Serious Games for Serious Times

Hello dear reader – this post is going to be a little jumbled.  You have been warned.

There are a lot of serious problems in the world today, wouldn’t you agree?  We might choose to agree or disagree on the causes of those serious problems, or even whether or not some of them are actually problems, at least in the sense that there is something wrong that needs to be solved.  After stepping away from gaming for a while to focus on some other very-important-things, the whole thing has more or less come full circle.  You see, games are more than just a way of escaping reality, although they are certainly that, too.  Games are a set of rules to guide behavior toward some objective.   Beat the boss monster, have the biggest civilization, cross the road without being hit by the car.  But they are also useful in the real world, where we call them things like performance objectives, goals, incentives, laws, commandments – I think you get the picture.

Lots of ink has been spilled over the whole idea of serious games, and I think that I’m going to bend my website (this one, that I’ve had registered since the mid-90’s) toward my interest in using game principles to make the world of work a better place.  Teamwork and collaboration are important, right? Well, why don’t more companies include more interesting and visible ways to get teams pulling together on projects – why are most objectives individual in nature?

In graduate school, I read an article by MacGregor – “On the folly of rewarding A while expecting B” (Have to go look that up and get a proper citation).  Some twenty years later, I summarize that the rules of the game determine the behavior you’re going to get, never forgetting that people are imperfect players in all games.  If you can set the right incentives to help the player get to where the game wants them to go (and hopefully they want to go there, or why are they playing the game?), then the player gets better at the game, and more of the game’s objectives get met.  In an organization, this means the organization is more able to accomplish its mission, whatever that is.

So the goal of serious games for serious times?  To help develop ways for people to reach their objectives using more effective techniques (games elements).  Terribly exciting times we live in!