Explained: Game-based vs Gamification in eLearning

Posted by: waadmin
Category: eLearning
gamification in elearning

If you’re involved in any capacity with your organization’s learning and development, you should be familiar with the terms ‘game-based’ and ‘gamification’. They are both relatively recent trends for making elearning more effective. The terms aren’t interchangeable.

Ready Player One

Game-based learning takes place within a game environment. The goals (knowledge and/or skills) are achieved through actual gameplay. From role-play to puzzle-solving, categories are wide-ranging. Scenarios can represent real-life or delve into fantasy. Learning through games can be highly engaging, which will motivate employees to complete modules. Players can develop a real connection with the game, which may be because people respond to their computers and consoles as they would to actual people (Fogg, 2002).


Fantasy offers the learner a chance to suspend reality, which should make them feel more relaxed and safe to explore situations and test themselves without fear of failure. Often an immersive experience, players are more motivated to complete learning in a fantasy game format. To maximize effectiveness, it’s important to ensure the fantasy scenario is built around the learning content.

Real-life Scenario

While this may not appeal to Millennial gamers as much, employees who haven’t grown up on video games might prefer something closer to reality. The game could actually represent a work environment, with role-playing scenarios. This would be far less daunting to non-gamers than having to shoot zombies or battle an evil wizard.

Elements for Engaging Game-Based Learning

  • A well-designed elearning game should make the player curious – curious to start and to keep playing to see what happens next.

  • Make it all about the goals, which should be clearly identified.

  • Learners should feel challenged: make it too easy and it’s boring, but too difficult and it becomes demotivating.

  • As far as possible, the content should be learner-specific. If the player wonders why they’re learning, they won’t bother.


While learning in a game platform can be exciting and highly motivating, bespoke elearning games don’t come cheap. According to Sokanu, the average game designer earns over $85,000, with some achieving nearly $130,000 per annum. Creating a multi-level or multi-chapter game requires expert coding, plus it’s a lengthy process. Gamification is a far simpler, cheaper and arguably more effective alternative.

Gamification is a process whereby elements and mechanisms from video games are employed within an elearning program.

  • Behaviors are controlled via rules and rewards.

  • Points, badges and/or access to the next module are awarded when they achieve a pass level.

  • A progress bar helps the learner see how far they’ve come.

  • A leaderboard increases motivation by competing with colleagues.

  • Social learning is possible through collaborating via forums and sharing on social media.

Which Is Best?

Well, it really depends on your organization’s budget. If money really is no object, then bespoke game-based modules are the ideal for engaging your employees. Of course most companies don’t have that luxury and should therefore convert existing materials to elearning programs with gamification elements.