Two recent studies on games and gamification in undergraduate classrooms.

The articles linked and abstracted below are both have many significant implications for using games and game-like designs for learning, but the key takeaway is that we can’t just say certain implementations of gameful learning work because they look and feel “right.” I’m so glad to see more assessment start rolling out, so we have more legitimate foundations to work from as we design gameful learning environments and activities.
Valerie J. Shute, Matthew Ventura, Fengfeng Ke, The power of play: The effects of Portal 2 and Lumosity on cognitive and noncognitive skills, Computers & Education, Volume 80, January 2015, Pages 58-67, ISSN 0360-1315, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2014.08.013.
In this study, we tested 77 undergraduates who were randomly assigned to play either a popular video game (Portal 2) or a popular brain training game (Lumosity) for 8 h. Before and after gameplay, participants completed a set of online tests related to problem solving, spatial skill, and persistence. Results revealed that participants who were assigned to play Portal 2 showed a statistically significant advantage over Lumosity on each of the three composite measures: problem solving, spatial skill, and persistence. Portal 2 players also showed significant increases from pretest to posttest on specific small- and large-scale spatial tests while those in the Lumosity condition did not show any pretest to posttest differences on any measure. Results are discussed in terms of the positive impact video games can have on cognitive and noncognitive skills.
 Michael D. Hanus, Jesse Fox, Assessing the effects of gamification in the classroom: A longitudinal study on intrinsic motivation, social comparison, satisfaction, effort, and academic performance, Computers & Education, Volume 80, January 2015, Pages 152-161, ISSN 0360-1315, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2014.08.019.
Gamification, the application of game elements to non-game settings, continues to grow in popularity as a method to increase student engagement in the classroom. We tested students across two courses, measuring their motivation, social comparison, effort, satisfaction, learner empowerment, and academic performance at four points during a 16-week semester. One course received a gamified curriculum, featuring a leaderboard and badges, whereas the other course received the same curriculum without the gamified elements. Our results found that students in the gamified course showed less motivation, satisfaction, and empowerment over time than those in the non-gamified class. The effect of course type on students’ final exam scores was mediated by students’ levels of intrinsic motivation, with students in the gamified course showing less motivation and lower final exam scores than the non-gamified class. This suggests that some care should be taken when applying certain gamification mechanics to educational settings.