Gamification and Game-Based Learning: What’s the Difference?

Gamification and game-based learning can increase learner engagement and training success, but there are key differences between the two that need to be understood to ensure that you adopt the appropriate strategy for your training.

Game-based learning can be defined as the integration of gaming into learning experiences to increase engagement and motivation.

Gamification is the act of adding game elements to a non-game situation, with the potential to turn routine, mundane tasks into refreshing, motivating experiences.


Basics of Gamification & Game-Based Learning

Gamification is the process of applying game based elements or mechanics to existing learning platforms or content to increase the engagement, motivation and interest of the learner. The game mechanics can be applied in the form of achievements, rewards or recognition, awarding badges on completion of assessments, and more. These elements increase learning ability through increasing persistence, goal orientation, learning by repetition, and through collaboration with peers. Gamification can make the learning experience more motivating and engaging for the learner but be careful when you are designing elements of gamification; intrinsic motivation is the key to motivation and more often than not a badge or an award only motivates extrinsically and therefore is short lived.

Game-based learning is the integration of a fully-fledged game or simulation to achieve specific learning objectives through the path that the game lays out. Often an immersive experience, it allows learners to think logically, plan strategically, and move ahead towards the goal. The learning content is integrated within the context of the game, and retention of the learning material is also higher due to the entertaining nature of the game.


While game-based learning does use many of the gamification strategies such as awards, level ups, etc, gamification itself cannot be equated to game-based learning. Recognising the different elements and tools used for both gamification and game-based learning will differentiate the two strategies and assist in choosing which to use.

Gamification involves:

  • Scoring mechanism/badges/awards
  • Levels
  • Leaderboards/Quests
  • etc

Game-based learning involves:

  • Rules of the game
  • Storyline
  • Avatars
  • Levels
  • Leaderboards/Quests
  • Simulations
  • etc

Which one should I use?

Game-based learning requires a lot of effort and time because the content must be designed to fit within the game elements, and also must be devised in such a way that the learners are made to learn but simultaneously have fun. So, you need to choose the right game approach for the given content, then consider the programming effort for the learning.

Possible across all custom learning, gamification offers a solution when you want to simply increase the fun element and engagement level of your training. By adding game elements to the course, you can make the learner more participative and involved with the concepts being presented. The learners are kept interested in continuing their learning through being presented with awards, level ups, and so on.The game mechanics and element that will benefit the custom learning course the most should be implemented for optimal success.


While it is evident that gamification and game-based learning are related, they are essentially two separate entities.  However, it is also certain that both are excellent tools for increasing learner engagement and motivation.

Related articles:

bunchball – gamification

edutopia – game based learning

thelearningcounsel – why game based learning?

heacademy – gamification and game based learning

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *