Gamification and John Dewey

John Dewey

Ludogogy has entered into an agreement with Gamification Journal, based in Seoul, South Korea, for the mutual exchange of articles. This is the eleventh of those articles we are publishing and it was in exchange for Thomas Ackland’s article on Simple Ways to Make Work Playful.

We should be honest about the game. The game is surely fun, but addictive. People can have pleasure and satisfaction after the game but also regret the time they have spent on it. So, human beings can feel very ambivalent about games.

I think that gamification in the education field can be understood and explained by the educational philosophy of John Dewey. At first, philosophy starts with definitions of concepts. Human beings think through language. Defining the meaning of words in detail can be the foundation to share and expand thoughts with others.

So, Why John Dewey? Dewey created the basic framework of modern education. His concepts are familiar to Korean people, through many books and thoughts related to the concept of educational philosophy. His representative book, ‘Democracy and Education’, illustrates educational concepts including interaction, continuity, interest, growth, and experience. All of these concepts can be considered part of what we call gamification.


Continuity is an important principle of gamification. Human life is based on continuity. As we live our lives, many things change, but many things also remain the same. Human beings live through the flow of time and are subject to the influence of continuity.

Many games seek to facilitate continuity. Games on Nintendo or PlayStation, for example, allow you to save your progress and reload after a break in playing. These functions maintain continuity, which encourages the player to keep playing. If a game is a short-term and one-time experience, the effects of the game on human beings are not great or lasting. A game which one plays for a long time, has a much greater impact. Each game has its own objective, but some games have continuity as an objective. These games continue without ending or have finite but long-term objectives. This characteristic is one of the gamification principles, and has an important role in creating the fun of the game.


Interaction is a very old philosophical concept, and includes all activities concerning moving and reacting with others, and external objects. Movies, cartoons, or works of art don’t interact with us. On the other hand, a game is a complex thing with interaction. By clicking, touching, or choosing in the game, the player receives constant feedback. This interaction can make the player immersed in the game.

Human beings live through communication. We continuously interact with others. This is fundamental to our existence, and good and free interaction makes life abundant and interesting. One important principle of gamification is well-designed interaction. Dewey himself mentioned that education is interaction, and this is the core of gamification. Every life is not being alone but interacting with others.

Gaming equipment


Dewey explained ‘Interest’ through the story of bystanders and actors in his book ‘Democracy and Education’. In some events, a bystander with no interest and an actor will differ greatly in the results they achieve. Interest is not just in short-term reward and stimulus but in continuous self-will. Continuous interest makes human life abundant and is empowering. If there is no interest, a person loses power (to act) and doesn’t develop. This is the loss of desire to act. Gamification can stimulate human desire to act by stimulating interest. Therefore, interest is one concept which can separate games from other works. Normally, the reason why people play games is to have ‘fun’. The necessary concept in gamification, which occasions this is ‘interest’.


In Dewey’s perspective, education is the activity of seeking growth. If there is no growth through education, education is no longer required. Education can be the core for growth. Not just the growth of the physical body but internal growth and maturity is the key to education. Dewey thought that growth is a process towards completion. Games also have this process of progress from easy levels to more difficult ones. The principle of growth is applied. In the past, the Tamagotchi game in the past consisted of activities to grow and develop virtual animals. The reason why many people love this is the growth of characters in the game. If there is no growth, there is no life, and it is no longer fun for humans.

Growth is also very important in gamification. Particularly if it is used for educational purposes, growth should be more focused on development. Growth through games can be a process of seeking ‘the truth’ or developing (in-game) skills, or gaining information and knowledge. This is education. A game for learning or study has steps, and a process which leads the player’s learning. If it leads to growth, it can be named as education, in which case, there is a blurring of the purposes of the game and the learning.

Stationary including post it notes and pens


Experience can be defined as an ‘overall ending achieved’. This ending includes all ‘Beginning – Development – Achievement’ processes that have been part of the experience. For example, every detailed story in a game includes background music and background story, historical facts, and many other ideas.

The main characters in the game are constructed from many historical, and cconceptual materials, such as the languages used, the type of speech is used, their relationships, the clothes and foods depicted, etc, not just their (game) objectives. For players who see, hear, and experience it, the process itself can be an educational experience. The education experience is a complete with continuous interaction, interests, and growth.

When we see research about immersion related to gamification, we can see that gamification helps to create better educational experience. Immersion is very important for learning, and games can give bigger immersion than other activities. Immersion into games by children allows tremendous depth of experience. Immersion means that a human deeply dives into some activities, and that their current experience can be felt as optimal. These immersive experiences can also be educational experiences. For immersion, ‘Objective, Competition, Interaction’ is required.

Human live their lives through experience, and life is the continuous process of many experiences. In addition, the educational experience is meaningful. If games are used to present ethical and artistic experiences, gamification can be extended into really meaningful areas of human life. If this kind of educational experience is continued, it can become a life habit. And it can be accessible for all. As requirement to learn and access educational experiences grow, the requirement for gamification will grow too. These experiences will lead to making human life abundant. The principles of gamification meet the major concepts of educational philosophy.

Visiting scholar professor in the Liberal Arts department and Research fellow in the Professor learning center at Yewon Arts University
Joohee Park delivers various lectures at Korea University, Seoul Institute of the Arts, and Korea National Sport University.

She served as the vice head of the Cultural and Arts HRD Research Institute at Yewon Arts University, and delivered special lectures and consulting related to students’ advice and learning community at the Center for Teaching and Learning of Sangmyung University.

She also published renowned books and reports such as the charter education program of the Korean Educational Development Institute, the new development research of the National Research Foundation of Korea, the policy report of the Ministry of Education, and the learning model and contents development using gamification, etc.

Now, she undertakes various research on culture, arts, games, and personality, etc. through the research program of Korea Arts & Culture Education Service, Korea Creative Content Agency, and Universität zu Köln, the discussion by Next Generation Convergence Contents Industry Association, and Gamification teaching education.
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