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Gaming or Gamification?


Tue Jun 02 2020

Gaming or Gamification?

My last blog on gaming, “Are You Using Games to Engage?,” discussed the importance of engaging the learner and how gaming allows that to happen with ease. In this blog, I’d like to clarify a question I frequently hear from learners: What is the difference between gaming and gamification?

Gaming is a physical or mental activity that involves competition. It may be part of a larger contest, assigns some sort of point system to determine winners, offers a reward, has a defined set of rules, and involves what we call “play.”


Gamification, on the other hand, is the act of applying gaming elements to something that is not a game to make the activity engaging or interactive.

For instance, you might design a virtual reality learning experience that has the learner walk through the steps for turning a machine on and off safely. To add gaming elements (or gamification), you might have the learner do those steps while timing them. In other words, if they perform under X number of minutes, they earn X number of points. Then, you create and award a badge to recognize that achievement.

With gamification, we can apply a few elements of gaming without having to design and create a whole game system. This enables us to engage the learner without having to allocate time and space that a game system might require.

Both gaming and gamification have a place in engaging today’s learner. Like any learning method that we choose to design and then develop into our learning programs, we need to take a step back and ask:

  • What’s the goal of the program?

  • What do we want our learner to walk away with?

After we know the goals and objectives of our program, we can determine whether gaming or gamification is the right fit.


To learn more about designing and developing learning games, check out my prerecorded session, Supercharge Your Learning with Games, during the ATD Virtual Conference: Building Capabilities and Connection, June 1-5, 2020.

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