Learning through Serious Games and “Gamification”: Try it yourself!


Who said that games should only be for play? Today, games are increasingly being incorporated into learning strategies because of their numerous benefits, such as boosting learners’ motivation and engagement. This article will shed some light on “gamification” and serious games, two terms that we are constantly hearing about.


Derived from video games, the term “gamification” refers to any process by which game mechanisms are transferred to other domains where they would not otherwise be used. This is the case in professional and educational contexts, for example. More specifically, “gamification” uses “game thinking” and elements from games to solve problems, influence behaviour and engage users.

Game “elements” refer to:

  • storytelling
  • the mission
  • rules
  • competition/cooperation
  • time
  • levels
  • rewards
  • feedback

Game thinking is the use of FUN and game principles to come up with solutions to real-life problems.

Gamification vs. Serious Games

Serious games are games designed for purposes other than entertainment, such as education. “Game play” is essentially what sets serious games apart from gamification.  It is a series of choices offered to the player who has a certain degree of control and really feels like he or she is playing a game.

Why should companies seriously consider games?

First off, here are some facts:

  • The video game industry is worth about 50 billion dollars worldwide (IDATE).
  • The serious game market is worth an estimated 10 billion dollars (IDATE).
  • An estimated 3 billion hours per week are spent playing online (IDATE).
  • Online games are extremely popular. Think of Angry Birds mania: The game has 75 million subscribers who spend a combined average 200 million minutes playing it each day!
  • You would think that gaming is for kids and teens, but the average Canadian gamer is 33 years old.

We live in a video game culture. There was even a conference created in 2011 called the Gamification Summit. Businesses and organizations must therefore adapt to this trend. That being said, businesses are increasingly incorporating gaming qualities into their strategies. Gartner predicts that in 2014, more than 70% of Global 2000 businesses (Forbes’ Top 200 public companies) will be using at least one gamified application.

What does this have to do with learning?

It’s no coincidence that one of the most common uses for gaming and gamification is learning. When designed and used effectively, gamification produces proven results. Teaching activities with wisely incorporated gaming components encourage:

  • motivation
  • engagement
  • cooperation
  • changes and reinforcement of behaviour
  • problem solving

Some examples?

At Ellicom, we have designed serious games and e-learning strategies/programs that incorporate gamification for several clients (although this accounts for only a small part of our projects).

LotoqcLoto-Québec : Our team designed an e-learning program which takes place in a fictitious casino that accurately depicts the work environment of the employees of the Société des casinos du Québec. During their course, learners communicate with casino visitors and put their customer services skills to the test. Inspired by past real-life work situations, the learning environment provides the employee with a pleasurable experience that is both interactive and engaging. Simple game mechanisms were used to help learners retain information more easily.


Axa cityAXA Canada: AXA wanted to reduce the time needed to train insurance brokers and pass on the expertise of retired brokers within the company. Our team designed a virtual learning platform called AXA City, in the form of a 3D city. Through interactive scenarios, the learners examine the buildings to be insured and develop analytical skills by outlining the risks. They are given immediate feedback and can improve their subscription skills through trial and error, using a simulator that recreates situations encountered by senior brokers.

In a later post, we will be answering the follow question: How do you implement a serious game and effectively incorporate gamification? Until then, here are 100 sources on gamification and the use of games for learning.

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