Epic Games FTW via Jane McGonigal

Play is essential for innovation and high-performance teams. And games can help us get there.

Jane McGonigal has written a fabulous book, “Reality is Broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world.” In it she explores large-scale online games that are part of the commercial video game industry as well as ones about producing direct real-world benefits.

As is my usual want, I prepared the visual note below to capture the most important aspects of the book to me.

Jane defines a games as having four important characteristics: a goal, rules, a feedback system (so people know whether they are reaching their goals) and voluntary participation. I found the last characteristic very interesting. With Agile and Scrum in particular we promote self-organizing teams where people sign up for work rather than having it assigned. In fact, many facets of Agile make work more like play. The principle of voluntary participation also aligns with good management practices such as “treat everyone like a volunteer”.

I really like how play and being in a state of flow is differentiated from it’s opposite: depression. I just love the definition of play and flow as an “intense, optimistic engagement with the world around us.”

Jane paints a compelling picture of the capabilities and talents of video game players. She states that young adults will have had the 10,000 hours or practice needed to become experts at pro-social collaboration skills through playing video games. Gamers with this level of skill – a superpower – can collectively accomplish great things.

I used to think games were the cat’s meow, but now I see them as just one way to help people reach a state of flow through play (see: Three Ways to Use Play for Business Results). For me (at work), games are a means to an end. At home, one goal is having fun; another is bonding with the people I play with.

The most fun fact I found in the book was: “75% of executives play games at work”. Usually to take a break and relieve stress.

But the BEST of all was learning about and playing SuperBetter to up my game in dealing with some challenges in my personal life. If you are struggling with anything, perhaps you might like to play this game for the win.

If you haven’t already seen Jane’s TED talk – Gaming can make a better world – I highly recommend it.

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