Gamification vs Game-Based Training: Whats the Difference? [Part 1]

Gamification and game-based training are all about making your content fun and engaging with, you guessed it, games! But don’t be fooled — while they may sound like the same thing, their results won’t play out the same way.

How so?

Let’s pretend you’re a professional baker with several freshly-made vanilla cakes ready to sell. A customer comes in and requests a few cakes, but they want strawberry-vanilla ones instead. What do you do?

If you’re short on time, and want to use what you’ve got, you could go for the quick-fix and add cut-up strawberries on top of those cakes. Okay, they’re still just vanilla cakes with some strawberries thrown on them, but technically they can be called “strawberry-vanilla,” right?

That’s a lot like gamification — using something you already have and throwing some new elements onto it. When you give points to users for reading a PDF, or add games in-between content, you’re trying to make the same stuff seem like a game when, let’s face it, it isn’t.

But what if you have the time to do it right? Though making new cakes will still include the same ingredients as the vanilla one, fully incorporating the strawberries into the batter (and icing) would result with an actual strawberry-vanilla cake!

That’s game-based trainingtaking every element and mixing them together to achieve a specific outcome. There’s no way anyone would mistake this cake as a strawberry-vanilla “wannabe,” it’s the real deal!

But we’re talking about businesses here, not cakes, so let’s look at these again from a different perspective.



Gamified content is a lot like store discounts; quick and short-lived, exciting for one moment then forgotten the next. People will initially be attracted to it but, over time, will lose interest as the sale loses its appeal. To keep shoppers interested you’d have to perpetually increase the discount which can, in turn, make the discounts themselves a boring norm.

Similarly, companies often tack gamification elements on to their existing training. They’ll initially see some promising-looking engagement spikes but, after only a few months, those spikes will take a deep dive. With nothing to keep their interest people will move on and forget what they learned, leaving the company with no choice but to go back to the drawing board.

While gamification may seem like a great solution because it’s quick in implementation, it’s worth remembering that it’s also short-lived and unsustainable.

Game-Based Training

Unlike gamification, game-based training knows store discounts aren’t the answer. Instead, it focuses on providing customers a great shopping experience. People will enjoy shopping and continue to return because of how good it feels to shop in their store.

Likewise, companies who use game-based training experience a steady growth in engagement that’s sustainable over time. Employees become genuinely interested and invested in what they’re learning. They’ll happily revisit and recall information, in turn solidifying their understanding of the topics at hand. And companies reap the rewards of their enthusiasm for days to come.

Of course, getting to that level is a process that will take some time, patience, and the willingness to reinvent tried-and-true practices. But the payoff for this approach will be both long-term and sustainable — it’s a win-win for everyone!

Making a Choice

Do you want short-term or long-term results? Sustainable or not? Gamification may seem like a great contender at first, but in the long game there’s no denying that it’s a poor game-based training wannabe. 

You could choose either one if you so desire, but remember: your decision must consider the goals and needs of both your organization and your course content. Make the wrong choice and nobody wins. But do it right and you can expect increased engagement, better retention, and happier employees.


When should you use what? Let’s start with game-based training in Part 2 of this 3-part series!