Gamification and Game-Based Learning: Blurred Lines

Gamification and Game-Based Learning are two apparently different words. More times than can be imagined, when referring to gamified learning, these two words are substituted for each other to mean the same thing. Admittedly, the difference between these words is subtle, it is however an important difference.

Often, the words “Gamification” and “Game-Based Learning” are used interchangeably and many would argue that they mean the same thing and talk about the same concept, but how correct is this?

There exists a subtle difference in “Gamification” and “Game-Based Learning”. According to Forbes, “Gamification” is defined as taking the essence of games—attributes such as engagement, transparency, design, and competition—and applying them to a range of real-world processes inside an organization, like marketing, call center management, and– most recently – leadership development. Training Industry pens down “Game-Based Learning” as the kind of training that uses game elements to teach a specific skill or achieve a specific learning outcome. 

Generally, game-based learning is designed to balance subject matter with gameplay and the ability of the player to retain and apply said subject matter to the real world. It is easy to muck up the difference between both words when one is lost in the technicalities of the definitions. According to an article posted on Capterra, “Gamification” is turning the learning process as a whole into a game, while “Game-Based Learning” is using a game as part of the learning process.

Gamification takes game mechanics and gameplay elements and applies them to existing learning courses and content to better motivate and engage learners. In theory, you can gamify any activity, not just learning ones. Game-Based Learning is aimed at teaching a discrete skill or specific learning outcome, rather than being a complete pedagogical system. 

From the foregoing, it can be concluded that Game-Based Learning is a part of a whole which is Gamification. Although the difference between both is not ostentatious, it is nonetheless important to note. Gamification and Game-Based Learning are fast becoming staples in the educational space, not excluding the corporate sector because of the level of engagement and motivation that these concepts offer to learners. Using Gamification and Game-Based Learning helps in cognitive development and aids retention of learnings.

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Article Written By Ibukun Sonaike
Date: October 2020

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