What’s the difference between serious games, educational games, and game-based learning?

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This question keeps coming up. Here’s a handy table to help.

This is an updated version of the table I created back in 2015.

Note: This image is not to be posted anywhere or re-used without my written permission.

Citation: Becker, K. (Feb 3, 2018). What’s the difference between serious games, educational games, and game-based learning? Retrieved from https://wp.me/p4Hsb6-1KS

(You are free to disagree with me, just don’t present this table as yours).

Addendum 2021: A newer version of this chart has been peer-reviewed and published on academia.edu.

Citation: Becker, K. (2021). What’s the difference between gamifcation, serious games, educational games,and game-based learning? Academia Letters, Article 209. https://doi.org/10.20935/AL209

4 people like this post.


What’s the difference between serious games, educational games, and game-based learning? — 80 Comments

  1. Dear Katrin,
    I am working on a gamification module of “The Future of Learning MOOC” in Hungary. I would like to use your table published on Academia Letters. Can I use it if I translate it into Hungarian? Of course, with acknowledgement of the source.

  2. Hello Katrin,

    I am currently writing a paper related to gamification. Your work has solved my problem.

    I am looking for your permission for using your table, giving you all credit that you deserve.


  3. Hi Katrin Becker, im finish my thesis, about the use of serious game for prevent grooming, your paper and your whole work its awsome, can i quote your work and your table?

  4. Dear Katrin,
    I’m also working on my master thesis at the moment. It would be great if i can use your paper and the table.
    Of course i would quote it.

  5. Hello Katrin:
    I am currently writing a research paper on gamification and would like to use the information in your blog in an attempt to disambiguate the terms presented.

  6. Dear Katrin,
    I‘m working on my master thesis at the moment. And these words play in important role. Can I use and of course quote! your wonderful work?

  7. Hello Katrin,

    I am writing a paper for one of my master classes that includes a discussion on educational games and would like to use your table (with proper citation) in my paper. May I use your table for this purpose?

    Thank you,
    Kimberly Imel

  8. Hi Katrin,
    Thank you very much for the valuable information.
    I am writing my thesis about serious games and Game based learning. May I use your table and the explanations you provided?
    Thanks in advance.

  9. Hello Katrin! I am a student of pedagogy and I am doing a thesis on Social Emotional Learning and videogames. Could I use your table to highlight the differences between educational games and games for entertainment? Thank you.

  10. Hello, Katrin. I am a courseware engineering undergraduate student doing a literature review for my final project. Is it permissible for me to cite the episode 2 article and reproduce your game set diagram? Of course with all the proper citation and references. Thank you!

    p.s: i tried to post a comment on the episode 2 page but it just wouldnt show up!

  11. Hello Katrin, I am currently doing an state of the art paper about game-based learning and I would like to ask if I can use it, with references of course.

    Kind regards,

  12. Hi, Katrin!

    Thank you for all the amazing information you share with us. I’m a brazilian master student and
    my research is about Role Playing Games and science communication.Your table is perfect for my dissertation and I would like to ask if I can use it. Of course with the reference.

  13. Hello Katrin!!
    I’m Kresna and currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Indonesia. I’m came here because of searching the difference between “Serious Game” and “Educational Games” then found this interesting table that tell us difference between Serious Game and Educational Games. I’m have been working on a thesis about making a Educational Game using Framework MDA and searching about the difference between Framework MDA and Framework DPE through the genre’s of game. I’m wonder if i’m allowed to citate the table?

    Sorry my english not so fluent.

    Kind Regards,

  14. Hi Katrin!!
    I’m Luana and I’m currently pursuing a Master’s degree here in Brazil. Your website is awesome and besides it has a very interesting table that shows the difference between Serious Game, GBL, Gamification. We have been working on a paper and we wonder if we’re allowed to quote it, of course the credit will be all yours. In addiction we wonder to ask you who built that table?I mean , we’d like to know if you relied on any other author. Would mind sharing this information ?

    Kind Regards,

  15. Hi Katrin,

    Thank you for creating this awesome table!
    I am a Masters student in Sydney, Australia and currently writing about the importance of game-based learning within schools. I would like to write a small section that notes the differences between serious and entertainment games. Would it be OK if I was able to use your table for this? (full citation of course!)

    Thank you

  16. Hello!

    I am an Instructional Design graduate student and currently developing a professional development course on Gamification for Elementary PE teachers. May I use your table in my course?

  17. Hello, Katrin
    I am working with other teachers and trainers to improve our pedagogical approaches to STEM education. This table would be very useful to clarify some doubts that keep coming up. Is it OK to share it in our Facebook page (giving you the credits, of course)?
    Thanks in advance!

  18. Hello Katrin.
    I am currently writing my bachelor thesis on AR and serious games. If possible i would very much like to use your table in my report.
    Jakob M.

      • Considering your table. Do you have a common term you use which includes all these games with learning aspects? Many would use the term Serious Games as an all inclusive term, but in your table it is sided equally with Games for Learning, which would then be a subcategory of Serious Games.
        Sincere Jakob

        • Hi Jakob!
          I don’t have a common term for all, and I would argue that using ‘serious game’ for all is incorrect.
          The columns in this table do not all refer to the same levels of abstraction.
          The first three columns are all actual games, and ‘Game for Learning’ is a SUBSET of the category ‘Serious Game’, which in turn is a SUBSET of the category ‘Game’.
          The second three columns describe processes and strategies. They are not games. The first 2 USE games, and the final one uses ASPECTS of games baked into the learning intervention itself.
          Games ⪾ Serious Games ⪾ Games for Learning
          I hope that helps.

  19. Hi Katrin, great work! 🙂 I would like to use the image for my master thesis on serious games and knowledge transfer. Is that ok for you?

  20. Hello Katrim! I am from Colombia. I would like to use your graph to show my students the differences between concepts whose limitation could be very blurry. I think it’s a great synthesis.

  21. Hello Katrin,

    My name is Yuri Demeny. I am studying for master of science in Learning Technologies at the University of North Texas, and writing a research paper on benefits and challenges of game-based learning. I came across your chart, and thought it would be a great visual representation of the difference between GBL,Serious game and Gamification. May I please use your chart in my research paper? I will cite your work of course. I really appreciate it.

  22. Hi, Katrin,

    I am a master’s student in TESOL and preparing for my thesis about gamification filed. I’ve been looking for a clear table for explaining the differences of definition between gamification and Game Based Learning. Can I use your table for my thesis?

    Best regards,

  23. Hi Katrin! I’m Julieth from Colombia, i’m preparing my thesis about the The Effect of Simulations and Games on learning business and marketing subjets. And i’d love to include your table (translated into Spanish) since it’s quite complete, of course i’d have to add you as a reference. Kind Regards!

  24. Katrin, I am doin my Master presently and I was impress by you table.
    I am preparing a short paper about: Fantasy as mean to promote learning in computer games

    I am looking for your permission for using your table, giving you all credit that you deserve.
    Best regards

    Nadine Gauthier

  25. Hi Katrin
    I am master of IT student.
    May i ask the question about traditional game
    my supervisor ask me to research evaluation of the designed framework of traditional game and serious game.
    i am not really understand what his mean by traditional game.
    what kind of game belong to traditional.

    • Hi Kim!
      I’m not sure there is a single definition of “traditional game”, so it might help you to ask your supervisor to explain what they mean by it.
      When I use the term, it refers to non-digital games – board games, card games, etc.
      Serious games are games designed for purposes other than or in addition to pure entertainment. It is usually used to refer to digital games with a purpose, but it could also refer to non-digital games. For example, I designed a card game for teaching about Mendelian genetics using rabbit coat colours. That is a serious game, although it is not digital.

      There are differences between digital and non-digital games. Some of them are highlighted in my book on simulations and games. The relevant chart is here.

      It is also possible that your supervisor might be referring to what I call entertainment games. In that case it is the 1st column of my “What’s the Difference” chart that applies.

      I hope that helps.

      Enjoy your day,

  26. Hello Katrin,

    My name is Emre ILKAY , from Turkey. I am a master student in Computer Sciences and Educational Technologies and I found this table very informative and very well prepared. May I use this table in Master Thesis with all credit to you?
    I am looking forward for your permission.
    Thank you.

  27. Katrin

    I am a master’s student in Science Policy developing a serious game for my graduate project. This table does a great job explaining the differences, and I’d love to use it in my proposal so my committee can understand the space I’m working in. May I use the table in my project with all credit to you? Thanks so much for creating a reference for this.

  28. Hi Katrin,

    I’m currently writing a paper that looks to incorporate games that are considered not conventional serious education games into that spectrum based off of their educational value to students. Can I use this table to help define certain distinctions between the categories? Of course, credit would be given to you

  29. Hi Katrin,

    I am a Master Degree student in Spain and I am developing an Action Research Project about Gamification, and your table could be very useful and interesting by the time to defend it.

    May I used it? Of course you will be named as the owner following all the rules of the APA.

    Thank you!

  30. Hi Katrin,
    my name is Anelise and I’m from Brazil.
    I’m writing an e-book for my company regarding serious game and I’d like to know if I can use your table and, of course indicates the source of it.
    Please, let me know!
    I really appreciate it.
    Best regards,

  31. Katrin,

    I came across your table and I think it is one of the few tables that addresses extensively and thoroughly the differences between games and gamification. I am a postgraduate student and I am doing my dissertation, which is finding the relationship between motivation and gamification. I wanted to ask you if it was possible that I utilize your table for my research. If you feel this will be inappropriate, I totally understand and will respect your decision.

    Thank you!

    • Thanks!
      By all means – feel free!
      I am happy that people find this useful.
      As it is not yet published in anything other than my blog, it’s nice to know who is using it.
      This table will also appear in my upcoming book, but it is not published yet.
      Let me know if you would prefer a citation for my book.

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