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Does Gamification Inspire Intrinsic Motivation?

What is intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and how does gamification trigger these two psychological responses?

  • Intrinsic motivation is being motivated from within.
  • Extrinsic motivation is being motivated by things outside yourself.

When looking at gamification, it’s easy to see how it extrinsically motivates. You can rewards your learners with Achievement, Points and Badges. Or you can spur them to climb up the Leaderboard.

Many mistakenly link gamification with extrinsic motivation, and you can see why. The extrinsic benefits you get from gamification are very in your face. When you earn a badge, you know about it.

Intrinsic motivation can be much harder to spot. And because people struggle to see it, they assume it isn’t there…

But what if gamified platforms motivate you just as much intrinsically as they do extrinsically? What if people see the extrinsic motivation and then stop looking? What if, through gamification, you gained something more than external benefits could ever inspire?

In this blog, we’re going to show you how it is that gamification helps your learners find powerful motivation from within.

First of all, let’s delve into the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Motivation Explained

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.


When you’re extrinsically motivated, you’re motivated to do something because of the outcome, not because you see value in the behaviour itself. Some examples of extrinsic motivation:

  • Money
  • Public recognition and praise
  • Rewards and prizes

In the world of online learning, this means that learners are doing things because they’re looking at the rewards they might earn. This might be a pay-rise, it might even mean avoiding a reprimand.

If your learners are only externally motivated you need to keep the external motivation in place else their motivation will fizzle out. On the plus side, whilst it’s there they’ll keep coming back for more.


Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It drives behaviours which result in internal rewards. It’s things like enjoyment, positive feelings, happiness and the drive to become a better version of yourself. Some examples of what intrinsic motivation looks like:

  • Task accomplishment
  • A sense of competence
  • Self-actualisation
  • A sense of progress
  • Pleasure

When we are intrinsically motivated we have a genuine passion for what we’re doing. There is a desire to get something done and to achieve. When people are motivated internally they enjoy what they are doing enormously. It provides a genuine sense of fulfilment.

Here is a video from our very own Juliette Denny explaining it in more detail:

How Gamification Inspires Intrinsic Motivation

Gamification is undoubtedly linked with extrinsic motivation. Whilst gamification offers a reward system, the intrinsic motivation generated is also considerable! Here are three reasons why:

1) It Helps Learners Become who They Want to Be

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory thought up by Abraham Maslow in 1943. It’s a system which classifies the psychological needs of humans. The theory suggests that you must meet your learner’s individual for them to feel fulfilled.

According to Maslow’s theory, self-actualisation is what we all strive for, but we only have the head-space to pursue it once we’ve sorted out all our other needs first. Once these have been ticked off, you can start thinking about self-actualisation. This is all about becoming the person you want to be.

Using gamification you are able to affirm a learner’s esteem with praise and rewards. This helps them see they’re good at what they do, helping them climb up Maslow’s pyramid. With their esteem safely sorted out, learners will start working towards becoming the person they want to be.

Gamification inspires intrinsic motivation by helping learners see the progress they’re making. Gamification helps make the small steps you’re taking towards a bigger goal more clear. When you know that little-by-little you’re becoming the person you want to be, that’s powerfully motivating.

2) Levels Make Progress Easy to See

Growth Engineering LMS comes fully fueled with Levels. When an employee begins their journey on an LMS, they’ll start at level 1. Growth Engineering LMS lets you tailor the titles of your levels so they reflect your industry or what you’re studying. Levels are a great way to ignite intrinsic motivation.

This is because learners can view their progress every step of the way. This means you can use levels to make sure your learners know they’re well on their way towards mastery! Feeling good at what you do is itself motivating. In fact, Ryan and Deci say it is one of the single most important elements you need to inspire motivation.

3) Gamification Helps You Love Learning

Upskilling and reskilling is one of the most important L&D trends for 2021

Learning is inherently one of the most pleasurable activities. It should be a delight! But when companies moved training online, early platforms sucked all the pleasure out of learning.

Growth Engineering uses gamification to reinject fun back into learning. Features like badges, points and levels help learners love learning again. And we can guarantee they’ll love learning for learning’s sake as soon as they have kindled that love!

The passion will grow and become self-perpetuating because learning won’t be a chore anymore.

Final Word

Growth Engineering are the masters of gamification. We use it to help learners across the globe benefit from both extrinsic or intrinsic motivation. When it comes to motivation, it’s not an either/or scenario. Rather, it’s the more the merrier!

This is why we have gamified both Growth Engineering LMS and Growth Engineering Learning App! You can be sure that they’ll help your learners fall in love with learning.

If you want to find out more about the power of gamification, why not download our free guide The Business Case for Gamification?

Unlimited Engagement on Growth Engineering LMS

Growth Engineering LMS harnesses the power of learner engagement to help you improve your team’s performance by as much as 75% year-on-year.

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