Are game mechanics game design elements

What is the difference between gamification and serious games?

Explanation attempt for non-experts.

Since the term was first used, there has been a debate about what gamification is and what it isn't. In our opinion, this debate is quite pointless. Because excluding new ideas just because they don't fit your own perfect definition of gamification is silly.
Gamification, like any other idea, is evolving. It is becoming more complex and constantly includes new approaches. But this also makes it more and more confusing for laypeople. So here is our approach to distinguish two often confused terms from one another: gamification and serious games.


The following definition of gamification has now become established:

Gamification is the application of game-typical elements and processes in a context unrelated to the game.

Gamification happens when you take elements and ideas from games and apply them elsewhere. For example, build a progress indicator on a homepage to show how completely the profile has been filled out. Or reward actions with points, create rankings and other things that you would not expect there. It's about the psychology behind games. It's about motivating people and getting them to engage with something.

But with gamification you don't create a game. Gamification does not mean making a game out of something that is not a game - a crucial element is missing: the game mechanics. And that is the crucial difference between gamification and serious games.

Serious games

Serious games are games with a goal that goes beyond pure entertainment. They have all the properties of an ordinary game, they look and feel like one, but they have a well-defined purpose, an intended effect or message that the game designer wants to convey.

Serious games can be divided into four categories: educational games, simulations, informative games, and targeted games.
Educational games use game mechanics to teach the player something.
Simulations are virtual variants of something real to test or practice in a safe environment.
Informative games convey meaningful messages to the player that he might not otherwise come across.
Targeted games produce results in the real world.

The exact distinction between gamification and serious games continues to be disputed in specialist circles. Indeed, many believe that both terms are too broad to allow a precise definition. But what can definitely be stated is that gamification and serious games use different strategies and have different applications.

Find out more in our Serious Games vs Gamification Poster!





Questions, requests, suggestions? You will get answers from us:

Antje Koch

Project management
antje.koch (at)


Also interesting for you:

The mechanics of Pokemon Go - how does this game manage to be so fascinating?