If you didn’t already know, the use of games and play to enhance real-world tasks is increasingly popular. It may sound silly, but if it can motivate you to do your taxes, wouldn’t you try it? Researchers define play as “free and purposeless exploration of possibilities” and a game as “a playful activity constrained by rules and goals.” In a game, people work, strategize and act to overcome obstacles and achieve a fictional, unnecessary goal. Players experience fun by accomplishing this goal and mastering new skills. By applying a game-like structure to real-life goals, the work it takes to achieve these goals may be far more enjoyable.
Play and work are often seen as opposites, the major differing factor being seriousness. However, a good player of games uses similar skills and tactics as a productive, serious worker. Curiosity, creativity, experimentalism, which are characteristics of a playful mind, and focus, perseverance, challenging, which are characteristics of a gameful mind, all help in taking a innovative and tactful approach to life’s challenges.
The two types of games that are most commonly used to achieve real-world goals are serious games and gamification. Serious games are fully developed games in which the object is a real-world goal. Goals of serious games may include learning, health, skill acquisition and social change. Gamification is simply adding game-like elements to real-life work. For example, adding scoring, levels, teams and rewards helps reinforce motivation and makes achieving goals more fun.
While scientific research isn’t conclusive about the effects of games on real-world tasks, it certainly may be more fun for gamefully-minded workers.