A Platform for Smart Tech
in Higher Education

LionsHeart Studios is a spin-off education lab of the University of New South Wales. Its first gamification project, Playconomics, started in 2005-2006 and was led by Dr. Isabella Dobrescu and Dr. Alberto Motta, both Professors in the School of Economics at UNSW Sydney.

Every development stage was guided by (and assessed via) rigorous empirical research, using data from lab experiments, surveys and administrative records on more than 25,000 students. The impact on students’ satisfaction and educational outcomes has been outstanding.

LionsHeart continues to maintain close relationships with UNSW and is actively involved into education and gamification research in a variety of fields.

Born by Research. Backed by Research.

Lab Experiments

Our 2011 laboratory experiments results on the 1st Playconomics prototype suggest that

  • playing the game leads to the same exam performance (both in multiple-­choice and essay questions) as reading a textbook,
  • there is no gender bias in Playconomics (i.e., men and women perform equally well),
  • the learning motivation is intrinsic: students highly enjoy the game, which helps sustain their learning drive for longer, and is particularly crucial for students at risk.

Quasi Randomised Control Trials

In 2013, we made the 2nd Playconomics prototype available to 2,000+ Micro1 students at UNSW, and compared their academic performance and satisfaction with their 2012 counterparts.

Generally, it is hard to motivate students to use extra-­curricular material. The prototype, however, performed remarkably well, with a staggering 80% adoption rate despite i) participation being anonymous, and ii) the material being completely optional.

Administrative records on students’ academic performance show

  • a 24% increase in median mid-term exam marks in 2013 compared to 2012 (when no content was gamified),
  • a 50% drop in failure rates in 2013 vs. 2012, and
  • a full 2013 grades distribution shift to the right relative to 2012 (i.e., both *good* students and students *at risk* did better when the game was available to them).

Anonymized class survey data shows that

  • during the 1st month only, the game was played 1,300+ times, for about 1,900 hours,
  • only 2% did not find the game helpful in improving their understanding of the topic,
  • only 3% did not enjoy playing the game,
  • 77% would recommend the game to a Micro 1 classmate, and
  • 56% would even suggest it to a friend not studying Economics.


For a selected list of projects, published or ongoing, see here.


We thank: Geoff Crisp, Denise Doiron, Kevin Fox, Geoffrey Garrett, Arghya Ghosh, Mark King, Stephen Marshall, Prem Ramburuth, Bill Schorm and Chris Styles for continuous support and encouragement. A big thank you goes to James Murchison and Martin Slater for the software development during the prototype phase. We are also grateful to Dror Ben-Naim, Danny Carroll, Gigi Foster, Peter McGuinn and Malcolm Ryan for discussions and comments.