Why competing is better than cramming: our learning gamification experience

    Today I wanted to talk about the fact that we completed single training in the English Word Mania application (a mobile application for expanding the English vocabulary), as one of the improvements expressed by the community hub. However, the testing of the new function was delayed, so we will talk about the effectiveness of the principle of gamification of training that we use.

    Some teaching methods are considered classical, they are widely used, and most of them come down to memorizing unfamiliar words, and then gradually applying them in educational dialogs. So, among traditionalists in linguistic pedagogy there are behaviorists without impurity - people who firmly believe in the effectiveness of the principle ” repetition is the mother of learning. ”

    They are convinced that the results in expanding lexical baggage can be achieved exclusively by archival memorization. We, on the contrary, are convinced that memorization is one of the most primitive and low-efficient methods, and the learning process should involve the learner. Under the cut, I will explain in more detail.

    Maximum gamification

    So, what prompted us to make the process a virtual game based on an adversarial principle. It is known that it is the game that is the type of activity that captivates a person more than others. This is due to the fact that the game minimizes the conditions of known rules, exaggerates reality to an exciting process, allowing attention to be fully focused on it.

    This often explains the appearance of ludomania, when the natural need for gaming actions and the ability to receive money from gambling form an irresistible craving to play. The same can be said about addiction from classic computer games, when the same need for gaming actions is combined with a desire to escape from reality or to prove their worth in countless eSports competitions.

    Human attachment to the game process is not always so harmful and, in our opinion, can be useful. For example, if we are talking about routine actions, then by filling them with game content and adding a competitive principle, you can change their perception and get the result faster. The creation of this kind of content today is called gamification.

    We noticed that exactly the same actions lead to different results depending on how they are perceived. So, if you simply invite a group of students to complete the laboratory, the result will have to wait for a predictably long time, and involvement in the process will be relatively low. Moreover, if you divide them into two subgroups, say that for each stage of the laboratory points are awarded (whoever completes the stage earlier receives more), and as a result, the winning subgroup is guaranteed an “automatic” classification, the results will appear unexpectedly soon, and involvement in the process will be much higher.

    As confirmation of my words, I can cite Designing Digitally, a studio that creates products in the field of e-gaming and educational games. Today, the customers of this company are Nasa, P&G, Bridgestone and Toyota. Andrew Hughes, the founder and head of the studio is a kind of guru of the game education industry, Steve Jobs for everyone who develops in this field. It is interesting that we learned about his methods after the appearance of our project and realized that we are acting on the same principles.

    By the way, gamification and game learning should be distinguished, since these are close, but not identical terms to each other. If game training means free developmental activities during the game (as if you were learning the basics of civil defense by playing Fallout 4 or other survival). During gamification, a non-gaming technique is used, which, through changes and additions, acquires gaming properties and begins to be perceived by the participants in the learning process as a game. And this is just our case.

    Competition - a catalyst for gamified training

    We did not conduct neurobiological and psychological-pedagogical investigations regarding the effectiveness of our principle of gamification. At the start, we had neither the resources nor the time for this. However, due to certain experience, we at the level of intuition understood that an element of interactive social interaction should be introduced into the process.

    Those. not only to turn the cramming process into a game one, but also to include socially conditioned motivation into the process, and it never occurred to us to do anything better than online competition.

    I can highlight several advantages of the competitive principle in the gamification of memorizing new words:

    • an additional motivating factor is a gambling desire to “catch up and overtake” an opponent (or to avoid defeat);
    • a change in motivation during training, the main desire to remember is tied to the desire to win over an opponent;
    • high dynamics of the process with the involvement of players;
    • the ability to correlate your results with the results of several opponents;
    • an additional “returning” factor when you understand that one or more people are waiting for your next move (as in a session of simultaneous playing chess).

    As a result, we came to the principle that is currently implemented in the simulator and we continue to refine the competitive mechanism. Now we are thinking about creating a user rating, virtual rewards and a system of individual goals that can be used to increase the effectiveness of training.

    When there will be more users of the application, perhaps we will come to the conclusion that it will be even more effective to choose an opponent from certain lists of topics that interest him. In addition, now we understand that there is a need for a toggle switch of difficulty level so that any user can choose the level of difficulty of the task that is suitable for him.


    I sincerely hope that our experience and understanding of gamification will be useful to the community. Once again, we want to thank everyone who wrote to us in the comments and made recommendations regarding previous versions. A lot of what was written turned out to be really valuable. We continue to refine the application, the release of the next version will be very soon. Next in line is single player and the version for iOS. We will traditionally be grateful for your comments and advice.

    We borrowed images (if they belong to you and you are against - write to us, we will replace):

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