking serious games and gamification of learning. Simulation & Gaming, 45(6), 752–768.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Landis, J. R., & Koch, G. G. (1977). The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics, 33(1), 159–174.

  33. *Lieberoth, A. (2015). Shallow gamification: Testing psychological effects of framing an activity as a game. Games and Culture, 10(3), 229–248.

  34. Lipsey, M., & Wilson, D. (2001). Practical meta-analysis. Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Mekler, E. D., Brühlmann, F., Tuch, A. N., & Opwis, K. (2017). Towards understanding the effects of individual gamification elements on intrinsic motivation and performance. Computers in Human Behavior, 71, 525–534.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. *Meşe, C., & Dursun, Ö. Ö. (2018). Influence of gamification elements on emotion, interest and online participation. Education and Science Tedmem, 43(196), 67–95.

  37. Moher, D., Liberati, A., Tetzlaff, J., Altman, D. G., & The PRISMA Group. (2009). Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: The PRISMA statement. PLoS Med, 6(7), e1000097.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. *Morillas Barrio, C., Munoz-Organero, M., & Sánchez Soriano, J. (2016). Can gamification improve the benefits of student response systems in learning? An experimental study. IEEE Transactions on Emerging Topics in Computing, 4(3), 429–438.

  39. *Moritz, S. C. (2017). Examination of Badges to Increase Nursing Student Engagement: A Quasi-Experimental Study (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest (10258458).

  40. Morrison, G. R., Ross, S. J., Morrison, J. R., & Kalman, H. K. (2019). Designing effective instruction. Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Ortiz, M., Chiluiza, K., & Valcke, M. (2016). Gamification in higher education and STEM: A systematic review of literature. EDULEARN16 Proceedings (pp. 6548–6558).

  42. *Ortiz Rojas, M. E., Chiluiza, K., & Valcke, M. (2017). Gamification in computer programming: Effects on learning, engagement, self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation. Proceedings of the 11th European Conference on Games Based Learning (ECGBL 2017) (pp. 507–514). England: ACAD CONFERENCES LTD.

  43. Orwin, R. G. (1983). A fail-safe N for effect size in meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Statistics, 8(2), 157–159.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. *Owens, D. C. (2016). The effects of gamification on achievement goal orientation and motivation to learn biology in an introductory undergraduate laboratory course (Order No. 10111216). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global (1794167061). Retrieved from

  45. Pitoyo, M. D., Sumardi, S., & Asib, A. (2019). Gamification based assessment: A test anxiety reduction through game elements in Quizizz platform. International Online Journal of Education & Teaching (IOJET), 6(3), 454–470.

  46. *Poondej, C., & Lerdpornkulrat, T. (2016). The development of gamified learning activities to increase student engagement in learning. Australian Educational Computing, 31(2). Retrieved from

  47. Rocha, E. M., Pereira, G. M., & Pacheco, D. A. d. j. (2019). The role of the predictive gamification to increase the sales performance: A novel business approach. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 35(5), 817–833.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Rojas Torrijos, J. L. (2020). Gamification of sports media coverage: An infotainment approach to Olympics and Football World Cups. Communication & Society, 33(1), 29–44.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Rosenthal, R. (1979). The file drawer problem and tolerance for null results. Psychological Bulletin, 86(3), 638–641.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Rosenthal, R. (1995). Writing meta-analytic reviews. Psychological Bulletin, 118(2), 183–192.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. *Rouse, K. E. (2013). Gamification in Science Education: The Relationship of Educational Games to Motivation and Achievement (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

  52. Sailer, M., & Homner, L. (2019). The gamification of learning: A meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review, 32, 77–112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Sailer, M., Hense, J. U., Mayr, S. K., & Mandl, H. (2017). How gamification motivates: An experimental study of the effects of specific game design elements on psychological need satisfaction. Computers in Human Behavior, 69, 371–380.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. *Stansbury, J. A., & Earnest, D. R. (2017). Meaningful gamification in an industrial/organizational psychology course. Teaching of Psychology, 44(1), 38–45.

  55. *Star, K. (2015). Gamification, Interdependence and the Moderating Effect of Personality on Performance (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from

  56. Sterne, J. A., & Egger, M. (2001). Funnel plots for detecting bias in meta-analysis: Guidelines on choice of axis. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 54(10), 1046–1055.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Subhash, S., & Cudney, E. A. (2018). Gamified learning in higher education: A systematic review of the literature. Computers in Human Behavior, 87, 192–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. *Sun, J., & Hsieh, P. (2018). Application of a gamified interactive response system to enhance the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, student engagement, and attention of English learners. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 21(3), 104–116. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from

  59. *Tan, M., & Hew, K. F. (2016). Incorporating meaningful gamification in a blended learning research methods class: Examining student learning, engagement, and affective outcomes. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 32(5).

  60. *Terrell, J. E. (2016). Instructional Methods and Engagement: The Impact of Gamification on Student Learning of APA Style (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from

  61. *Tsay, C. H.-H., Kofinas, A., & Luo, J. (2018). Enhancing student learning experience with technology-mediated gamification: An empirical study. Computers & Education, 121, 1–17.

  62. *Wichadee, S., & Pattanapichet, F. (2018). Enhancement of performance and motivation through application of digital games in an English language class. The Journal of Teaching English with Technology, 18(1), 77–92.

  63. Wilson, K. A., Bedwell, W. L., Lazzara, E. H., Salas, E., Burke, C. S., Estock, J. L., Orvis, K. L., & Conkey, C. (2009). Relationships between game attributes and learning outcomes: Review and research proposals. Simulation & Gaming, 40(2), 217–266.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. *Yildirim, I. (2017). The effects of gamification-based teaching practices on student achievement and students’ attitudes toward lessons. The Internet and Higher Education, 33, 86–92.

  65. *Zainuddin, Z. (2018). Students’ learning performance and perceived motivation in gamified flipped-class instruction. Computers & Education, 126, 75–88.

Download references


This study was not funded by any grants or contracts.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Albert D. Ritzhaupt.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants and/or animals

This research did not involve human participants and/or animals.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ritzhaupt, A.D., Huang, R., Sommer, M. et al. A meta-analysis on the influence of gamification in formal educational settings on affective and behavioral outcomes. Education Tech Research Dev 69, 2493–2522 (2021).

Download citation


  • Gamification
  • Affective outcomes
  • Behavioral outcomes
  • Meta-analysis