The Design of Incentive Systems in Digital Game-Based Learning: How Primary School Children Interact with It

Catalina Lomos*, Undine Seineke, Frauke Kesting, J. W. Luyten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Digital game-based learning builds on the general characteristics of games. The incentive system (points, scores, stars, levels, and performance feedback) integrates design elements to keep a learner engaged. In the work described here, we investigated which elements of the incentive system design—rewards, penalties, or feedback—have the potential to trigger students’ motivation to play the game. We used eye tracking of eight primary school children, aged 8–11 years, as they interacted with the incentive system of a mathematics game-based item and its specific design, followed by a semi-structured interview. Eye-tracking results show that students paid minimal visual attention to the incentive system during the game, regardless of their level of performance in the game or their age group. The feedback at the end of the game attracted more of their visual attention and provided a good opportunity to inform them about their performance. The semi-structured interviews revealed a high level of self-reported excitement about playing the game, mainly related to the design of the incentive system. Elements of the incentive system triggered students’ wish for student-to-student competition, which has been shown in the literature on traditional tangible rewards to stifle intrinsic motivation under certain conditions. The results of this study show that the design of the incentive system has the potential to promote extrinsic motivation with the game through rewards and penalties, and open the reflection on its possible spillover effect on intrinsic motivation in digital game-based learning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number668
JournalEducation Sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • digital game-based learning
  • elementary mathematics
  • eye tracking
  • incentive system design
  • multi-case study


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