What the Hell is Game-Based Training?

There’s a lot of information out there on game-based training.

Some of it's good.

Some of it's confusing.

Some of it is BS.

Today I want to clear things up. Starting with the big question: what the hell is it?

To be more specific, it morphs corporate training content into fun, engaging experiences for employees. The goal is to not only make training fun, but to make it more effective, using tactics that promote retention and engagement.

If you’re still going, huh? Then think about it like this:

Picture a game you’ve played on your phone recently.

Something like Clash of Clans.

Then imagine that instead of defending against an invasion, you were actually learning about things like proper cybersecurity policies — while playing the game.

That’s game-based training.

What ISN’T Game-Based Training?

Let’s briefly decode some industry buzzwords and how they differ from game-based training.


Gamification takes game tactics (most commonly points, badges, and leaderboards) and slaps them onto existing content in the hope of making the content more engaging. The motivation is extrinsic; rewards are what keeps employees playing, not the content itself.

I’m not a big fan of gamification. Slapping some lipstick on your existing content might improve engagement, but does it drives learning? I’m not so sure.

Game-based training on the other hand uses intrinsic motivation to keep employees engaged. Instead of aiming for a badge, employees are motivated by challenging content and the desire to improve. This keeps employees engaged with the content itself, which improves learning.


Learn-then-play programs typically get lumped into the gamification catch-all umbrella, but they’re actually a bit different.

Instead of earning a badge for completing a training course, learn-then-play programs “reward” employees with a chance to play a non-educational game. The motivation to keep learning is higher because the reward is more valuable (assuming the game is fun). However like gamification, learn-then-play programs don’t tackle engagement with the learning content itself.

In game-based training on the other hand, the game is the training; educational content is turned into a game so people learn as they play. This ensures employees are engaged with the content — instead of skimming through it so they can get to the game.

Serious Games

Kind of a catch-all term, serious games basically refers to any game whose primary purpose is not entertainment.

So while all game-based training IS essentially a serious game, not all serious games are game-based training. Educational games at schools for example would be considered serious games, but not game-based training (since they aren’t a part of a corporate training program).

Why Use Game-Based Training?

Basically, because it works.

If you look at some of the best tactics for studying and learning (like practice testing and distributed practice) you’ll find they’re also core parts of game-based training.

Content is spaced out, making it easier to retain. And employees have to practice recalling it multiple times, in a variety of different ways, which reinforces learning.

Plus since its fun, employees are more likely to participate. Which is always a bonus when you're running a non-mandatory program.

Check out the video below on the top 3 benefits of game-based training for more details, or watch it here.


10+ Resources to Bookmark

It sounds pretty simple (I hope) but actually designing a game-based training program is fairly complex. That’s why we put together this go-to guide on game-based training.

Below are 10+ resources on game-based training -- from content best practices to getting your boss on board. There’s also a link to sign up for our 5-day crash course on building a killer game-based training program.

Go ahead and bookmark this page now so you can come back and read some of the resources later.

If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for hit us up on Twitter. We’ll be sure to write you back!

Game-Based Training: The Basics

Gamification vs Game-Based Training: Which is Right for You?

Find out whether you should be using gamification or game-based training in this 3 part series.

How to be Successful at Game-Based Training

Find out why some people are almost always successful at building game-based training — and how you can become one of those people.

Writing Great Content

How Challenging Should Your Employee Training Program Be?

We answer the question on every instructional designer’s mind: is this program too hard?

How to Effectively Structure Training Using Levels

Get our best tips for creating the right amount of challenge to keep employees and engaged — and learning.

How to Write a Successful Training Role-Play

Find out how to write a training role-play scenarios that moves beyond cheesy and actually helps employees apply what they’re learning.

How to Write Effective Quiz Questions Every Time

Never write a bad elearning quiz question again with these easy-to-follow formulas

The Business Side of Game-Based Training

22 Remarkable Game-Based Training Results You Need to See

Get an overview of the business case for game-based training.

How to Measure Training Results

Learn how we set our programs up to measure results.

WHITEPAPER: How to Improve Learning Outcomes & Reduce Training Time with Game-Based Training

Get an in-depth look at the business case behind game-based training in this free whitepaper.