lessons from game design for making work more engaging

Just a thought, if you look at what makes a computer game interesting and engaging, then what does that tell you about
  • what kind of job you might enjoy most
  • how employers should design engaging jobs

So I asked my daughters about what made a good computer game
includes activity or activities that you enjoy
  • it changes or develops as you go on
  • includes an element of challenge, for example to beat others, or to beat your personal best
  • not too short
  • not too long
  • not too easy
  • not too difficult
  • should have a goal or point to it
  • includes an element of problem solving, but not too much
  • includes a competitive element
  • it is easy to actually understand what the aim of the game is
  • but the challenge lies in achieving that aim
  • like chess, takes a short time to learn, but a lifetime to master - has depth
  • provide new content that meets your curiosity and desire for novelty

Looking at these features, different people will have different preferences and these will inform that types of games that they like.
  • For example your tolerance of failure, do you see a setback as a challenge, or are you sufficiently demotivated to give up
  • For example, how patient are you
  • For example, what is your attitude to risk, in a games context you are balancing risk with reward, are you content with how these are balance

And so, you might have the patience for games that take a long time to complete, feeling that the rewards of new levels are compensation for the time you have invested. Alternatively you might prefer games like the Sims where you are nurturing and creating, where failure is less of an element of the gameplay. Your investment of time ends up bringing you additional responsibilities.

This is actually a pretty useful lense through which to look at different employees. Some people have very little desire for new challenges, as with Tetris, they have a straightforward task, which they find sufficiently engaging. Some people feel a need to compete, and value promotion beyond any of the other intrinsic qualities of the work, being willing to do pretty much anything if it advances them in their career ambitions. Some seek to build a role for themselves, achieving recognition and extra responsibilities.

Others seek a challenge, constantly seeking a task that is unfamiliar and difficult, not always expecting to succeed, but relishing the struggle.

The shortcoming of using this particular lense is that games are voluntary, whereas for most of us, jobs are compulsory. So although the model is pretty good on what motivates us, using it to consider what it is that demotivates us is a slightly different task.

I'll maybe have a think about why we give up on games in another posting, and consider what that tells us about what makes jobs unsatisfying.