Emotional Playing

Emotions play an important part of the learning process and are necessary so that we can remember, retrieve, transfer, and connect all new information to that which we already know. A learner’s emotions are usually formed when a learner goes through a learning experience and finds a connection with the content. Playing games stimulates certain areas of the brain which release hormones that impact on emotions and behaviours such as engagement or memory retention. Therefore, we can design and develop learning programmes that use gamification elements to create and drive emotions.

What areas of the brain need to be stimulated to create emotions in learning?

The hypothalamus releases oxytocin which generates feelings of trust and empathy. When a learner is engaged in strong narrative, oxytocin is released in the brain. A compelling game always has a good story which helps learners to remember the information.

The hippocampus is the knowledge recall centre in the brain. During learning, a strong hippocampus activation makes content easier to remember and recall. Try create an experience around your learning material.

The Ventral Tegmental Area releases dopamine, endorphins and serotonin.

Content designed to reward learners for achieving learning goals release dopamine or positive emotions which motivate learners to continue learning.

Endorphins lowers stress and anxiety and creates the ideal environment for focused learning.

Serotonin governs our mood and is triggered by remembering past successes. Thus, learning solutions that provide rewards and badges trigger serotonin and improve understanding and retention of content.


Therefore, creating learning programs that make use of strong gamification elements result in different emotional areas being triggered in the brain and thus improved attention, retention and learning.

Remember to:

  • Make use of a compelling story
  • Create an experience
  • Reward your learners successes

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