Gamification in otolaryngology: A narrative review

Zack K. Westenhaver, Robert E. Africa, René E. Zimmerer, Brian J. McKinnon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: The medical field has incorporated gamification elements into education platforms over the past decade. The standard definition for gamification that has been adopted by most research studies is the addition of game elements and game mechanics within a platform to enhance user engagement. In this review, seven established, consolidated components, as well as an additional new or novel component, will be evaluated: a point system/leaderboards, question banks or gradable content, social interaction with other participants, leaderboards, progress or levels, immediate feedback, badges/icons or a reward system, and the novel component, a story line. Methods: Two reviewers searched MEDLINE, Cochrane, PsycINFO, Web of Knowledge, and the Nursing Registry. This review compares the one identified otolaryngology study with current residency education gamification practices within the medical field. The authors searched “residency AND gamification”, “residency AND video games”, and “residency AND games”. After applying exclusion criteria, the 13 remaining studies included a procedure, questions/scenarios, and at least three gamification elements. Results: Across the 13 studies, the average number of included gamification elements was higher than the minimum threshold of three (3.84). Ten of the studies incorporated leaderboards, feedback, and social interaction; eight incorporated a question bank; and four incorporated progress bars, rewards, and story lines. The otolaryngology study incorporated four of the gamification components: a point system, instant feedback/solution after a question was answered, player-to-player communication, and a leaderboard. Conclusion: Review of the current literature found that the medical field has limited research regarding the use of gamification in educational platforms. Despite many simulation studies and attempts at gamification, the medical community has not fully embraced gamification within residency education. In closing, the medical education community should establish a definition of “gamification” and survey residency programs to identify desired gamification elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-298
Number of pages8
JournalLaryngoscope investigative otolaryngology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • application
  • game-based learning
  • gamification
  • narrative review
  • otolaryngology
  • residency education
  • serious games

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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