Gameful Mindset

In today’s “gamer generation” in which there are 3.2 billion active gamers worldwide and the average 21-year-old person in the U.S. has played an estimated 10,000 hours of video games, young people’s brains are being rewired because of all the time spent playing games.

This brain rewiring has a significant effect on how today’s students think and learn. Gamers think and learn in specific ways when playing a game, and this thinking and learning style persists into their everyday lives.

Gamers have a “gameful mindset,” which describes the unique ways in which gamers think and learn – and live.

A Gameful Mindset is characterized by the following traits:

Continuous Feedback: Games provide feedback for every single action the player does. Gamers expect this continuous feedback to learn and plan subsequent action. Contrast this with feedback in schools, where much of the feedback is given in the form of a test score or essay grade long after the student completed the activity.

Embrace Failure: Games provide a safe space in which it’s perfectly acceptable – and sometimes even desirable – to fail in order to learn. Gamers know that “failing forward” is a good thing that allows them to feel secure to experiment, take more risks, and then learn from the experience to constantly iterate to achieve their goals. In contrast, in traditional education, high-stakes tests make for stressful spaces in which failing is the worst case scenario.

Inquisitiveness: Gamers are constantly curious to learn more about the game they are playing and always asking various questions as they proceed through the game. “With games, learning is the drug” is a quote from game designer Raph Koster that refers to the point that the main thing gamers want to do is learn more about the game, and the more they learn, the more inquisitive they become to pursue more learning.

Just-In-Time Learning: In traditional schooling, content is presented in the form of textbooks or lectures followed by an activity (test, report, etc.) to assess student understanding of the content. In games, content is presented together with the activity in a just-in-time fashion so that players are learning as they are playing, not before they play. Similarly, if players get stuck at some point, they will just go online to figure out the solution to the specific problem in just-in-time learning manner.

Growth Mindset: Games promote a growth mindset, which is the belief that intelligence and talent are not fixed traits but rather can be developed through dedication and hard work. Gamers believe that they can conquer practically any challenge in a game by putting in the time to develop their skills.

Flow: Games often provide players with opportunities to enter a flow state in which the player is completely absorbed in an enjoyable, “optimal experience.” Games provide just the right amount of challenge based on the player’s ability level to keep the player in this flow state for long periods of time.

Play: Perhaps the most important but least appreciated trait of a gameful mindset is the desire to seek out and appreciate play. Games can simply be thought of as playful learning activities, and gamers instinctively know that playful discovery is a powerful way to understand new environments or situations.

Gameful Mindset

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.
Dweck, Carol S.. (2008) Mindset :the new psychology of success New York : Ballantine Books.
GAMEFID. (2022) Video Game Industry Statistics, Trends and Data In 2022.
McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality Is Broken. New York, NY: The Penguin Press.