Using emotional insight
for personal development and professional success

An argument that games are worth taking seriously

Being an inveterate gamer, and having been involved in several projects in game design over the years, it was interesting to come across the TED talk below.  Jane McGonigal not only defends gaming as an activity, but suggests it may save the world.  Or at least help us solve some significant problems.  Last year I was involved in creating a game whose aim was not only to be enjoyable, but to achieve some social good, so it's great to see someone else flying the flag that just because it's fun doesn't mean it doesn't achieve worthwhile.

The game I designed, in conjunction with Undying King Games and The Campaign Company, was Croydon2040.  This was part of the Imagine Croydon project, a project to give thousands of residents of Croydon the chance to have their say about what they wished for the future of Croydon.  It's notoriously difficult to get young people involved in these consultation exercises, so we came at the problem from a new angle – we created a game for them to play which would involve them deciding on their priorities as they played.

Croydon2040 was a web based inter-school game.  A team from each school competed against each other to create the greatest possible future for Croydon.  Each week they were faced with a series of policy decision based on real decision and problems facing the borough.  They then received feedback on the impact of their decisions, as well as the budgeting decisions they made, so they could see how real choices lead to real impacts on 'their' version of Croydon.

This game was a huge success, with the players and schools becoming incredibly enthusiastic.  We often have problems getting younger people talking seriously about politics, or about what their priorities are, but this game did so brilliantly.  By adding an element of competition and challenge, and by giving the players the power in their own cities, we found they were bursting with ideas and opinions.

Humans like puzzles, challenges and the chance to achieve a goal.  Games are a great way of harnessing these drives and directing them in a single direction.  By taking a step back and thinking about where we'd like these energies directed we can achieve remarkable things – as Jane McGonigal says games create a state of 'joyful productivity' in players, and we can choose what that productivity achieves.

Games are still in their infancy in our culture, and we tend to think of them as something for kids or something to be occasionally indulged in when our work is done.  Perhaps its a hangover from our old 'protestant work ethic' that tells us that things are either 'fun' or 'worthwhile' but can't be both.  Yet we do use the 'game' idea – almost all of us have found that if we make a game out of studying, or a task, or a goal we are often far more motivated to succeed and keep at it (even keeping tally marks or progress or time committed is a kind of a game).  If we can use our desire to play to achieve something real and meaningful, or we use games to engage and involve those who otherwise would switch off,  we can have a positive impact on the world whilst just having more fun… and that's got to be a worthwhile aim.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge