Home » Guest Article » The Difference Between Gamification and Serious Games
Vector concept of human resources and process of inspiration

The Difference Between Gamification and Serious Games

The following is a guest contribution by Timothy Rice:

Now, everything is about gamification. There are a plethora of reasons to accept it, and there are a ton of other reasons that suggest individuals be cautious and not jump on the bandwagon. There’s a huge difference between gamification and serious games. The latter is where all the fun and excitement resides, and the former is the reason to be cautious.

Gamification is about getting yourself, or someone, to be motivated by a task. From the ancient days when we were living in caves and killing each other to gain more caves to live in, we, the humans, performed better when motivated. This trait – flaw or blessing, you choose; is what drives video games. There are certain elements within a video game that affect motivation and make us want to collect X amount of Y and bring it to an NPC – over, and over again.

Sure, how stunning a game is – or isn’t; and an intriguing plot also helps, but at the end of the day, humans are motivated by the rewards they gain after they complete a certain task. You work for money to buy things and go on vacations, you don’t work just because the office view is fantastic, or the commute is short. You have an ever-growing list of needs that demand to be fulfilled. Furthermore, you work to eat, drink and have a roof over your head – thus, you work to exist.

Well, video games aren’t that anxiety-inducing.

Concept management of business by gamification. Integration and development. Interaction and growth of personal qualities - vector illustration

Let’s divide motivation in two – intrinsic and extrinsic. The first is about finding and doing something that you see interesting and engaging without sugar coating and idealizing it. The core of the subject is motivating. This is the optimal type of motivation – it doesn’t require any extra work, you don’t have to get pumped over it. There’s no giving it a try and see if it works, because you know it will.

On the other hand, extrinsic motivation relies on external factors – mainly because it’s not of interest. Yet, depending on the individual, there are occasions when these external motivators make a lot of sense, and with their help, an extrinsic motivation becomes an intrinsic one.

It’s crucial that you understand the difference between:

  1. Simulations

  2. Scenarios and,

  3. Serious Games.

Simulations are, technically, just a part of the world, a model that conveys what relationships and quintessential elements exist. They can come in a variety of states, and they can evolve through certain operations by bringing new factors or removing old ones from the medium. An autodidact who is motivated takes what he needs from simulations, but it doesn’t turn out to be that efficient, education-wise. This means, for the intention of learning, individuals will always choose the initial state of the simulation. This bridges a path to the learner and it comes their task to provide an end goal, which can’t be accomplished unless they decipher the world and its mechanism. This is where a story is typically inserted.

The concept of wealth through the mind. Vector illustration

A scenario consists of – an initial state, finding the purpose, and developing a story. This eventually leads to tuning and blending more scenarios to form a serious game. By tuning I mean adjusting certain elements that can be found in the game such as – what challenges there are, what outcomes can there be if A helps B and not C, how the story develops and so on, and so forth. The learner, will ultimately experience some sort of engagement. It’s always subjective.

It’s all fine and dandy, but you might be asking yourself, where’s the difference between serious games and gamification?

Some consider the two the same, while others don’t. I concur with the latter. Serious games aren’t a subdivision of gamification, and it also doesn’t work the other way around. There’s a particular distinction between the two of them. For me, it comes down to the forms of motivation – intrinsic and extrinsic, where serious games are of intrinsic type, and gamification extrinsic.

Gamification relies on high-scores and tier rankings wrapped around stories that reward players if they complete objectives – more often than not. There has to be a prize, there has to be a point. Yet, they can be detrimental to the user experience if they are not balanced and if they are added just for inclusions sakes. As scenarios require a certain amount of tuning to adjust to someone’s need, so gamification requires adjusting in order to be desired.

My preference is set to intrinsic, but that doesn’t mean I find extrinsic appalling. Every individual has to find their own balance. However, I found intrinsic to be more rewarding and satisfying on the long-run. If you can explain and make someone understand why a game’s intrinsic value, to you, is important – and it works for clubs, organizations and the likes; the commitment resulted will feel more gratifying. I’m not saying that gamification doesn’t have its uses or it’s fundamentally flawed. It makes sense in certain situations, and there is cause to believe that gamification is worthwhile – if done right.

Take fitness trackers – they possess a form of gamification, which isn’t damaging the user experience, and, in fact, it helps it grow. Nevertheless, when it comes down to learning, I do advocate choosing serious games. Not just because it comes from intrinsic motivation, but because the individual’s learning experience is mentored solely by themselves. They set the pacing, and goals. In my opinion, it’s one of the highest methods of learning.

Vector set of flat business illustrations

It does have its flaws, though. In fact, mistakes can be dangerous and can wreck the process entirely. When the cost of failure is massive, we always choose a practice run first – see MOBA games and the distinction between Normal and Ranked matches. For that matter, any other competitive video game in existence has some sort of Practice Match alternative. There has always been an option for the player to practice when he chooses without being obstructed by external factors.

This means that you can adjust the level of difficulty, learn from the consequences that arise and analyse the feedback given either by yourself, or from other players. The latter, however, should be taken with a grain of salt. One of my personal heroes, Satoru Iwata, ex-CEO of Nintendo, had the following saying –

“Above all, video games are meant to just be one thing: Fun for everyone.”

The bottom line is that understanding the difference between gamification and serious games can lead to a better process of learning. See what works for you, and explain in the comments section below.

Timothy Rice

About Guest Contributor

Check Also

Tekken 7 Release Date

Tekken 7 Release Date and Deluxe Edition Revealed

About Latest Posts Guest Contributor Latest posts by Guest Contributor (see all) The Difference Between ...

Nintendo Switch Launch Games

Here’s All The Nintendo Switch Launch Games (and more!)

About Latest Posts Guest Contributor Latest posts by Guest Contributor (see all) The Difference Between ...

Nier Automata Demo

NieR Automata Demo Out Now on PS4

About Latest Posts Guest Contributor Latest posts by Guest Contributor (see all) The Difference Between ...

  • Essain Liniar

    A game that has been gamified would be Diablo 3, if I read the article right. As for serious games, I would like for you to list some or expand better on it. I think most games have some extrinsic/gamified point to them.

Copyright © GamesNosh 2014-2015