There’s a reason why trivia night has become so popular at bars. It’s the same reason why Words with Friends and Farmville are frequently downloaded games. But games are not just a waste of time. Hidden underneath these common games lies a deeper evolutionary aspect we are just uncovering.
Jane McGonigal, a researcher at The Institute for the Future and a professional game designer, predicts that in the 21st century solutions to problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, global conflict and obesity will be found in games, and that we need to be playing games more than we already do.
McGonigal says that the amount of combined time in years humans spend playing games can only be compared to how long it took the first human being to walk up right.
“It turns out that by spending all this time playing games, we’re actually changing what we are capable of as human beings.”
“Evoke”, a social network game designed to empower people to think creatively about critical problems, is changing behavior for the better. It combines graphic novel stories, the same way many video games do, and has unique missions directly tied into looming issues we face today. The result, people learn to survive major global disasters through gameplay.
Why would games be the most effective way to get people to face things like hunger or drought?
As of right now, people are using games to escape from everyday stresses that range from personal to global.
“We feel that we are not as good in reality as we are in games. And I don’t just mean successful, I also mean good as in motivated to do something that matters.”
Hopefully every employee that works for you is passionate about the mission your company is on, but it never hurts to add more incentives. Since many games are social by nature, they weave a tight social fabric.
Recognize, a social employee recognition platform, is an enterprise SaaS platform with gamification mechanics built in. It harnesses team-building through the reward system and uses ‘leveling-up’ the way one does in a game. Bosses and managers can implement recognition of completed tasks both big and small to reward employees for a job well done.
“There are lots of different characters who are willing to trust you with a world-saving mission, right away, whenever you show up in one of these games. And then gamers receive so much positive feedback that they feel they can achieve more in online worlds than they can in real life. What this feedback triggers is a sense of urgent optimism.”
Gamers are notoriously focused and on-task for so many hours that they lose themselves in these worlds, and by understanding why the game is so enthralling may lead to a more focused and committed workplace.
When tasks through Recognize are completed, it builds trust and a positive feedback loop within a team. That has a great affect on everyone involved and it gives employees a tangible sense of accomplishment that perhaps they would normally only feel in a game.
How Games Saved a Civilization
McGonigal shares a story passed down to us by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus who says dice games were invented in the kingdom of Lydia during a sever famine. Tension amongst the people was high, so the king came up with a solution: They would only eat every other day. On the days they didn’t eat, they played dice games.
The people were so engaged in these games that they weren’t paying attention to the fact that they weren’t eating. They survived for 18 years like this.
The famine didn’t get any better after 18 years, so the king divided his kingdom in half and ordered one final game to be played. The winning half was sent on a journey, an epic mission if you will, to find a new land that could support the remaining half of their civilization.
Scientists have since discovered that the Etruscans, the founders of the Roman Empire, share the same DNA as the ancient Lydians, suggesting that this story is true.
That means that one of the greatest civilizations in history was founded on games as a solution to what seemed like an immovable problem. Not a bad thing to model your own company after.
So, next time you catch Joe or Tina playing Farmville at work, why not give them a pat on the back and ask them if they want to play a game with you?