LEO logo linking to homepage

Home The LEO Learning Blog

Why Learning Games Are So Powerful

There’s evidence to suggest that learning games are extremely effective eLearning tools. Here’s the science behind why game-based learning works.

Learning professionals, instructional designers, and entire workforces are increasingly recognizing the myriad benefits of games in retaining information and becoming more effective at work. Games are often perceived as being frivolous and of little value to learning—incorrectly so!

However, the evidence suggests that their compelling nature has huge potential in creating engaging learning that drives knowledge accumulation and behavior change. As our working lives become busier and more complex, it’s a good time for organizations to harness games as a powerful learning tool.

You might also like: '3 Myths About Games-Based Learning in the Workplace… Busted!'

The Power of Play

Until recently, there had been little data to back up anecdotal evidence that game-based learning can be a real force for good and play a key role in building and mastering new techniques.

The market value of serious learning games—games that have a purpose beyond amusing the player—is expected to reach $5.5 million by 20201. That popularity is now being backed up by results, including a study2 of more than 6,000 retail employees in workplace training. The study found that:

  • Learners in a game situation answered significantly more questions correctly and had much longer correct answer streaks
  • Games motivate learners to log in and carry out training more often
  • Learners are more motivated to return and engage with game-based learning
  • Engagement among learners occurs even when games are used as a motivational hook

Learning Games Increase Confidence, Ability and Retention

Companies that use games to enhance learning consistently reap the benefits across the board. Using on-screen characters as part of a virtual scenario, for example, has been found to result in 30% more correct answers than simply presenting text on a screen to the learner3. Computer-based simulation games result in 20% higher confidence levels among employees4, and a review of 65 studies found that games are 17% more effective in terms of retention than classroom-based learning5.

See it in action: LOMA's Blended Learning Game (Case Study)

Research Provides Evidence for a Strong Business Case

One of the best arguments for the use of game-based learning for adults comes by way of a peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by the National Library of Medicine. This publication offers real evidence that, compared with more traditional instructional methods, learning games can produce a higher motivation in learners by presenting content in an interactive and competitive way.

In a controlled trial6 involving 145 medical students in their third year of training in the Department of Urology at the University Medical Center Freiburg, Germany, the students were divided as follows: 82 subjects were trained with an educational adventure-game, and 69 were given conventional training with traditional written content. Their learning outcome was measured with a 34-item, single-choice test.

The students were also quizzed regarding how much fun they had with the training, motivation to continue the training and self-assessment of knowledge they acquired.

If You Think Learning Games Are More Fun Than Serious, Think Again

The study revealed that students in the gaming group achieved significantly better results in the cognitive knowledge test than the students in the traditional, text-based group. Out of a total of 34 points, the mean score was 28.6 for the gaming group and 26.0 for the traditional, text-based group. What’s more, attitudes towards the recent learning experience were significantly more positive with the gamers, who reported having more fun while learning with the game when compared to the traditional learning approach.

Researchers concluded that game-based learning is more effective than a script-based approach, has a highly positive motivational impact on learning, and results in higher outcome performance of students compared to a traditional script-based instructional approach.

Students who received the game-based training had a significantly higher cognitive learning outcome when compared with the students who learned the same material with text-based content. They also had more fun, wished to learn more in this style, and were more secure in regard to their knowledge of the topic.

The next question is “why?”

More from the blog: 'Points in Gamification: 3 Ways to Go Beyond the Basics to Create Great Learning'

The Science Behind Game-Based Learning

When learners participate in activities that stimulate their bodies or minds, they release hormones called endorphins. This stimulation is tied to playing learning games that challenge them or offer a chance for reward, even if that reward is something as simple as moving on to the next level of the game. When endorphins are released, the learners not only have more fun during the learning process but retain more information, get a boost in motivation and enjoy a more powerful and memorable learning experience.

It’s clear that learning games can help to make the overall eLearning experience much more effective. If learners are having fun and are getting excited about learning, then they are more likely to actually acquire information. Game designers can even integrate gamification techniques such as leaderboards into elearning courses in such a way that learners won't even know they are acquiring new information. This is often when real learning takes place: learners don't have to deal with the stress that can be associated with learning, because they are too busy having fun and enjoying the course.

Looking for ways to transform your eLearning courses into dynamic and rich experiences for your learners? Then why not try integrating games into your next training deliverable? Contact us today to find out more.


  1. Markets to Markets, ‘Serious Game Market by Vertical, Application Platform, End-User and Region — Forecast to 2020’
  2. ‘Enhancing Motivation in Workplace Training With Casual Games: A Twelve Month Study of Retail Employees’, from Chief Learning Officer, ‘Playing Games Leads to Better Learning’, https://www.clomedia.com/2016/07/07/playing-games-leads-to-better-learning/
  3. Clark, R., Mayer, R, ‘E-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning’
  4. Sitzmann, T, ‘A meta-analytic examination of the instructional effectiveness of computer-based simulation games’
  5. Kapp, K, ‘The Business Case for Game Based Learning’ https://www.slideshare.net/kkapp/the-business-case-for-game-based-learning
  6. Boeker, Andel, Vach and Frankenschmidt, “Game-Based E-Learning Is More Effective than a Conventional Instructional Method: A Randomized Controlled Trial with Third-Year Medical Students,” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3857775

We use cookies to give you the best website experience possible, and by browsing our website you consent to this use. Non-essential cookies are currently blocked, but certain functionality on this website won't work without them. For full site access, please accept these cookies below. To reset your cookie settings, please see our privacy and cookie policy page.