Designing Engaging Games for Education: A Systematic Literature Review on Game Motivators and Design Principles

Teemu Laine, Renny Lindberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)
415 Downloads (Pure)


Effective educational interventions require sufficient learner engagement, which can be difficult to achieve if the learner is inadequately motivated. Games have been shown to possess powerful motivators that fuel a person's desire to engage in unattractive activities, such as learning theoretical material. However, to design an educational game that is capable of providing motivated engagement is a challenging task. Previous research has proposed various game motivators and game design principles to alleviate this, but a comprehensive synthesis has yet to appear. In this study, we conducted a systematic literature review that yielded two major contributions: (i) a taxonomy of 56 game motivators in 14 classes; and (ii) a taxonomy of 54 educational game design principles in 13 classes, with linkages to the identified game motivators. As a minor contribution, we have also presented a classification of gamification-related terms and proposed different strategies for applying gamification. The results of this study are available for educational game designers and researchers to use as a practical toolkit for the creation and evaluation of motivating educational games that keep players engaged. Moreover, this study is the first step towards the creation of a unified gamification framework.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9173738
Pages (from-to)804-821
Number of pages18
JournalIEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies
Issue number4
Early online date20 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Manuscript received August 2, 2019; revised February 4, 2020 and July 7, 2020; accepted August 18, 2020. Date of publication August 21, 2020; date of current version December 16, 2020. This work was supported by Vinnova under Grant 2018-04174. (Corresponding author: Teemu H. Laine.) Teemu H. Laine is with the Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Lulea° University of Technology, 93187 Skelleftea°, Sweden (e-mail:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2008-2011 IEEE.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Educational games
  • Gamification
  • motivation
  • game design
  • design principles
  • serious games
  • taxonomy


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