Serious games, gamification and game-based learning: what’s the difference?

They all have practically the same goal, but are different in practice: serious games, gamification and game-based learning. In this article you will find the meanings, differences and pros and cons.

what’s the difference between serious games, gamification and game based learning

Gamification, serious games and game-based learning are very similar. All three are very effective to motivate players. The difference between gamification and game-based learning is that in gamification you apply (some) game elements in an existing (non-gaming) context and in game-based learning you use existing games or specially developed serious games to learn. The difference between game-based learning and a serious game is that game-based learning is more a method, the way of learning, and a serious game is a product in which game-based learning is possible.

Let’s take a closer look at gamification, game-based learning and serious games.

What is gamification?

Gamification is not about a game, but about the use of game elements in a non-gaming context. It is a method in which one or more game elements are processed in a process to better transfer knowledge. A similar definition of gamification is a set of activities and processes to solve problems by applying the properties of games.

By applying game elements users become more involved, are more productive and have more fun. A good example of gamification is Kahoot, a tool that allows you to compose a quiz. Users can then take part in the quiz via their phone or laptop and fill in their answers live. After each question there is an intermediate mode in which you can see how well you are doing compared to other players. This leaderboard, an example of a game element, motivates players to do their best.

Read more about gamification and how to apply it.

Pros of gamification

  • Simple implementation and low development costs.
  • Can be applied as an extra layer on an existing product or intervention.
  • Great for making repetitive or boring actions more fun.
  • Effective to stimulate competition within a company and motivate employees.

Cons of gamification:

  • Less effective in the long run because the virtual rewards do not provide long-term satisfaction.
  • Only appeals to a limited target group, mainly people who are performance oriented.
  • Can not be used for all types of problems. With only gamification, you do not learn new skills.
  • Can only be used as an extra layer for an existing intervention.

 

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What is game-based learning?

Game-based learning is the use of existing games or specially developed serious games to learn something or to achieve a specific learning outcome.

The difference between game-based learning and a serious game is that game-based learning is a learning methodology, and a serious game is a product in which game-based learning is possible.

Pros of game-based learning:

  • Appeals to the target group, because it better suits their interests.
  • Game-based learning provides an environment in which users can experiment and receive immediate feedback on their actions. This is a proven effective way of learning.
  • In this environment new skills are trained and knowledge is transferred.
  • Due to the high immersion and captivating game environment, game-based learning keeps users’ attention for a long time.

Cons of game-based learning:

  • The use of game-based learning depends on supply. There is not (yet) a game for every possible problem.
  • A companion, instructor or teacher is needed to properly guide game-based learning. Think about defining the learning goals, explaining and assessing.
  • This facilitator, instructor or teacher must have extensive knowledge of the game being used.

What are serious games?

Serious games have a primary goal to transfer knowledge, teaching skills or the stimulation of behavioural change. Entertainment is not the main objective of serious games.

Serious games are often used by companies to achieve complex goals. In education, the healthcare sector, within governments and for scientific purposes, serious games are often used.

A good serious game is indistinguishable from a game that focuses purely on entertainment. By using an attractive virtual world, exciting characters, rewards and challenges, games become attractive to play. A serious game gets its power from the storyline. Every game has a storyline, but in serious games a message is incorporated in it, depending on the learning objective of the game. Combined with the challenges and rewards, the game can be set up in such a way that the users (sometimes unconsciously) learn a new behaviour or take on new knowledge. Learning in a fun way.

All over the world we see beautiful results in which serious gaming played a leading role. Discover five examples of successful serious games.

Pros of a serious game:

  • Is widely applicable for almost any type of problem or objective because it can be fully customized.
  • Can be tailored to any possible target group due to the wide range of available game genres.
  • Is effective for a long time because the player is intrinsically motivated to continue playing the game. Because of this it can be used for behavioural change.
  • Has a high degree of immersion which makes the learning effect greater than other interventions.
  • It is a stand-alone intervention.

Cons of a serious game

  • The development of a serious game is complex, takes a lot of time and is therefore often more expensive.
  • Requires specific domain-knowledge to develop.
  • The deployment and implementation of a serious game needs good support.

Serious games, gamification and game-based learning: a conclusion

Gamification, serious games and game-based learning are very similar. The difference is that gamification applies a few game elements in an existing context. Game-based learning is a training that consists entirely of game elements. However, both gamification and game-based learning are very effective in motivating players and are accessible in terms of implementation and cost.

what’s the difference between serious games, gamification and game based learning

Gamification is easy to implement and therefore has low costs. It is suitable for making repetitive or boring actions more fun and can stimulate competition within a company. Gamification is less effective in the long run and is not always the right solution.

Game-based learning fits well with the interests of the target group and is therefore often very appealing. Users can experiment in this environment and because of the captivating game environment game-based learning keeps the user’s attention for a long time. However, the use of game-based learning depends on the availability on the market and a facilitator/instructor (with sufficient knowledge) is needed to properly supervise it.

A serious game is broadly applicable because it can be fully customized. Because serious games motivate the players intrinsically, they can also be used for behavioural change. However, the development of a serious game is more complex and therefore often more expensive than, for example, gamification.

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Would you like to know more about serious games? Not sure whether gamification, game-based learning or serious gaming is the solution to your challenge? Please contact Tim Laning to discuss it:

 

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