Power of Playing Games

13 Apr

I recently finished a book called Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal.  She said “Games are the future of positive psychology…when we play a game, we think creatively, collaboratively, and persistently.”

“We can apply game design to anything.”

And maybe we should.

Hospitals now have video games that educate young cancer patients on battling the cancer.  And they get to zap cancer cells.

My Mom turned learning my times tables into a game.  She did the same with learning the Periodic Table of the Elements.

I incorporate hidden “Easter Eggs” into my daily corporate emails.

Contests build followers on Twitter.  Same for blog subscribers. Sweepstakes can build brand identity. (I don’t eat at McDonalds but I can’t think of Monopoly without the golden arches popping into my head.)

Foursquare provides both silly meaningless rewards (like badges) for check-ins and some tangible discounts.

Two summers ago, the British newpaper Guardian turned a huge pile of receipts into a game. In an attempt to determine whether politicians were filing bogus personal expenses, the government scanned in hundreds of thousands of receipts. And then told the journalist community it was up to them to wade through the paper.  The Guardian turned it into a clever game where the public could go online, view a randomly selected receipt, write a quick description of it and determine whether it should be investigated further or not.  There was even a leaderboard tracking who found the most bogus expenses. In less than 4 days, 20,000 individuals analyzed 170,000 pages.

It was work. But it was fun.

Our schools, our newspapers, our social media sites are all using gaming techniques to engage a population. Why aren’t we doing the same in our workplaces? Innovation and brainstorming should be fun. They should engage a often dormant part of our brains and bring it alive.  Creativity sparks creativity – hence why brainstorming in a group is so valuable. And once you begin letting your brain play, it is easier to slip into that mindset when you need to.

Getting things done can be pleasurable.  Make your own reward system. Create incentives to “obtain a higher score”.

Work can be play. Play can be work.  There no longer is a dividing line between the two.

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