To Add or Not to Add Game Elements? Exploring the Effects of Different Cognitive Task Designs Using Eye Tracking

Manuel Ninaus, Kristian Kiili, Guilherme Wood, Korbinian Moeller, Silvia Erika Kober

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Research on instructional design provides inconsistent results on the use of game elements in cognitive tasks or learning. Cognitive load theory suggests that game elements increase extraneous cognitive load and thus may distract the users. In contrast, from an emotional design perspective, the use of game elements is argued to increase performance by providing a more interesting and motivating task environment. To contribute to this debate, the current study investigated the effect of game elements on behavioral performance, attention, and motivation. We designed two versions of the number line estimation task—one with game elements and one without. Participants completed both versions of the task while their eye-fixation behavior was recorded. Results indicated that participants paid attention to game elements, that is, they fixated them, although they were not necessary to complete the task. However, no difference in estimation accuracy was observed between the two task versions. Moreover, the task version with game elements was rated to be more attractive, stimulating, and novel, and participants reported experiencing greater flow. In sum, these data indicate that game elements seem to capture attention but also increase motivational aspects of learning tasks rather than decreasing performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9234529
Pages (from-to)847-860
JournalIEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies
Issue number4
Early online date2020
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2020
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Educational games
  • emotional design
  • eye tracking
  • game elements
  • number line estimation
  • seductive details

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Engineering(all)
  • Computer Science Applications


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