The Difference Between Gamification, Simulations & Serious Games

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The difference between gamification, simulation and serious gamesGamification has been gaining more and more exposure over recent years- and quite rightly so. In the past, the term “gamification” often had negative connotations and the benefits and value of gamification was not often fully understood.

In addition to this, throw the terms “serious games” and “simulations” into the mix and it can get even more confusing. Let’s take a minute to clarify what the difference is between gamification, simulation and serious games and what the benefits of each of these are.


Gamification traditionally started gaining momentum in the B2C market particularly with regards to social loyalty, customer engagement and retention. However, enterprise gamification is now steadily on the rise. 40% of global 1000 organizations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations*. Put simply, gamification is all about applying game elements (the ‘DNA’ of games) to non-game activities. It’s about making ‘normal’, day-to-day activities more compelling. Gamification leverages ‘game mechanics’ such as points, levels, badges and achievements to create engagement and interest.Whether your challenge is to adopt new technologies or processes, reduce costs or increase productivity, gamification is an incredibly powerful tool for motivating, rewarding and engaging employees towards a certain goal or towards positive behavioral change in a fun and engaging way.

Serious Games (Digital Simulations)

Serious games (or digital simulation as we typically refer to them) use traditional gamecraft techniques (for example video game technology, Kinect, strategy) around serious concepts such as business, education, environmental or social issues. As an example, they can be used to ‘bring to life’ powerful stories around IT concepts such as cloud, virtualization, ITIL, DevOps and more, for the purposes of awareness, education and marketing. The use of serious games is also gaining particular traction in the area of cyber security. With targeted attacks happening more often, serious games can be very effective in training and educating people around how to recognize and respond to cyber attacks or phishing scams.


Simulations are real and immersive games which offer an experiential educational experience. Simulations place people in a risk free environment which supports their engagement in an authentic experience which contextually demonstrates benefits and consequences. Simulations can typically be delivered in an “in room” context or digitally.

Some examples of where simulations can be used within the technology/ITSM industry include:

  • To add value (and bring context to) traditional training, such as ITIL Foundation
  • To gain executive buy-in around ITIL/ITSM initiatives
  • To create shared understanding/commitment around ITSM based change initiatives – helping to drive transformation & cultural change
  • To educate and enable around DevOps, Enterprise Service Management and even Project Management tools and best practices