Recently, I’ve started thinking a bit more about gamification. I started applying the idea of competition and reward on a daily basis, and tried to analyse processes and events, to see if they showed symptoms of gamification.
It was not long until I found some serious pitfalls in the idea of applying game mechanics to work and life. Let’s be clear however, that those pitfalls must not stop you from reaping the benefits. Someone left a comment to the article referring the book “Reality is Broken” from Jane McGonigal, which I bought, and I must say, it did make me reconsider a couple of things.
I never considered myself a gamer.
Gamers are socially handicapped teenagers in a dark room playing counterstrike. Or at least, that was my image of gamers. I don’t play counterstrke. I go to bed at normal hours. I don’t play computer games for hours and hours. I go out with friends and talk about sports, cars and girls. Not about slaying a dragon.
So I’m not a gamer…
Turns out I’m wrong. Actually, my perception of “a game” is already wrong. Soccer, is a game. Golf, is a game. Snowboarding, is a game. Risk, is a game. So I’m a gamer. I just don’t play hardcore shooters on a computer. In fact, the only computer game which I sometimes play, is “Sid Meier’s Civilization”. A game which any righteous hardcore shooter player considers as a boring drag for grandparents… But I love it!
It requires strategy, planning, high level overview and detailed management of your resources. There’s no fixed path to success. Actually, you can win in many different ways. There’s the cultural victory, which basically boils down to influence, but you could just as well forget about culture and simply pummel your enemies into smithereens by sending guys with axes across the border. You could also use diplomacy by pampering your powerful allies and helping the weaker ones, until they acknowledge you as a fair and respectable leader. The more inhabitants, and the more land you posses, the easier any victory gets, until the point that you simply have so many inhabitants that you automatically achieve victory. Finally, you could also simply shoot your people into space and achieve a science victory.
Less talk, more action
Now, imagine your last meeting in which you had to make a though decision with multiple people and multiple opinions around the table. I’ll bet you that there was someone that tried using his power, or influence to direct the discussion. There may have been someone that pointed out the technological limitation, thus trying to get a science based victory. Performance risks are a very popular argument. Someone will point out security risks and propose we need more military defence. As a project manager, you will try to evaluate the different input and use diplomacy to make people agree on a certain solutions, or to find the solution with the most support (inhabitants and land).
It took some very boring meetings until I noticed the similarities, but now that I’ve seen the link, every meeting becomes a game and I start applying my civilization tactics in every discussion. Now every single meeting becomes fun. Needless to say I like to go for the science victory, but I did learn to gather diplomatic support for my ideas before I launch an attack on the barbarians.
Too bad the barbarians seem to have a cheat code…