Gamification vs Serious Gaming


Often people get confused between Gamification and Serious Gaming.  They think both are one and the same. Even though the ultimate objective is same: engagement in an interesting manner, the concepts are drastically different!

Let’s try to understand them with the help of these 2 examples.

Example 1: Imagine you are awarded ‘Employee of the month’ trophy, which you keep on the desk to showcase to all the other employees and your name is put on the notice board to felicitate your achievement. This is Gamification.

Example 2: Imagine you are in school and your history teacher gives you a crossword puzzle. She asks you a syllabus related question and writes the answer on the board in this format – ‘_ _ _ A _T_ _S_’ and you are asked you fill in the blank spaces by guessing the alphabets. Wouldn’t that be fun? Or would you prefer your teacher boring you by reading the same thing from the textbook? Now that’s Serious Gaming!

In the first example, the game mechanic of ‘rewarding the achiever and social recognition’ is used to engage the employees and yield the desired the result i.e. efficiency. That’s Gamification – where game mechanics are introduced to non-game activity to make it interesting and exciting. Whereas in the second example, the task or game is the central activity through which knowledge is shared with the students. In Serious Gaming, desired things are communicated or influenced by means of a game.

While Gamification focuses more on rewards and tasks, Serious Gaming focuses on the game or activity itself to engage the customer. In any case, no matter which technique you use, both are impactful if implemented well. Plus, both can be used across all platforms; from social media to print to TV commercials.

Another important thing about both the techniques is that they use psychology to disarm the customer’s defence of preconceived notions about advertising. Hence, it not only helps communicate the message but also goes a long way in creating a favourable impression.

Due to this very reason, gamification is increasingly used for marketing activities as it transforms a commercial activity to something personal that a user or customer relates to. Britannia had used this technique during the 2003 Cricket World Cup to great effect. It had come out with a marketing campaign ‘Britannia khao, World cup jao’. People had to collect packaging wrappers and submit them to get a Booklet which featured the scratch card. Sales skyrocketed due to this activity.  By ‘rewarding’ the customers ‘a trip to South Africa’ for collecting packaging wrappers, Britannia gamified the marketing campaign and reaped huge profits!

Serious Gaming is used extensively for education and training purposes. But nowadays, financial institutions like banks and insurance companies have started using this approach to engage the customers and generate leads. Walk in to any bank branch and you will understand what I am trying to say. You will be given an activity page featuring a simple game. After playing it, you will receive a small gift and a sales pitch will follow based on the game.

Hopefully, now that both the concepts are clearly defined in your mind, next time when you plan to communicate a message, be it a marketing plan or a training session, try using one of these techniques rather than your usual ones and be assured of the results; because everyone loves a message with a twist!



    1. Hey mherger, I completely agree with you that there are better descriptions. But there are complicated, not something a layman would like to read. I think, this one just simplifies things. And in case some one wants to explore further, he or she can check out the definitions which you are mentioning.

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