Education is not dangerous. In fact, respectable educators make it their mission to create a comfortable, and safe environment for students to learn in. Despite this goal, a popular education method has emerged and it has an unassuming name: Gamification. Who doesn't love games! This method came about to keep up with media and technology in its many forms in the digital era. The use of gamification in education promotes positive and negative behavioral changes through games.


In a research article by University of Toronto's Huang and Soman titled, “A Practitioner’s Guide To Gamification Of Education," they say, “In today’s digital generation gamification has become a popular tactic to encourage specific behaviours, and increase motivation and engagement” This has become a widespread method to make learning fun in order to catch and maintain a hold on our microscopic attention spans.

Because we have been taught to use gamification as a method for problem-solving, we turn to it as an easy way out of physical, in-person social problems.

Using games, we can separate our digital selves from our tangible selves by using technology as a dividing method. This allows us to disconnect ourselves from the physical boundaries that differentiate us, letting us virtually play out our lives the way we want them be instead of how they are. Huang and Soman say, “In real life, individuals do not feel that they are as good as they are in games. When confronted with obstacles, people may feel depressed, overwhelmed, frustrated or cynical; feelings that are not present in the gaming environment.” In this way, the gaming world can provide us with a way to relieve ourselves from the limitations of in-person interactions.

The effect

Huang and Soman say that this is the point of gamification: “Applying gamification to any education program is to prompt some type of behavioral change in the student.” This change in behavior can be positive in some aspects as it creates a type of “normal” standard for humans to socialize. Nevertheless, due to its ability to separate the gamer from the consequences through the silly and seemingly, light nature of games, gamification provides negative social outcomes from a media standpoint.

That is because if the gamer is separated from consequences, they feel that they can do anything their heart desires, and that can prove dangerous if they do not have good intentions. The obvious and horrifying outcome comes in the form of cyberbullying. The biggest fear is that a consequence-free world will allow for crimes all over the spectrum of immorality.

The culture created by gamification advocates for a future that is playful and consequence-less, with outcomes that are not only unintended but also seriously concerning. This begs the question: why is this method being taught to children?