4 Alternative Terms for Gamification 

Motivational design. Gameful thinking. Everyday games. Edutainment. These are just a few suggested replacements for gamification, which has quickly become the term everyone loves to hate.

Gamification takes the characteristics we like about games and adds them to everyday actions in order to make them more interesting. The gamification market, fueled by companies looking for a proven strategy to increase employee productivity or create meaningful customer interactions, is projected to reach nearly $3 billion by 2016.

However, as the market expands and changes, the language of gamification can seem overwhelming. As you research solutions to suit specific business goals and company needs, you may find several suggested terms for gamification. While many enthusiasts are preoccupied debating the definition of the G-word itself, a few alternative names for gamification are becoming quite popular.

Each phrase below covers an emerging aspect of gamification, and hints at a potential move away from the term itself.


Discussions about gamification usually center around engagement. When asked to define gamification, 38 percent of industry experts and thought leaders used the word “engage”. With disengaged employee rates at an all-time high, more and more companies are using gamification to boost employee engagement and performance.

Engage is an accurate word, because at its core gamification is about trying to get users to interact in some form or fashion – whether with an interface, a workplace program, or other software.

Despite the successes of gamification in the workplace, some people are simply put off by the term. Kris Duggan, founder of the gamification platform Badgeville, encourages enthusiasts to pitch gamification as an “engagement project.” In one case, a client hoping to incorporate gamification techniques was worried executives would be concerned about employees having fun instead of working. They settled on the term RAMP — recognition and motivation program — and the budget was approved.

Additional suggestions for engagement-focused gamification terms include: behavior management, persuasive design, and maintainable motivation


Leveraging gamification to increase engagement doesn’t end with employees. Often referred to as customer loyalty, customer retention, or simply brand loyalty – customer engagement is just as popular. Since consumers are 80 percent more likely to shop at stores that offer some type of loyalty program, the rising popularity of these strategies isn’t surprising.

Other proposed names for customer loyalty programs include: incentive-centered design, behavioral economics, virtual rewards, social gaming, and community engagement program.

Game Learning

Onboarding initiatives, employee training software, and continued education programs are necessary for specialized industries. But such programs are often criticized by employees as tedious, and lacking clear feedback. Gamified learning systems are becoming a popular way to motivate employees to absorb and retain information.

By providing near-instant feedback and visually displaying progress, gamification helps supplement to onboarding and professional development programs. In 2012, Delta Airlines created a learning platform with game elements for employee training. The travel-based game attracted more than 1,400 employees to voluntarily engage with the training program in the first two weeks of its debut.

Educational games, infotainment, and serious games are all similar (or proposed replacement) terms for gamified learning or training.

Applied Game Design

Amy Jo Kim, founder and CEO of the game design consultancy ShuffleBrain, often refers to gamification as applied game design. When asked where gamification is going next, she answered: “I think it’s going to be embedded everywhere, and I don’t think it’s going to be called gamification.”

Many gamification experts agree the techniques will outlive the name. If that’s true, then what will it be called? Gameful design? Game-play? Game strategy? Game technology? Simply “good design?” Judging from this Twitter exchange, the jury’s still out on that one.

What’s in a name?

The terms above may not be exact synonyms for gamification (yet), but there are common threads woven throughout each of them. Not all loyalty or engagement involves gamification; however, it’s important to know the aspects and terminology when deciding what’s best for your business.

Motivation, recognition, teaching, measuring – these are the ideas behind gamification. Maybe the potential shift away from the term means gamification is more complex than critics think. Or maybe it showcases a rapidly growing market that’s unafraid to evolve.
Though we can debate the linguistics all day (and some have), the true focus should be on the value of what gamification can do – not the novelty or stigma surrounding it. The terminology will continue to grow and change as the market evolves, but the techniques are here to stay because good gamification just works.
Author : Jenna Puckett is a staff writer for TechnologyAdvice. She covers topics related to gamification, employee performance, and other emerging tech trends. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


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