Games engage and motivate people to learn and change

Games are a very potent and versatile tool. To best harness its potential start by understanding what challenge we are addressing: Knowledge deficit (serious games) or behaviour problem (gamification).Games address both challenges but it is done quite differently.

In both serious games and gamification we draw on the core game elements like mastery, points, levels, and achievements. The important core of games is that you have a strong active role as a learner, and need to accomplish clear goals through mastery. You make choices and it has consequences for how you progress, which is clearly communicated back to you through points, levels and achievements.

Your challenge?

Is it a lack of knowledge or a behavioural problem?

KNOWLEDGE

People lack skills or knowledge in
order to solve tasks and get things done.

SERIOUS GAMES

An engaging and safe virtual world, where you can go to learn and train repeatedly. Eg. I don’t know what food is healthy. We develop a game, where you can learn about what is healthy food).

BEHAVIOUR

People have the right skills and knowledge,
but they don’t act accordingly.

GAMIFICATION

Game elements layered on top of real-life processes. The game guides, nudges and motives people towards the right behaviour. Eg. I don’t eat healthy enough. We develop an AR app that nudges, supports and motives during the day.

In a serious game you move into a virtual arena, where you can safely do things. Here you can fail fast, explore without repercussions, play with what-ifs scenarios and go places that might otherwise be impossible. If you don’t get it right the first or second time you can try again.

In a serious game you scaffold and guide the learner, and you can track all performance to measure what is happening. We know from research that serious games  are more effective and engaging. They give better transfer of learning from the game to real-life application, and the retention of what you learned is longer.


Learning is strategically important, and yet often it ends up being seen as boring, waste of time and demotivating. An amazing number of companies accept that thousands of hours every year is wasted due to learners never being engaged.

In gamification it’s quite a different matter because here the game elements is closely tied to what you already do in the real world. It’s a way to more clearly focus on the right things, get feedback when you do it right, and get motivated by seeing clear progress in the form of level-up, achievements or similar.

Because gamification is closely tied to the real world the focus is moved towards more direct behaviour change. Although you can definitely create small learning elements inside a gamification experience, encouraging reflection and discussion you don’t have the same rich learning environments. Instead the focus is on motivating and nudging you in the right direction.

So much energy is put into the right strategy, courses and conferences. Yet, mostly behaviour doesn’t change. Not only do you need to improve your approach in learning but also how you implement it – making sure it actually leads to change. For this to happen you optimally address both a knowledge gap and a change of behavior.