Book Review: The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education

If you are looking for a reference guide on gamification, then look no further. Karl Kapp has just released his book, The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education*. This book is a great guide on the topic and is packed with examples of research on the subject.

In 336 pages and 14 chapters, Kapp explains the concept of gamification and why people play games, the research behind gamification, key gaming elements, how to apply game mechanics to problems and domains, and examples of games used in the real world.

Throughout the book, Kapp provides game examples and explains why each game is effective. He also frequently references other key leaders in the field of gaming and gamification.

In chapters one and two, Kapp defines gamification and outlines the key game elements. During last week’s technology boot camp, Christi Boggs spoke on gamification in her classrooms. Boggs exclaimed that “Your class is already a game, just a badly designed one.” Kapp explains why individuals would voluntarily spend hundreds and thousands of hours in a game.

A player gets caught up in playing a game because the instant feedback and constant interaction are related to the challenge of the game, which is defined by the rules, which all work within the system to provoke an emotional reaction and, finally, result in a quantifiable outcome within an abstract version of a larger system. (Kapp, 2012, p. 9)

Kapp adds that the corporate world is recognizing the power of games in instruction, and we will increasingly see more corporations use games to improve their bottom line. He provided a number of great examples. Here are two that stood out:

In chapters three and four, Kapp outlines various theories that help make gamification work. These theories include:

  • ARCS Model
  • Malone’s Theory of Intrinsically Motivating Instruction
  • Lepper’s Instructional Design Principles for Intrinsic Motivation
  • The Taxonomy of Intrinsic Motivation
  • Self-Determination Theory (SDT)
These were followed up with a discussion about important concepts such as:
  • Distributed practice
  • Scaffolding
  • Episodic memory
  • Cognitive apprenticeship
  • Social learning theory
  • Flow

One of the most powerful sections of the book was the chapter on research. Kapp detailed six different meta-analyses on gamification. Each of the key points was outlined, and after each meta-analysis was reviewed, Kapp summarized them around key elements such as reward structures, player motivation, avatars and player perspective.

Once the research and theory were out of the way, Kapp provided examples of how games were being used to make better doctors, solve problems, and engage learners. I, personally, invested in Nike+ and Zombies, Run! to help improve my fitness. These were both products referenced by Kapp. I have found both programs to be both fun and rewarding.

Kapp briefly discusses three different design strategies for incorporating game elements into learning. These strategies are ADDIE, Scrum, and a hybrid approach combining elements of the two. He does recommend researching these methods from other sources in order to fully implement the strategies. He also provides a useful list of items for a design document. Perhaps the most important tidbit of the book was to develop a paper prototype to determine if the game is worth pursuing before launching into full-scale production. This advice applies even if you are planning a digital game.

In the last four chapters, Kapp looks at gaming from a gamer’s point of view, how the Defense Acquisition University uses games, and how augmented reality games can be used for corporate learning.

The bottom line is “The theory indicates and research strongly supports the assertion that games can be both motivational and instructional” (Kapp, 2012, p. 266). If you want to learn more, start playing games.

I am very pleased with this book. It filled a number of gaps I had on the subject. Karl Kapp is a professor of instructional technology at Bloomsberg University of Pennsylvania. He has also written Winning E-Learning Proposals: The Art of Development and Delivery*, Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning: Tools and Techniques for Transferring Know-How from Boomers to Gamers*, and Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration*.

If you are interested in gamification and games in the classroom, I would strongly recommend this book.


Kapp, K. M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: Game-based methods and strategies for training and education. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education”

  1. thanks for this review Stan. hadn’t come across this book yet and based on your review will be purchasing this. Surprisingly not a lot of well written literature on the subject, specifically in relation to designing instruction. my company creates a gamified library experience and unsurprisingly the most requests for information we have are from Universities and colleges. clearly demand and need. thanks again.

  2. Stan, Thanks for taking the time to review the book. I am so glad that you found it valuable in your work and you did a great job of distilling many of the highlights! I think as more organizations and more people experience the power of gamification, more and more opportunities for creating gamified experiences will be created.

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