The politics of gamification: education, neoliberalism and the knowledge economy

Rowan Tulloch, Holly Eva Katherine Randell-Moon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This article provides a critical genealogy of gamification in educational settings by interrogating the underpinning cultural logics that drive the exploitation of game-play for information engagement and accumulation. Gamification promises empowerment but offers a very narrow and tightly disciplined path to empowerment. In mapping the trajectory of game-based learning to gamification, we argue that games produce very specific play experiences that subtly discipline the player to accept and perform the privileged practices of the game system as their own choice. In this way, gamification is an instantiation and reinforcement of a particular cultural logic, or ideological position, regarding the economics of knowledge and the knowledge characteristics of contemporary forms of post-industrial labour. Through an emphasis on optimising performance and volunteered surveillance, gamification produces a student who has been shaped through institutionalized incentives to best align with the needs of contemporary capitalism. By facilitating a mode learning where students are encouraged to compete, be self-directed, and see themselves as voluntarily surveilled consumers, we show how gamification is an exemplar of contemporary neoliberal education paradigms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-226
Number of pages23
JournalReview of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2018


  • Gamification
  • Game-based learning
  • Pedagogy
  • Politics
  • Neo-liberalism


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