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Gamification Versus Game-Based Learning – A Quick Comparative Guide

Growing up there was one quote / proverb in the English Grammar textbook that resonated a lot with me – “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” In recent years, with an increasing awareness about gender equality and sensitivity the quote has been expanded to read “All work and no play makes Jack and Jane dull children.” Now that we have set the context of how sports / entertainment plays a key role in developing the mindset of a growing child, we need to wonder why this same logic has not been applied to workplace learning solutions?

Why do employees all over the world, working for different organizations and industries in different roles, have to take up similarly designed eLearning or catalog courses that are dull and offer no motivation to the learner to complete the courses.

In most cases, it is the mandate from HR or L&D and safety and compliance courses are altogether at another level, which no one really cares about and are just completed with clicks to achieve compliance. So how do we make eLearning or digital learning solutions easy, fund, engaging, and interactive? Simple – “Gamify the learning solution.” Many years ago, I recollect a senior director of learning yelling this phrase in a crowded conference room. Along with microlearning, and videos, gamification is another strategy that can be adopted to increase the learner engagement levels and make the digital learning solution interesting.

What is Gamification of eLearning?

Gamification of eLearning can be defined as the addition of elements of games to any eLearning solution to make it more interesting. The elements can be:

  • Drag-and Drop Activities

  • Quizzes

  • Role-Based Games

  • Simulations

  • Strategy-Based or Arcade-Like Games

  • Digital badges and rewards for successful learners

Essentially the game-elements are included at a later stage to make the eLearning content more appealing.

What is Game-Based Learning?

Game-Based Learning on the other hand has the game at the core of the eLearning solution and the associated content elements are built around the game to offer a seamless learning experience through different stages or levels of the game. There is a lot of thinking involved in the creation of game-based learning experiences and it is highly time-consuming, resource-intensive, and expensive when compared to gamifying an existing eLearning solution.

When distinguishing the two, we can state that gamifying content is structural gamification whereas content gamification turs the bulk of the content itself into a game. It is also important to note that several LMSs and LXPs offer gamification as a function of their platform, and this elevates the learning content to a whole new level of engagement, if applied properly.

This is an interesting TEDx Talk by Andre Thomas on the “Effective Use of Game-Based Learning in Education”. It runs for about 17 minutes and offers some interesting insights that hold true for modern workplace learning as well.

Salesforce and Trailhead

Trailhead is the learning platform for Salesforce professionals or individuals who wish to become trained Salesforce professionals. The team at Salesforce have used the best elements of gamification of learning and game-based learning design to create a wholly unique learning experience that truly motivates the learners to complete the different levels of the courses on offer and gain certificates.

Gamifying Learning for Better Learner Engagement

Some points to remember when gamifying content to improve the learner engagement levels are given below:

Imagine a Video-Game

The 80s were when video gaming really took off in most parts of the world. Though consoles were available at a premium price there was some refinement lacking till the 80s. “The Game Boy” was a hand-held gaming console from Nintendo, Japan, which completely changed the way people perceived video games and it started a huge success story for the brand and led to many tech-majors trying their hand at coming up with their own consoles. Rather than deviate, let’s focus on the topic.

Good video games have interesting story-arcs, powerful characters, and different player levels. Now when creating gamified learning, apply those thoughts of a proper story-arc, interesting characters, and a pay-off or reward for the learner to complete the game. How the learning element is blended with the game depends on the skills of the learning experience designer.

Awards and Challenges

The rise of social media networks has also brought in the concept of social learning. Allow learners to challenge other learners accessing the same course to complete challenges or tasks and give them digital badges that they can proudly flaunt.

Organisations may also want to consider giving actual rewards – monetary benefits or shopping vouchers to “outstanding learners” who are able to complete the courses better and faster and show a keen application of what they have learned in their tasks. Social media integration is not just Facebook or Twitter. It could also mean integration with the organization’s official Intranet platform.


One recent phenomenon has been the success of a word-game called Wordle. People get one word every day and they spend their time identifying it in a limited number of chances. People started sharing their scores on Twitter and it went viral. The game became so popular that The New York Times bought it and it is now a part of its catalog of games and puzzles on its website.

Role-Play and Simulated Environments

Modern computer-based video games are at an altogether different level. The fight for supremacy between the X-Box from Microsoft and Play Station from Sony has produced some fantastic titles. In recent years, Call of Duty and PUBG from Battle Grounds have won immense popularity and fan-following as these are shooter-based games that offer realistic game-paly and simulate the war-zones in different parts of the world, provide arms and ammunition for players to buy and deploy in games, and challenge other players with ease to hold tournaments.

Simulated environments and role-play in gamified learning solutions can be an expensive affair and need to be backed with a proper story arc to engage learners. If there is a definite need for it and the budget is available and it complements the learning content then it is a good idea to try it out.


At S4Carlisle, we can help you meet your training needs with thoughtfully designed gamified learning and game-based learning solutions. Write to us at to learn more about how we can create a winning learning solution for your organization.


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