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


Every year, the NCAA invites people from all over the world to participate in one of college sports greatest spectacles: March Madness. If you are reading this from the United States, chances are high that you have filled out a NCAA men’s basketball bracket before.

You know how it works: participants are given an online tool that lets them create bracket groups so they can compete with friends, family and colleagues. You choose which college basketball teams you think will win each round of play. For each team you get right, you earn points and for each team you get wrong, you lose the potential to earn points in the future. The goal is to earn the most points and pick the correct tournament champion.

In 2015, the American Gaming Association and GfK Custom Research of North America estimated that almost 40 million Americans filled out more than 70 million March Madness brackets. The average bet per bracket was $29, totaling over $2 billion.

So what keeps people playing year after year? The answer is simple: it’s fun! The NCAA takes the essence of what makes games so appealing (challenge, risk and reward), uncovers the mechanics that make them work (personalization, rankings and leaderboards) and applies these mechanics to the tournament.

NCAA tournament pools are a form of gamification. The game of basketball is, obviously, a game. And games that also have a learning goal are called learning games. Using games for learning is called game-based learning. If you’re a bit confused, there’s no need to worry! You can easily spot the differences between gamification and game-based learning with a little practice.

Want to design your own learning game? Sharon Boller and Karl Kapp share helpful game design tips in this recorded webinar.


The application of these game-like elements to the NCAA tournament is known as gamification. Simply put, gamification is the application of game mechanics to a non-game activity. Filling out a bracket is not a game in of itself. But when you assign points based on correct picks and add an element of competition, it becomes gamified.

Karl Kapp describes gamification as “an emergent approach to instruction which facilitates learning and encourages motivation through the use of game elements, mechanics and game-based thinking.” The purpose is to engage and motivate learners to become active participants in their own learning process.

In order to gamify something, you must first understand the various elements that make up a game. For example, a game’s mechanics are the rules and procedures that guide the player and the game response to the player’s moves or actions. Through the mechanics you create, you define how the game is going to work for the people who play it. There are also many game elements you can include to help keep people engaged. The choice of what to include should be deliberate. With learning games, you should consider how each element supports the learning process. Here are 12 elements often used to gamify content:

game elements chart

Gamification Examples

You can apply both game mechanics and game elements to a variety of contexts when you create learning solutions. Take a look at a few of these samples:

  • This curriculum included an illustrated map of the business process that was used to gamify the course. Learners journey through the business making stops along the way to identify the hazards and learn how to stay safe on their sites.
  • In this curriculum, we designed a gamified blended learning curriculum for a new product launch. The curriculum is both gamified as a whole and contains numerous competitive and collaborative games.

Game-Based Learning (also known as Learning Games and Serious Games)

Game-based learning uses learning games to achieve an instructional goal. If you hear someone discussing game-based learning, learning games or serious games, you can assume they generally mean the same thing.

What makes the game of basketball different from a pure learning game? The answer is a learning goal. Learning games have both a game goal (what players must do to win) and a learning goal (what players are to learn through playing the game). The term game-based learning describes the use of games for learning.

Oftentimes, people use gamification and game-based learning interchangeably. But when you take a closer look, the two have certain characteristics that make them unique. Unlike gamification, game-based learning involves an actual game that helps people learn. Players will either know something or be able to do something as a result of playing the game.

Game-Based Learning Examples

Below, you can see a few examples of games we’ve created.

  • We partnered with TE Connectivity to create a mobile learning game for smartphones. The app helps distributors learn about their customers, and the applicable products for each customer so they can position the right products with the right customers.
  • This organization is tasked with creating Information Asset Protection (IAP) policies and procedures to protect sensitive information, and to educate employees on how to follow them. As part of the curriculum, learners played an arcade-style game where they score points by identifying strong and weak passwords.
  • Our Knowledge Guru platform is a great example of game-based learning and why it works. Each Knowledge Guru game has its own unique combination of points, badges, leaderboards, mini-games, story, aesthetics, power-ups and more.

Access the “Play to Learn” Webinar

Sharon Boller and Karl Kapp introduced nine steps to effective learning game design in a live webinar on March 28th. Attendees heard their perspective on the three most critical and overlooked learning game design steps and had the opportunity to participate in Q&A.

Gamification and Serious Games Headed to the Mainstream


Gartner Group, which monitors trends across many industries, has labeled gamification as a trend that is sliding into the “trough of disillusionment” within the education industry. Does that mean that it—and its cousin learning games—are dying?

The short answer is no… at least not the good applications of these learning methods.

Instead, it means that we are moving gamification toward mainstream usage and beyond the early adoption stage. It also means that bad uses will become more apparent, as will effective uses. It means that companies who are more conservative—who are the “let’s wait and see how this shakes out” kind of decision-makers—will likely be ready to jump on board soon.

Products that were mediocre and not grounded in good instructional design are going to disappear. However, those with strong underpinnings will remain. Custom initiatives will also get better as people make more thoughtful choices on what type of game or gamification to implement—and when to do it.

Here’s a quick list of things to think about as you consider ways to use games and gamificaition:

  • Use a portal. A portal is a web-based access point that shows leaderboards, achievements, levels, etc. With a portal, you can gamify non-game activities and let people earn points or badges based on what they complete or how they progress.  For example, you could gamify your entire onboarding experience by letting new employees earn points for completing specific activities. Gamifying something like an onboarding program can work if the experience will be of fairly short duration (weeks, not months).  Their weakness can sometimes be that people tire of them quickly if they last for long periods of time. They also run the risk of focusing more on completion than the quality of performance.
  • Create an immersive game or simulation. Immersive games or simulations are terrific for helping people learn and practice new skills while receiving continuous feedback. These games pull people into them and even make them feel real emotions as they play. They also lay a very strong foundation for extensive post-game discussion as people evaluate the experience and share insights. Immersive games are best when they function as part of a learning experience rather than being the learning experience.
  • Produce mini-games focused on reinforcement. Mini-games that require only minutes to play can serve as strong reinforcement tools, helping people to retain what they may have learned as part of a formal training component or helping them to prepare to learn in a more formal way.

Where does Knowledge Guru fit in?

Companies have used Knowledge Guru as a way to prepare people for learning or to reinforce learning. We have some terrific success stories of companies who used Knowledge Guru to help people prepare for launch meetings, as a game activity during a live meeting, and as general training reinforcement. Learners can play it in small increments, so it has the ability to mimic the value of a mini-game while being a more robust experience overall.

Background on Gartner’s hype cycle

Gartner’s hype cycle refers to the cycle that emerging technologies go through on their way to mature usage. There are five stages in the evolution of a technology that makes it to maturity:

  1. Technology Trigger – The new technology or concept comes onto the scene. Early proof of concept stories emerge and the media grabs hold.
  2. Peak of Inflated Expectations – Early adopters start sharing success stories.
  3. Trough of Disillusionment – Interest wains if experiments fail. Producers of technology start to shake out with some providers disappearing.
  4. Slope of Enlightenment – More instances of how the technology can benefit the organization start to emerge. Conservative companies initiate pilots and the concept/technology gains broader acceptance.
  5. Plateau of Productivity – The technology finds its place and becomes mainstream. Criteria for viability are clear.

Are you a trainer or eLearning designer who wants to use games to engage your learners? Get Sharon Boller and Dr. Karl Kapp’s learning game design book, Play to Learn.

7 Steps to an Effective Serious Game or Gamification Implementation


Are you a do-it-yourselfer? When it comes to serious games, ATD says you probably are.

In an ATD survey conducted for its 2014 research report, Playing to Win: Gamification and Serious Games in Organizational Learning (link), 71% of organizations reported that they prefer to develop serious games in-house. 83% said they planned to develop gamification in-house.  I’d say that’s a confident group! In the same survey, only 20% of organizations were already using serious games for learning, while 25% were using gamification. That means most organizations have never used games for learning before and plan to do it without help from a vendor.

The challenge of in-house game design

One of the reasons serious games are hard to create successfully in-house is the lack of game design skill most organizations have on their teams. Your instructional designers may be good, but have they played lots of games? Have they designed games before? Many instructional designers continue their education and earn masters degrees in instructional design. Can you master game design by taking a one-day workshop?

Getting Around Game Design

Organizations often get around the lack of in-house game design expertise by using game templates or a full fledged gaming platform. When the platform you use already has gaming built in, all you have to do is think about your content. A platform can make life much easier for your team… but creating the game itself is less than half the battle.

You still have to implement your game. And that’s where things really get interesting.

If You Build It, They Won’t Come… Unless You Have a Plan

No matter how fun your game-based solution is supposed to be, you will still need a plan for launching it, promoting it, and measuring it. How will you communicate about the game? Will you require players to play? How will you incentivize play… or do you need to incentivize? These are all questions you must answer as you implement a serious game or gamification initiative.

In my role, I get to collect stories from organizations who wish to submit for industry awards. These are typically the “best of the best.” They planned for success, either partnered with us to build a solution or created their own game with Knowledge Guru, and drove meaningful business results from their efforts.

What’s interesting about these award-winning implementations is just how similar they are. I find that the companies that are most successful with games and gamification in their organizations take many similar approaches when it comes to implementation.

So whether you are preparing to launch your first-ever serious game, or are looking to make your next initiative more successful than your last one, consider these tips for a successful implementation:

1. “Required” works best.

Let’s face it: employee time is limited, and most of us only have the energy to focus on the activities that are truly essential to our jobs. Even if your serious game is fun, is it equal or greater than the myriad of entertainment options available to us around the clock? Our experience shows us that the organizations that are most successful with serious games require play. For example, Johnson & Johnson has integrated Knowledge Guru into employee goals & objectives for the year.

2. Blend into a curriculum: use as part of a learning solution.

You probably have lots of training initiatives happening in a calendar year. Games might be a great addition to the mix, but you should not plan to replace all of these existing training events with games. The case studies I have gathered all show organizations having the most success when games are part of a larger blended curriculum or strategy. This allows you to narrow the focus of your game to cover a specific skill or set of knowledge.

3. Use the game as a reinforcement (most of the time).

Games and gamification make great reinforcement tools. In fact, most organizations we have worked with position games as either a reinforcement, or a motivating first exposure to content that will be covered in greater detail later. It is also easier to launch a game as a reinforcement when you are attempting your first go-around with serious games.

4. Offer incentives and/or provide sufficient motivation.

No matter how you dress it up, completing a serious game is still training that is part of a job. Unless your learners are highly intrinsically motivated, we recommend providing prizes and rewards. Encouragement from senior leadership can be even more effective. The grand prize winner of a Knowledge Guru game hosted by one of our Financial Services clients specifically cited how meaningful it was to be recognized by company leaders as part of winning the game.

5. Create a communications strategy around the game.

Learning and Development leaders need to think more like marketers when implementing all types of training. Every single case study I have seen of a successful Knowledge Guru implementation incorporates some sort of multi-part communications strategy to get the word out about the game. This could include many things, from advertisements in a call center to a series of emails or even a collection of advertisements placed throughout a company intranet site.

6. Use reporting and adapt the training.

Most organizations first get interested in games because they want to motivate or engage their employees. This is only part of why games are powerful organizational learning tools, though. For example, Johnson & Johnson was able to identify a specific learning objective that learners were missing as a group, then adjust their overall training to better focus on the weak process step. The organizations that are successful with serious games and gamification take advantage of the data they gather on learners and act quickly to adapt their training and processes.

7. Gather insights via surveys.

It is not uncommon to survey learners after a training initiative is completed… especially after a pilot. Games are no different. The surveys conducted by Knowledge Guru customers have revealed many valuable insights that impact future games. In one survey, a player commented that they learned a more effective way to do their job through the game that had not been covered in company-wide training. Our client was able to take this information and launch new training to teach the effective process to the rest of the department.

See Four Case Studies In Our Recorded Webinar

Want to learn more about how to implement effective serious games? I cover these implementation tips in the recorded webinar below, adapted from my ATD International 2015 presentation. You’ll also see four case studies from organizations that have implemented a serious game that drove real results.

How Games & Gamification Can Help Align Processes & Procedures


Some people cringe when they hear the words “process” or “procedure.” Others appreciate and value them. Either way, processes and procedures are essential to a successful organization. That’s why so much of the training organizations deliver is supposed to help align employees with a process or teach them a procedure.

In an article on process training I wrote for our BLP Lessons on Learning blog, I shared that 41% of respondents to our one of our previous Learning and Remembering Surveys listed policies, process, and procedures as the primary type of knowledge employees must know on the job. This was the most mentioned training topic!

Learning and remembering survey

The challenges L&D professionals listed in their survey responses likely sound familiar to anyone involved with process training. Organizations struggle because they have too many processes, too much training for employees to consume, lack of buy-in with key middle managers and lack of real motivation to change habits in the first place. That last reason, getting employees to buy into the “why”, is especially important. It’s not so much a matter of learning as it is an issue with motivation.

Let’s assume that your employees are human beings who are intelligent and capable of following basic steps. They could learn the process and follow it if they wanted to, but they have not found a compelling reason that motivates them to do so. — excerpt from “Is Your Process Training “Nice to Know” or “Need to Know”?

Many of our customers, Johnson & Johnson and Ally Financial to name a few, use Knowledge Guru games to teach a specific process that learners need to follow. We also create many custom learning solutions that include a gaming component where the goal is process alignment. While games or gamified solutions are sometimes the answer, they can only do so much when you have a process problem instead of a learning problem.

How can games and gamification help align processes and procedures?

I mentioned above that games may not be the answer if you really have a “process” problem. We sometimes conduct a training needs analysis with clients to discover if this is the case. If the real issue is that employees either A) do not know the process or B) are not motivated to follow the process, games and/or gamification can help.

Serious games and gamification can…

1. Help employees remember how to follow the process.

We always emphasize the importance of aligning game mechanics to instructional design principles. Our Knowledge Guru platform utilizes spaced learning, repetition and feedback loops, for example. The “Quest” game type includes a Bonus Gate where questions that players missed earlier in the game are shown again. When serious games are aligned with the science of remembering, learners are more likely to retain key facts long after they play.

2. Make Middle Managers Happy… or at Least Happier.

In environments such as call centers or factory floors, managers do not want their employees to take large amounts of time away from their work. Training that is distracting or disruptive to the flow of work will often not be supported. Many of the benefits of serious games and gamification can be realized in just minutes a day. Knowledge Guru “Quest” allows administrators to set how frequently players can play and also allows them to “lock” worlds for set lengths of time. An email reminder can be enabled to invite them back. This way, employees only play in small chunks.

3. Motivate employees to learn about the process.

Most learning professionals first turn to games or gamification because they hope to engage or motivate their learners. Points, badges and leaderboards can help with this… but they are not often enough to motivate by themselves. Your solution might also incorporate story, avatars, minigames and aesthetics to create an experience employees will find interesting.

4. Help build context and relevance.

One of the best way to increase adoption of a process is to show the why. Any game-based solution should make liberal use of relevant scenarios that ask learners to correctly follow and apply the process. Custom-built games can go even further with characters, stories and gameplay that mirrors the workplace. Watch out for solutions that present scenarios “at random” or via an algorithm! There is value in controlling the order in which content is seen so that learners can build on past knowledge from previous sections of the game.

How Johnson & Johnson Uses Knowledge Guru to Drive Efficiency

“Should I use games for learning?”

 “If the answer is yes, how do I integrate them into my training program?”

 “Oh, and what about buy-in from leadership?”

While research and case studies both demonstrate how effective serious games are when integrated into a blended curriculum, organizations need concrete examples that show what “success” looks like when using serious games.

One such example comes from the Talent Acquisition Organization at Johnson & Johnson. I interviewed Kristen Pela, Manager, Training & Communications, Talent Acquisition to learn more about their use of Knowledge Guru.


Who is the Talent Guru game for?

All Johnson & Johnson US associates within the Talent Acquisition organization.

How it is part of a learning solution? What other pieces are involved in the training?

The talent GURU game was one piece of a larger training program. The training program is a 5-week series of formal and informal training that includes:

  • Outcomes of Project Camelot
  • Outcomes of Project Prism
  • TA Fundamentals Refresher
  • Technology Refresher

Each week consisted of a 20 minute online module, Talent Guru competition, and a Topic Forum.

What results do you hope to produce from Knowledge Guru? What do you want the learners to know or do after playing? 

The goal of our training program is to drive consistency and efficiencies across Talent Acquisition not only with our processes but also in our recruiter and sourcer partnerships.

What initial feedback and results have you received so far?

The feedback for Knowledge Guru has been amazing and folks have really enjoyed the fun and interactive training.

What have been the keys to successful implementation for you? (I’m guessing the weekly emails are part of it)

We’ve driven success with:

  • Clear goals & objectives
  • Leadership involvement
  • Game play tied to each person’s G&Os (Goals and Objectives)
  • Daily & weekly winners, which creates a competitive framework
  • Use of Twitter to talk about the training and create some fun banter


What advice would you give to others on creating their first Knowledge Guru game?

Don’t rush game play or development. Getting folks engaged has been the key to our success.

Serious Game Evaluation Worksheet (Free Download)


A lot of people want to design learning games—also known as “serious games.” However, many of us in L&D have gotten very enthusiastic about the gamification and game-based learning trend without actually being game players themselves.

If you do not play games, you will find it very difficult to design a great game.

In the learning game design workshop that Karl Kapp and I offer, that’s exactly what we have you do—play some games. Game play helps you learn game design. It also helps you become evaluative about what game elements and game mechanics will optimize the game play experience. The lessons you learn from playing a lot of different commercial games will translate into good game design decisions for serious games.

Playing games helps you experience game elements such as chance, strategy, aesthetics, levels, rewards, achievements, scoring, competition, cooperation, and resources. You can observe how other game designers have used these elements with great (or poor) effect and consider how well the elements might translate into a game that also is specifically intended for learning. You can also experience different core dynamics and decide how fun they are.

Evaluation through play needs to be a deliberate experience. It is more than a matter of simply playing a lot of games. It involves analyzing the games you play—sometimes in great depth.

We’ve put together a template for you to download so you can do your own game evaluations. It includes a quick sample analysis of Knowledge Guru as well as a blank sheet for you to copy and use as you evaluate many different games. Here’s a few games to consider analyzing:

Board games:

iPad games

Download the Game Evaluation Worksheet

How to Connect Games to a Corporate Learning Curriculum


Thinking about using games for learning? You might want to question your motivations, first.

Using a serious game or gamification platform in corporate learning can be a great option, but it’s not the the right solution for every situation. We often ask our customers and clients some simple questions to determine if a game fits their needs:

  • Are your current learning solutions presenting challenges to people?
  • Do your solutions provide strong feedback?
  • Do your solutions motivate people to engage?

Challenges, motivation, and feedback are all characteristics of games that make them ideal in a corporate learning curriculum. And while other types of learning solutions can also provide challenge, motivation and feedback… games often do them best.

Behavior Change… or Check the Box?

So much “training” organizations create is really just a “check the box” exercise in company communication. In these situations, are games and gamification really needed? If we really are just complying with a procedure and are not attached to the outcome, it might actually make better business sense to not use an innovative learning solution.

On the other hand, if routine communication is important, we might seek a way to gamify the process and make people more engaged in the communication we are sending out.

Bottom line: if you don’t really care what people learn or remember, games are not the right choice. When job performance and retention do matter, you should consider game-based solutions. Let’s look at some scenarios:

When to Use Games in Corporate Learning

Here are four situations that take advantages of the innate strengths games have as engagement tools. They represent either use of a game or a gamification of the learning experience:

  • People need to know something “cold” (e.g. from memory, sort of like multiplication tables) and it’s not information that is enjoyable or easy – on its own – to learn.
  • People’s hearts and emotions need to be affected in order to open them up to new ways of viewing something or understanding something.
  • People need a safe way to evaluate their skills and behaviors – and to improve them. People who think they are stellar at project management can play a project management game and get an entirely new insight into how they ACTUALLY behave when faced with constraints or pressures.
  • People need ongoing motivation in order to stay engaged in a long-term endeavor (a certification process, a long-term company initiative).

Example: We worked with a global company this year to prepare sales reps for the launch of a new product AND their first-ever Android Smartphones. We created a mobile game that helped them build their product knowledge as well as build skills in navigating the phone and accessing information. They loved competing, achieving new levels, and seeing their scores go up. The game’s challenges and feedback kept them highly engaged, and by the end of the game, they were adept at linking product features and benefits to specific customer questions and objections AND in using their phones.


Review of Karl Kapp’s newest book on learning games aka serious games

urlI first met Karl Kapp in late 2012. I was a fan of one of his early books, Gadgets, Games, and Gizmos for Learning, which he published in 2007, and I’d also read and enjoyed his recently published The Gamification of Learning and Instruction.. Consequently, I was pretty thrilled when he visited the Knowledge Guru booth at DevLearn 2012 to learn about our newly-launched game engine. He was intrigued enough by its design to check out a session I co-presented with Scott Thomas of ExactTarget on the use of a Knowledge Guru-created game within ExactTarget.

Based on what Karl heard about ExactTarget’s business results, he asked me to contribute a case study to a forthcoming book he was writing with two other main co-authors, Rich Mesch and Lucas Blair. The book, titled The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook, was going to pick up where its predecessor left off. It would offer more in-depth “how-to’s” and include numerous examples of games or gamification being successfully used as a learning strategy.

I contributed my chapter about a year ago. A few weeks ago I was rewarded with a copy of the finished book.  I read the entire book (not just my chapter), and I was impressed by the wealth of knowledge it contains. It offers detailed explanations of the terminology of games as well as solid definitions of what a learning game is and how a learning game differs from gamification of a learning solution. Here are several highlights or nuggets from various chapters. If you are serious about wanting to implement learning games or creating a gamification strategy, get the book.

Chapter 4 – Critical Questions for Creating an Interactive Learning Event (aka game)

The section on scoring will be hugely helpful to any new learning game designer.  In my own experience, scoring is one of the most difficult aspects of game design to get right. This chapter offers  excellent guidance.  Karl helps the reader think through the measurement criteria that could be used within a game – and how to decide which ones are relevant for a particular learning game. He specifically speaks to being able to articulate the rationale for the scoring – and keeping it simple enough that the learner/player can understand how a game is scored. He also points out that optimal scoring matches the desired learning outcomes. There are questions and guidelines galore to help the designer figure out how to create a good scoring system within a game.

Chapter 5 – Foundational Elements

First, it’s helpful to a novice game designer to even know what constitutes a “foundational element:”  things such as  constructs, game mechanics, feedback, challenge, story. Secondly, there’s some key tips here that I’ve learned from experience are absolutely worth listening to:

  • Never add things to a serious game or simulation because you think they are cool.” This is a rookie mistake, and you don’t have to make it if you pay attention to this book. In a  game, complexity can be fun to design – but complexity can be deadly to the learning process. Your learners/players get so consumed with trying to understand the rules that they have no brain space left for actually learning anything you intended. Yes, I’ve learned this the hard way! (I’ll speak to this at my upcoming session, “Lessons from the Trenches of Digital Game Design” at ASTD TechKnowledge 2014 and Training 2014.)
  • You have to play games – lots of games – before you can realistically design a good game. Playing games exposes you to the array of game mechanics you can use. As the author notes, “Often when creating a game or simulation, you will…repurpose, recombine, or modify game mechanics from other games that already exist.”  You can’t do this if you don’t have experience playing – and evaluating – a ton of games. I’m constantly amazed to find people in our learning game design workshops who don’t play games. It’s tough to design a game if you don’t play them frequently yourself.
  • Feedback is one of the reasons games are such a powerful learning tool. As players play a game, they constantly get feedback on how well or poorly they are doing, and they get cues on what they can do to adjust their performance. The Fieldbook talks about the impact of feedback on the player and identifies a variety of feedback types that a designer can incorporate into a game. This section is going to be very helpful to the novice designer.

Chapter 6 – The Importance of Narrative/Context/Story

Story helps immerse a player into the game experience AND a story can also help a learner remember the key take-aways from a game experience long after play ends. The author reminds readers that good stories have a beginning, middle, and end and they chart a logical progression of conflict, resolution, and conclusion. This chapter includes a simple template for creating a story, a useful tool for novice and experienced designers alike.

Chapter 7 – Make the Case

This chapter summarizes the research on the efficacy of games as a learning solution. If you want details on a large array of studies you can find them within Chapter 7. For a brief summary,  check out this infographic created by our team at Bottom-Line Performance, Inc.

Chapter 13 – Technology Tools

This is a useful chapter for organizations looking to discover what development tools are out there for creating serious games. The delineation between template-based authoring tools, game engines, and gamification platforms is particularly useful.

Chapters 15 – 22

Here you’ll find EIGHT (!) different stories of organizations who implemented a learning game or a gamification strategy related to a business initiative. Readers get the background on the business situation that led to a decision to create a game or gamified strategy, a description of the solution, a summary of the business results achieved, and lessons learned. For folks who need examples to help support their efforts to convince their own organizations to adopt the use of games these chapters will be very helpful.


I recommend you get the original book (Gamification of Learning and Instruction) and the Fieldbook if you want to have a robust package on your shelf re: learning game design and gamification of learning. You’ll use them again and again in either of these scenarios:

  • You manage a learning function that wants to implement a game-based solution and you want to sell stakeholders on the idea of using a game or gamification.
  • You are a designer and you want to build skill in creating learning games.



4 Ways Serious Games Link to Learning (Free Download)

4 Ways Serious Games Link to Learning

A growing body of research supports the use of serious games in the workplace. And thanks to a year of successful implementations in corporate settings, some great case studies now point the way for organizations ready to use games for learning.

Whether you want to use a true serious game, a gamified solution, or a combination of the two… it’s a great time to do so.

While research shows that people learn more from games than other learning solutions, many L&D practicioners still do not know why games work… so they avoid using games entirely.

If you think you want to use a game for learning, you first must become familiar with the types of “fun” in games, what’s required for real learning to happen, and the ways games can link the two.

We’ve created a new guide to help you accomplish this. The content, researched and written by Knowledge Guru creator (and BLP president) Sharon Boller, takes the mystery out of using serious games in the enterprise. It’s a simple thing, really: become familiar with the ways people have fun in games, identify the common principles all effective learning solutions share, and then carefully map the two together.

And once  you map the “fun” elements of your serious game to the elements needed for learning, you’ll also want to employ some research-based learning principles to actually help people remember the content after they’ve learned it. Are your game mechanics and game elements actually mapped to the cognitive tasks learners need to perform on the job? Are you taking advantage of the latest research on how the human brain best commits knowledge to long-term memory?

The guide, titled 4 Ways Serious Games Link to Learning, is available as a free download.

4 Ways Serious Games Link to Learning

The 12 Corporate Learning Content Areas… and Where Games Fit

Corporate Learning Content Areas

When it comes to game-based learning, 2014 is the year of theory moving into practice. An increasing number of organizations are planning initiatives to include games in their learning solutions. The research has been validated and plans are being set.

But if you’ve never designed a game before, or tried to include a game in your training, where do you begin?

The answer, of course, depends on the type of training you are developing. The 2013 ASTD State of the Industry report includes a wonderful table with the twelve most common content areas found in corporate training. Some of these content areas are rather broad, but they are a great starting point for visualizing the types of training we frequently develop. The content areas are shown below:

12 corporate learning content areas

The type of game you might create will vary widely for each content area. I’ve included a general suggestion or two for each content area below, but the list is not exhaustive! Use the suggestions as a starting point.

Managerial and Supervisory:

Soft-skills training often (but not always) works best in face-to-face situations. Why not use a role playing game to give learners situational practice? Rote Q&A, points, and badges will be of less value.

Mandatory and Compliance:

This is the sort of information we need to know, or our organization needs us to know. Since it often requires memorization, compliance training can be tedious. Consider a game that puts the content in a fun setting and employs some research-based learning principles to help people memorize the information faster.

Processes, Procedures, and Business Practices:

Processes and procedures are often foundational knowledge, just like compliance. Gamifying the process of basic memorization will work well here, but make sure you add context when possible. Even a game centered around Q&A can have context if you add highly relevant scenario questions.

Profession or Industry-Specific:
This topic is admittedly broad, so our suggestion for a game should really be “it depends.” Assuming the subject matter is applied, your game must be a realistic simulation of the work environment, or at least of the cognitive task being performed.
Sales training is often face to face because of the interpersonal element. Why not try a tabletop board game? If you need to train virtually, some vendors offer highly immersive digital games where players hone their negotiation and persuasion skills. These approaches can also be helpful, as long as they are not overly simplistic. Since you are designing a game for sales reps, why not make it competitive?
IT and Systems:
The subject is highly technical, and the information often must be memorized. Give learners a game that rewards them for being thorough and helps them reinforce their knowledge through the game’s mechanics.
New Employee Orientation:
New hire training is often basic and foundational. Elements like badges and leaderboards are helpful here because new employees can see how they stack up with others and even form some social connections.
Interpersonal Skills:
A tabletop board game is ideal for soft skills training… especially one that involves scenarios and active communication with other players.
Executive Development:
So many things go into executive development. Resource management and territory acquisition games are excellent for developing strategic thinking.
Customer Service:
A simple card game with customer scenarios can work well here. If the customer service environment is often rushed (such as for food service workers), consider adding a timed element to the game.
Basic Skills:
Basic skills are another type of training that often falls under “foundational knowledge.” Points, badges, and leaderboards are a good start, as you are trying to keep people motivated to learn what they need while knowing that the content itself is not so exciting.
Other (Quality, Product Knowledge):
People need to know it… and this type of training often involves either memorization or knowing where to locate the right information when needed. The game should either employ learning principles that help people memorize quickly (spaced learning, repetition, feedback), or reinforce where they should go to locate the information.