I just finished reading Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. McGonigal makes the argument that certain aspects of our lives, our jobs, and our future as a civilization could be improved using game mechanics. As a gamer myself, the thought of this intrigued me. If you’re not a gamer, I would still recommend giving this a read as it doesn’t only make the connection to video games, but rather games in general since the basic principles still exist.
I won’t get into every detail. The book ends describing how games can actually get us to start thinking about the future and solving real world issues. I was more interested in why people are often more satisfied playing games than going to work when a game also involves using our brains and completing a task.
McGonigal argues that when we play games we are voluntarily working. We as humans actually feel better when we’re doing something rather than lounging around and taking in a movie or television show. There are many traits that differentiate games from work. Good games have very clear goals and rules. Good games provide instant feedback that tell you exactly how you’re doing. Good games make you feel that you are part of something far greater than yourself. Jobs can be vague without a clear direction and little feedback to show you how your actions contribute to the organization as a whole (not my job necessarily, but for many this will ring true).
Again, I won’t make this a book report. I’ve just been thinking about it a lot lately, especially because I’m 23 hours into the 2006 Wii game, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. In real life, I’m a young professional tasked with communicating core company initiatives internally through video production and various web-based tools. When I come home from work, I am a hero tasked with finding a series of powerful artifacts that will allow me to defeat an evil god-like bandit from consuming the land of Hyrule in the Twilight Realm. In real life, the projects I undertake will help the company I work for improve somewhere down the line with a few key metrics that might reflect the work I’ve done. In my hero life, if I fail my quest the entire world is doomed.
I’m probably selling my job short in this post. The truth is that what I do is quite exciting. But referring to work in general, wouldn’t it be awesome if it functioned more like Twilight Princess? What if after every project you completed you were instantly shown how your work has positively affected the company or the world? What if every goal was a simple and meaningful as finding powerful artifacts to prevent the end of the world?
It’s certainly something to think about. In the meantime, you should consider having a look at this book.