Plato said that we learn more about a person in an hour of play than in a lifetime of conversation. If you believe there is inherent value in this statement, then you are possibly already including game mechanics in your meeting planning. If you understand the opposite of play is not work, but the opposite of play is depression, then you will begin to understand the importance of including gamification in your meetings.
As human beings, we want to feel challenged; we want to feel productive, and we want to collaborate successfully with other human beings. People are happiest when they feel as if they are contributing and proactive, whether this is choosing gardening over watching TV, playing Words with Friends over passively flipping through a magazine, cooking a meal over going through the drive-through. There is no better place to allow gamification to work its magic then when you have a group together in a place outside their home environment where they are open to learning.
A great game should be fun and create optimism, and the positive endorphins associated with this benefit the individuals and create a sense of shared experience that cannot be replicated otherwise. Designed to challenge and teach us, to allow for small failures that can be overcome with regular feedback about how we can be our most successful, how we can achieve our ‘epic wins’ – games engage.
With clear rules and limitations, we can unleash the group’s creativity and strategic thinking, and through this close skills gaps. When you learn through doing, retention is increased and principles can later be applied to their individual situations. This sense of increased capability and perceived control as meeting attendees move through the levels developed with measurable, achievable tasks done collaboratively creates a connectedness which adds depth to their experience. They will leave your meeting feeling more capable, powerful and ready to accomplish more.
If you have a concern that “my group doesn’t play games,” consider these statistics, which depending on the source may vary slightly, but come within these general parameters:
- 45 per cent of gamers who play “a few hours a week” are over 55
- 62 per cent male, 38 per cent female
If you think you don’t have enough time in your meeting schedule to include a game, consider how you can overlay a game into the experience. When we planned EventCamp Vancouver in 2011, we decided from the beginning to use it as a lab to test out what we were talking about, and we included a game for this reason. Played through our mobile app, Get Your Green On was designed with the dual objective of showing planners how easy it is to incorporate sustainability into their meeting, and second to show how a game works in a group environment and improves learning and communication.
First, we made sure that anyone who needed the tool to play (a mobile device) would have access to one – their own or a borrowed one. This then brought in one of the key principles for successful social gaming: voluntary participation. It allowed participants to watch, or engage at the level they chose, either to observe, to try it out with small challenges, or to immerse and be on the leaderboard. There were individual challenges and a whole group challenge, to attain 1,000 acts of green before the meeting was over. With 69 active players, we achieved 1,715 acts of green in 2.5 days and raised $1500.00 for the BC Cancer Foundation due to the generosity of MeetGreen and Paul Salinger, and won the IMEX Award for Sustainability in May 2012.
If you are concerned you don’t have the skills or time on your team to create a game layer, there are options. It takes time and energy to develop a great game, but if this is not your area of comfort, there are organizations out there available to partner with you on this development. This development will build tasks and levels that match your stated objectives, and address the issues of inclusion, making participation exciting for your high achieving extroverts with methods of participation that make it interesting and accessible for your more introverted participants. Game mechanics allow everyone to be part of the conversation.
A great game is like a great human – multilayered and complex. Collective experience shows that when you add thoughtful ‘play’ into your meetings you will create greater value perception as the emotional engagement creates positive feelings – that elusive ROA (return on attendance) that everyone is seeking. We are all in competition for attendees’ time and attention, as we all live in a deficit of these. When your meeting brings something fresh which deepens learning and provides richer connections and context, you will become a priority meeting of choice for your lifelong learners.