Recessions have a way of bringing together people who were previously at odds, often inspiring a common goal: to live more successfully, happily and content.
And we don’t just speak about making a general consensus in living better. We tend to make, among other things, better and more precise financial decisions, and let us know who’s to blame. And though it may seem counterintuitive, many psychologists and researchers are increasingly recognizing the power of gamification—a term coined by Lucas Sommerman, a Professor of Psychology at University of Wisconsin-Madison—in bringing people together and improving their lives and their performance.
While many of us pursue reasons to play for less rewarding, more routine pursuits, like golf or Monopoly, Steve Kirsch, the President of Integral Systems Inc., a leader in RF radio systems, believes that interactive games can also be very useful tools for people in everyday life, and, in a way, reinvent their lives.
“If you combine gaming with the convenience of a modern electronic device,” says Kirsch, “the idea of being part of a community and being a member of a team evolves. That way, you can reach a higher level of living where you feel like an active member of the community and a competitive player.”
Kirsch has even gone so far as to describe the game of life as “the new quest.” He argues that what is essential to the success of this new quest is the ability to evaluate yourself against your goals, and to set meaningful measures of your success against the outcomes of those goals. With that, he says, you can discover patterns and similarities among your actions to see how they help to maximize your capabilities as well as the value you bring to your family, friends and community.
Gaming-based exercises—like the scavenger hunt he launched on Amazon.com in 2006—enrich our minds and help drive our goals forward. Games, he says, give us the chance to overcome some of the challenges we encounter in life. They give us the opportunity to make progress against ingrained feelings of self-doubt and failure, making us feel stronger as we head into the next chapter.
“Games,” says Kirsch, “are a mechanism for transforming our expectations from things into goals and assigning a goal to something. They’re about giving us the kinds of emotions we want to feel. Games are all about building people up.”
On a popular business show of his, Kirsch said that gamification “has a whole new meaning for us, now that we have all these digital devices. Gamification was a concept of making games better. Now, we’re starting to realize that it is all about making people better.”
What would this look like? Increasingly, he believes that we must think beyond chores and contracts and quantify a person’s own impact on society by forcing us to consider the people around us. That’s very much in line with game theory, a theory of collective action for solving complex problems that supports gamification—a theory that envisions, in essence, a meta-game, an entirely online community of individuals whose behavior is tracked and critiqued for improving the collective intelligence of the group.
One of the manifestations of game theory is finding goals that are quantifiable to create a community of individuals for whom a process of transformation occurs. Perhaps that transformation is occurring on a physical scale by encouraging people to share more of their personal experiences, or through the symbolic dimension of the meta-game that is applied in the development of physical systems like patient care.
M. G. May, Founder of Sigma Z, a Leader in Social Neuroscience, argues that the analogy to games is one that comes natural to us; we have frequently said this is one of the elements that enhances the level of engagement with participatory games.
“When presented with a problem we understand and understand is not what we expected,” says May, “we see this as game theory.” We see game theory in our dreams, often making decisions in fairly smart ways, but we often don’t take those and apply it to practice. May continues, “We will not make the same choices over and over again because of game theory, we will not refuse to engage in our goals. But, as our dreams get bigger, they grow and grow, we seem not to know what the next goal is, but we know there is one. And that is the meaning of game theory.”
Kirsch cautions that while businesses will be well-served to create games for their organizations, those games should be focused on questions such as: How can we find ourselves? How can we use our passions, skills and