Gamify Your Study Routine


Before we begin, I want you to think about your favorite game. It can be a card game, board game, video game, or sports game. Now take a moment to think about why you like this game. Keep those thoughts in the back of your mind as you read this post. At this point, you might be wondering, what do games have to do with getting an education or study tips? Probably more than you think!

In recent years, game-based learning has been a hot buzzword in the realm of education for both K-12 and higher education. Game-based learning is an activity designed around game elements. An example of this learning method you may have seen here at Weber State is classroom-response systems such as TopHat, Poll Everywhere, and Kahoot. These programs provide a platform for group participation or activities for which students earn progress points.

Game Elements

Let’s take a moment to break down a game into a series of elements. These core elements may include goals, rules, problem-solving, feedback, and fun. Now let’s apply the game elements of a travel quest to study routines. Ironically, you might have been doing it for years!

  1. Goals. In games, goals are often disguised as tasks or quests to complete. A common goal amongst students is to earn a particular percentage on exams. Let's think about the exam as a quest. To begin, we need to know our starting point (current level of understanding) and endpoint (exam due date). Next, we need to create path markers to help guide us to the exam. Path markers can range from reading the textbook to completing assignments or taking quizzes. Once you have reached the endpoint and conquered your quest, decide how you will celebrate reaching your goal. Plan a fun night out with friends, or simply eat a yummy treat on the couch.

  2. Rules. As we continue along our quest to the exam, rules need to be in place to inform us what is allowed and what is not. Games set up rules with the intent to stop cheaters in their path or provide an extra challenge on a quest. A potential rule of the quest could be travel restrictions. Perhaps the quest only permits you to travel during the day (specific study times) due to creatures (phone, tv, etc.) in the night who intend to distract you off the path. However, we need a plan for dusk and dawn, as the creatures will still have the power to entice you. One option is to improve your agility stats to escape (phone silenced, tv turned off, etc.) from the creatures faster. Be sure to follow all the rules, or it's game over.

  3. Problem Solving. Tackling tasks or quests in a game often requires problem-solving skills. We can apply these same skills on the quest path to take the exam. Your path may look different depending on the landscape (course subject) and seasonal weather (course level). It could range from a shaded, flat path following a light stream (material perceived as easy) to a hike across a snowy mountainside (material perceived as brutal). As you walk, you may choose to energetically skip (flashcards) or steadily jog (practice problems) along the pathway. There will be times you need to ask a fellow traveler (course peer) for directions. Sporadically, an impasse (material unclear, missed quiz questions, etc.) may appear and prevents you from moving forward. One option is to recheck with the map (textbook) and compass (professor) to ensure you are on the right path. Another option is to hire a local villager (SI Leader, Tutor, Academic Coach) to guide you on how to best approach the course.

  4. Feedback. The sky turns a red-orange as the sun sits low on the horizon (time to study). To follow the quest's rules, you begin setting up camp in a field just off the path. The tent goes up quickly, and now it's time to start a fire (studying). You gather dried leaves (pencil and paper), small branches (lecture notes), and logs (textbooks) to bring back to camp. On your first attempt (reading the textbook), a spark forms but doesn't ignite into a flame. For the second attempt (applying the concepts), you pick up new twigs and try a different approach resulting in a small flame, but it slowly fades. In the third attempt (talk with the professor), keeping with the new approach, you now try positioning the twigs differently. It works! The fire roars (aha moment)! Through trial-and-error, you received positive and negative feedback, made calculated adjustments, and kept trying to make the fire. Feedback is crucial to the learning process. It tells us if we are heading in the right or wrong direction and ultimately making us better in the end.

  5. Fun. Today's the day! You reach the endpoint (exam day), but it's not over yet. The quest boss (exam) appears and blocks the last step to complete your goal. Preparing for battle, you suit up in armor ('thinking cap'), sword (pencil), and shield (eraser). You take one last assessment (read through notes) of the boss and enter into battle (testing center). Bam! The boss makes the first hit (first question). A little shaken, you keep your footing and make the next move. As the fight rages on, the boss gets caught off guard. You take advantage of this moment, make the final blow (last question), and walk away with a few cuts and bruises. Winning the battle feels exhilarating! Each time we conquer a goal, it keeps us engaged and prolongs gameplay due to the brain releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine, the hormone associated with pleasure. It is that rush of dopamine that drives and motivates us in tackling the quests ahead.

Game-Based Learning Apps

Whether you are an Apple or Android user, you can find various apps that utilize the game elements introduced above. You’ll find many apps aid users in learning languages, maintaining workouts, and improving time management skills not to mention the multitude of generalized study apps that use game-based learning! Check out the study apps we have listed below to get an idea of how you can incorporate them into your study routine.


Forest is an app that applies game elements to the Pomodoro Technique. Within the app, you pick a tree to plant. Next, you choose how long you want to stay focused, ranging from 10 minutes to 2 hours. The plant starts to grow as you let the timer run; however, the plant will die if you stop before the timer runs out.

My Study Life

My Study Life is a phone app also accessible through a web browser. It acts as a digital planner, scheduler, and task tracker. As you enter assignments or tasks to complete, the app uses badges to track your progress.


Habitica is an app disguised as a role-playing game designed to help you improve habits and accomplish tasks. It engages and motivates you by turning tasks into quests to conquer. Your avatar will level up with the completion of a task. However, if you miss or complete a task late, your avatar will take on damage.

Game-Based Learning Activities

You can also modify games to incorporate course material or vocabulary for group study sessions. For successful integration, pick games with simple structures and rules. Below are a few examples of how to alter childhood games to help you learn the course material.

Crossword Puzzles

Crossword puzzles are common in newspapers and magazines. They consist of a grid of squares in both vertical and horizontal directions for writing in answers and a list at the bottom with corresponding clues. 

 Twists for Studying:

  • Use a free crossword generator such as
  • Enter course terms and their corresponding definitions.
  • Generate your crossword puzzle and a key to print or save for later.

Matching Game

Matching Games contain a deck of 20 pairs of cards or 40 cards total. Cards are placed face-down on a flat surface. If multiple people are playing, each player takes a turn by turning two cards face-up. If the cards match, the player removes them from the cards facing down. If the cards don’t match, the player must turn the cards back to face down position.  

Twists for Studying:

  • Create your own deck using scratch paper or pre-made notecards.
  • Write the course term, concept, or equation on the front of one card.
  • Write the definition or explanation on the front of another card.


Snowman is a game where one player picks a word or phrase and draws dashes equal to the number of letters. Other players then guess letters to spell the word or phrase. If the letter is present, write it on the dash. However, if the letter is not present, draw a portion of the snowman.

Twists for Studying:

  • Use course terms or concepts as guessable words or phrases.
  • To win, the player must guess the word or phrase and define it correctly.
  • If player 2 is stuck, player 1 may provide clues based on course examples.


Pictionary is a game traditionally played in teams. A drawer from each team goes in front of the group and picks a word or concept. After setting a timer for 30 seconds to 1 minute, the drawers begin drawing while teammates start to guess. Once the word or concept is guessed, the round is over. 

Twists for Studying:

  • Use course terms or concepts for drawing material to be guessed.
  • To win, the player must guess the word or phrase and define it correctly.

Now it’s time to apply what we’ve learned! At the beginning of this post, I asked you to think about your favorite game and what makes it your favorite. Spend a few moments to identify and discover game elements you enjoy and how you can take advantage of them while learning course material. I challenge you to alter your favorite game or pick one of the game-based learning strategies above and use it this week to gamify your studying.

If you would like help brainstorming how to gamify your studying, make an appointment with an Academic Peer Coach today! You can click on “schedule an appointment” on Academic Peer Coaching, or you can reach out to us at We’d love to hear from you!

Remember to tune in for our next post on Weber State's very own Money Management Center.


ELM Learning. (2021, January). eLearning Gamification: How to Implement Gamification in Your Learning Strategy.

Gamification and Game-Based Learning. (2018, March).

Lynch, M. (2017, March 18). How Does Gamification Effect the Learning Process? The Edvocate.

Solly, M. (2020, February). The Best Board Games of the Ancient World.

About The Author

Alexis M.
Certified Peer Educator

Alexis (she/her/s) is an Academic Peer Coach and a recent WSU alumnus with Bachelor's Degrees in Microbiology and Zoology.

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